Biggie Tembo born Biggie Mhosva Marasha later baptised as Rodwell was born on 30 September 1958 in Chinhoyi and he committed suicide on 30 July 1995 was a musician-cum-pastor. He was the front man of the Bhundu Boys, its lead singer, song writer and he also played the rhythm guitar. His wife claimed that he was part of those who initiated the formation of the band, though it was reported that he joined the group in 1980. The Bhundu Boys basked into glory whilst Tembo was the still part of the group and before the death of two of its members who succumbed to HIV and AIDS related ailments. This has also led to conflicting reports whether he was dismissed from the group or he left the group in 1990. As a solo artist, Tembo career was flopped and he released a single album in 1992 which failed dismally both in Zimbabwe and in the United Kingdom. He was married to Nyaradzi and the two had three sons namely, Kumbirai, Biggie Junior and Malvin.
Tembo was raised by Catholic priests and after completing primary education, he was employed as a gardener by Mr Gosllett. He learnt to play the guitar whilst working at Mr Gosllett homestead where he used to ask the domestic worker to give him his boss's guitar when he was away. He later became a 'bhundu boy' an under age runner for the guerrillas who were participating in the Second Chimurenga. A name which subsequently became the name of the band which he later fronted in the 1980s.
After the liberation struggle, he teamed up with Franco Kaunda, Cephas Mashakada and Jacob Teguru to form their musical group whose name has been obscured. Tembo and Kaunda formed their group, the Missing Tooth after Mashakada and Teguru had left to launch solo careers. Murombedzi Growth Point in Zvimba became a base for the duo but they later relocated to Hurungwe where they began staging their own shows.
In 2013, Tembo's wife stated that Tembo did not join the Bhundu Boys rather he was part of the first few people who initiated the formation of the group in 1981. She opined that prior to the formation of the band which according to her was formed in 1981, Tembo who was then working at Saratoga Night Club in Highfield, had teamed up with those whom he was playing guitars at Saratoga to form the band. She further stated that, naming the band, the Bhundu Boys was her idea. Despite this however, the band was formed in April 1980 and Tembo joined the band in 1980 months after it was formed and shortly after it had changed its name from the Wild Dragons. Tembo was however a prominent member of the Bhundu Boys. In 1986, when the Bhundu Boys arrived in London, Tembo had already become the most prominent figure of the group.
Whilst he was leading the Bhundu Boys, the group signed a world wide contract with Warner Bros after the release of their hit song 'Hatisi Tose' which was composed by Tembo in 1986. The group had relocated to the United Kingdom in the 1980s to widen their support base. Tembo was the front man of the group.
It has been reported that whilst the Bhundu Boys were in the UK conflicts began to blossom between Tembo and the other group members, especially with the band manager and he was dismissed from the group in 1990. Tembo's wife dismissed these reports arguing that Tembo saw it fit to abandon the Bhundu Boys because he was being ill treated by the band manager. As early as 1984, Tembo's erratic moods and his increasingly extreme opinion of his own importance in the group had long been creating tension within the group. The fact that the name Tembo was synonymous with the Bhundu Boys also showed that Tembo was now regarding himself as the henchman of the group. This necessitated his departure. He however tried to revoke his decision but the group together with the band manager were adamant to his request.
Tembo began to oscillate between UK and Zimbabwe in a bid to gain support as a solo artist but this failed dismally. Whilst in the UK, shortly after parting ways with the Bhundu Boys, Tembo collaborated with the British band Startled Insects and recorded with the Island Records.
Depression, religion and death
Whilst in the UK, Tembo began to behave strangely and his widow attributed that this was related to stress and depression. He was once admitted at Bristol Hospital and was later deported after he was released from hospital after being treated as a mentally handicapped person.
Upon his return in Zimbabwe, Tembo joined the City Ocean Band, which was formerly led by James Chimombe in a bid to revive his career. This was also a flop and he reverted to being a comedian who fused his comic career with music. This in turn never really made an impact. He also succumbed to stress and depression and was admitted at the Harare Hospital Psychiatric Unit. Upon his release, Tembo became a 'devout' member of the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa ZAOGA and his wife stated that his condition was getting better. Tembo once stated that he was possessed by demons and he had lost his spiritual battle and the only remedy was for his mother to disclose who his father was. Tembo was thus enrolled at a theology school and when he hanged himself, he was 3 months away from completing his pastoral course.
Accolades As a Solo Artist
- Won a Sony Award together with Andy Kershaw.
Discography As a Solo Artist
- Out of Africa 1992
- Shamiso Yikoniko, The rise and fall of Biggie Tembo, "Nehanda Radio", published:5 May 2013,retrieved:1 July 2014"
- , Biggie Tembo, "Last FM", published:3 Feb 2009,retrieved:1 July 2014"
- Philip Sweeney, OBITUARY: Biggie Tembo, "The Independent", published:12 Aug 1995,retrieved:1 July 2014"
- Craig Harris Rovi, Biggie Tembo, "Answers",:,retrieved:1 July 2014"
- Stanley Mushava, Biggie Tembo lost spiritual battle, "The Herald", published:23 Dec 2013,retrieved:1 July 2014"