Inside System Tazvida's mind
For many, this past Monday was just like any other day on the calendar, but for Barbara Tazvida it was an emotional day as she spent it going through her family photo albums, dusting each picture, turning it upside down and wondering what could have been. For it was the 14th anniversary of the death of her husband, System Tazvida, widely acknowledged as one of the craziest local musicians ever. He died on February 4 1999, just some three months short of his 31st birthday. His passing on also came shortly before the couple celebrated their tenth marriage anniversary.
“We had planned to go to Victoria Falls for those celebrations”.
But that was not to be. In fact, System’s New Year’s show was to be the last time he was seen on stage. His health deteriorated while he was on the annual January break that musicians take.
Going by his own catalogue, which includes songs like “Tazvida Irombe”, his colourful dress sense, his iconic woollen hat, was he really a nutter?
“I don’t think so, at home he was quiet, simple and ever-loving. Those colourful clothes he would only wear for the stage. At home he would dress casually, jeans and T-shirts mostly,” was how Barbara, his wife of 10 years, defended him.
But why is it that he always portrayed himself, especially through his music, as an abnormal person?
“To me he was a normal husband, a normal person and I never found him incomplete. Maybe to help you understand him, although he was unable to write his Ordinary Level examinations due to financial problems, he did sit for his junior certificate and passed with flying colours . . . So he was an intelligent man.”
And Barbara had one more line of defence for her husband: (“Remember Ephraim Joe, the late? Back in the day Zimura (Zimbabwe Music Rights Association) was headed by a white man and when Ephraim wanted to go and collect his royalties he would pass by and collect System. The reason? Ephraim didn’t understand a single English word and needed System to interpret.”
Born in a family of 10, four boys and six girls in Zaka, System was raised in the farming community surrounding Chegutu, where he stayed with his sister.
According to a long-time friend Amos Willit, popularly known as Dzvuke, System was born in a “disintegrated” family unit, as all the 10 children had different fathers. “Tazvida was his maternal surname, if you remember at his funeral there were arguments over that issue, among others. Even his brother, Peter, had to change his surname to Tazvida to ride on the popularity that had already been created by System and he could not continue under a different name.”
System’s is a typically tearful tale of rags-to-fame, which is characteristic of most local musicians. After he moved from the farming environs of Chegutu to stay with his brother, Clever, in Chitungwiza’s Unit N, he started off as a doorman for The Spiders, eventually working with the likes of Ephraim Joe, Cephas Karushanga, Nicholas Zackaria, Alick Macheso, Lucky Mumiriki and Tinei Chikupo at Khiama Boys.
It was at Khiama Boys that the camel’s back was broken. “They had recorded ‘Mabhauwa’, which did tremendously well on the charts. And when it came to royalties, he was not given any cent because he had not signed the contract to record the seven-single. That broke him down and spurred him to start his own band,” explained Barbara.
So Chazezesa Challengers was born. Though a mouthful, it was quite explicit and should have served as a warning to all concerned that there was a new challenge on the horizon. “Vaforomani” was the first single to be dropped by Boys DzeSmoko, as the group called itself. That insinuation, that reference to “smoke”, could have misled many to believe that System was a man of cigarettes or drugs.
“He took no beer, nor any drugs,” said his wife. Even long-time associate, who doubled as his mechanic, Dzvuke, said System was of sober habits.
“His weakness was soft drinks — and women. He would send us, or any of his boys, to call this or that woman for him. Probably because he was always sober, that is why he could have been into women that much.”
Dzvuke remembers of the prison guard who System said was his baby mamma.
“She used to stay at Chikurubi complex and then he moved her to Unit N, closer to home and paid rent for her. Then they had some misunderstanding and she left Chitungwiza. I never got to hear of her again. By the time System passed away the baby girl must have been around four or five years old.”
However, with Barbara, they were not blessed with any children.
“It is something that we never discussed or even worried about. We just felt that one day God would bless us with a child and that child was never to come. We met and married in 1989 and for the 10 years I stayed with him, the issue never came up, we just lived each day as it came.”
She said she was to receive a visitor years after System had passed on. “The man said he was System’s child, but we later thought he must have been a thief because he didn’t look the age. Maybe he didn’t know how old System was. We simply advised him to go and liaise with his father.”
Unit L Cemetery, a section of Chitungwiza, is where System is interred.
The Tazvida estate, which included the Unit N house, four cars, music kit, was at one point a centre of family attrition, and had to be settled in the courts.
“The courts finally ruled that I, as the surviving spouse, should get the house. I never had any interest in the cars so I let the brothers take them, and the same applies to the music kit.”
And what of the rumours that Peter, the now late brother to System, once “dated” her?
“God will be my witness, I never went out with Babamudiki Peter. In fact, it was this girl,” she broke down as she flipped through a photo album. “This girl, I can’t name her now because she has since married someone, but she is the girl who dated Peter. And because we look alike, people might have mistaken her for me.”
Quite an eccentric character, System had another passion, which was not music and women.
“He loved soccer, in fact he sponsored a football team, Chazezesa Pirates, a social soccer outfit, and when he was not out performing he would spend time with his team. He loved the team so much, it was his second passion.”
For someone who started off as a simple farm boy, turned doorman, who then took up photography to supplement his meagre early earnings from music, to rise to the heights of stardom that he had attained at the time of his death, was unimaginable at the beginning.
“When I met System, that was in 1989 when they had come for a live show as Khiama Boys in Birchenough Bridge, he was virtually an unknown. Mabhauwa was not yet a hit then. When he paid lobola, must have been around December 1989, I moved to Chitungwiza and we were renting one room. We would supplement our income through his photography and I doing doilies for sale. Yes, he was a part-time photographer and every weekend he would travel to Chegutu to take photographs of people and then collect the money every month-end. This he would do until probably the release of Vaforomani, when things started shaping up.”
In the first 10 years of System passing on, Barbara claims that she never bothered to look for work.
“I would wake up and stay at home. For 10 years and I was surviving from System’s royalties. It was only around 2008/9 when things started getting out of hand and I had to become a cross-border trader, something which keeps me going up to this day. But I cannot complain.”
As for his “smoko” music?
“His nephew, as in his sister’s son, Ken, whom I stay with here, is keen to take on System’s legacy and is always saying one day he will revive the band. Uncle Isaac, younger brother to System, went to Mozambique and we haven’t heard of him for some time.”
by Garikayi Mazara SundayMail