Zig-Zag Band was famed in the yesteryear for classic hit songs that placed Zimbabwean music talent in the international spotlight. The band’s hits with a deep traditional flair included Gomo Ramasare, Hombiro, VaMandela, Nyarunde and Ropa Remukaranga.
Zig Zag was a Kwekwe-based chigiyo music ensemble led by Gilbert Zvamaida. Chigiyo is a reggae-like beat fused with traditional rhythms to produce a uniquely Zimbabwean original sound. Zig-Zag suffered a number of setbacks in the mid-90s and early 2000 when the group lost some key members due to death. Among the members who died were the legendary Emmanuel Nkomo of the Gomo Ramasare fame, Stanley Phiri, a drummer and the Lunga brothers, George and Robert. George was the voice behind the classic hits, Ropa Remukaranga and VaMashumba (Vabveni vari pano) while Robert was a genius rhythm guitarist. Band leader Gilbert Zvamaida relocated to the United States as lead guitarist for the Blacks Unlimited, a group fronted by legendary Chimurenga musician Thomas Mapfumo.
The band was a hit in the 1980s and mid 1990s but after the desertion of the core members the group sank into oblivion. Once upon a time, Zig-Zag Band used to release hit after hit — singles and albums — for fun in the 1980s up to mid 90s. Zig-Zag were last in the studio in 2004 when they released the album, Chigiyo Vibes Volume One. The group’s works used to appeal to Zimbabweans of diverse social standings and backgrounds before they disappeared from the musical radar for almost seven years.
Those who grew up in the 1980s up to the mid 90s, will quickly recall the group’s timeless classics like Gomo Ramasare, Nyarunde, Ropa Remukaranga, VaMandela, Hombiro and the dancehall track, Ndarimbo, among many hit tunes.
Some members came together to revive the group in 2012. The band was holding shows at a number of joints in and around Kwekwe as well as the neighbouring city of Kadoma. To signal their re-launch, the chigiyo music exponents were polishing their latest project by that time, Harder Than a Rock, a 10-track album. Band leader Steve Lion, born Stephen Lunga 43 years ago, said they will be in the studio on 7 June 2012, to record the album, the group’s ninth such project. Harder Than a Rock was to be recorded at Diamond Studios in Harare. Diamond Studios was to also market and distribute the album. The album was released in 2013.
Songs on that 2012 project included the title track, Harder Than a Rock, a song that depicted chigiyo music as indestructible, Ndinokuyeuka, Moses, Varoyi neMbavha and Chigiyo Nditakure. Chigiyo Nditakure was a danceable tune that proved to be popular with fans at live shows. Other songs that made up the album were Simukai, Pano Panyika, Mweya Mutsvene and possibly a remix of yester-year hit, Ndarimano. They also included a bonus track from one of the group’s hits of yesteryear, Forward Ever, Backward Never from the album, Mudzimu Mukuru.
Group members as of 2012
The Zig-Zag Band line-up had Lion on lead vocals and keyboards, Noel Kasirayi (drums and vocals), Sunduzwayo “Kosolo” Nyirenda (bass and vocals), Manfred Mahati (lead guitar and vocals), Julius Ziva (trumpet, rhythm guitar and backing vocals), Madison “TBR” Phiri (band manager and vocals), Isaac “Man Isaacs” Phiri (backing and lead vocals) and Raphael Chigumba (backing vocals and percussions).
The group was embroiled in a fierce identity battle with its former drummer Josiah Ndlovu, alias Jones Mabhande. Mabhande teamed up with former Zig-Zag band manager Madison Phiri to form a new band they are marketing as Zig-Zag York during their live shows at a number of joints in and outside the mining town of Kwekwe. Ndlovu was reported at Kwekwe Central Police Station for theft of identity using the brand Zig Zag and surviving member of the original band, Steven Lunga, who is also the band leader, confirmed these developments. Lunga added that Mabhande had been ordered to stop using the name Zig-Zag York and also to never play any songs recorded by the original Zig-Zag Band.