THE singer Andy Brown has died.
He was 50.
The former Ilanga band member died at Harare's Parirenyatwa Hospital just after 4PM local time on Friday, friends told New Zimbabwe.com.
The Mapurisa hit-maker had been battling an undisclosed ailment for some time, and his condition deteriorated late Thursday leading to his admission in hospital.
Tsholotsho North MP Jonathan Moyo, who was friends with the star, said: "He was a people's musician, and certainly ranked among the best ever produced by our country.
"The sad thing is that he is gone too soon before the country and wider community experienced or heard his best music."
Brown's marriage to fellow singer Chiwoniso Maraire collapsed a decade ago, but the pair had become friends again and staged a series of joint shows late last year. They have two daughters together, Chiedza and Chengeto.
Brown, who was of mixed race, was famed not just for his music but also wearing his heart on his sleeve.
He infused his music with his political beliefs, drawing criticism and praise in equal measure in Zimbabwe’s highly-polarised political environment.
In one of his last interviews, he told the blogger Pamela Stitch that he had paid a price for his stance in support of President Robert Mugabe’s oft-criticised policy of land reform. But Brown insisted he had a clear conscience, and he would not change his views in exchange for acceptance by his critics.
“I took a stand on the land reform programme. You cannot have 4,000 people owning 80 percent of the land that is arable, and then have 13 million people scrapping around that... that is a serious injustice,” Brown said.
“As a musician, and not as a politician, I felt that was seriously unfair, this is the reason why there was a war, and this is the reason why this country had been colonised in the first place. I wanted us to address these injustices, it was not about Mugabe.”
Brown said he had also “experienced injustices of the Rhodesian government as a so-called child of colour”.
“I saw it with my own eyes. I took my stand for a simple reason, to address these injustices. And Zimbabwe is not the only place where they exist,” he added.
Brown, also famed for hits such as Fiona and Mawere Kongonya, began his music career with the hugely successful band, Ilanga, in 1986. Its members included Don Gumbo, Busi Ncube and Comrade Chinx.
But it wasn’t easy at first, he told Stitch.
“We were all a group of friends just out of school and we started experimenting with various instruments and sounds. But when we decided we wanted to compose and write original stuff, it was not popular music in Zimbabwe at that time. The challenge was that we did not play the normal, what you would call the popular music of Zimbabwe,” he remembered.
“The record companies looked the other way, and we ended up paying for our own recordings. But eventually, people started to understand. But for four years we were playing for nobody; so we broke a barrier.”
The band disbanded, Brown said, after it fell victim to its own success.
“We had four years of nothing, then we had like two years of everything. It was a real shock as upcoming musicians, I don’t think none of us could handle the success, the fame psychologically,” he said.
But there was no acrimony between the band members. “Everyone was generally over-talented, they could go off and do their own thing. Sometimes as bands, you come together for the reasons that you want to be successful but at the end the day the very success that you are fighting for is what actually makes you unsuccessful.”
After leaving Ilanga, Brown pursued a solo career. He formed Andy Brown and the Storm with whom he went on to release more than 10 albums.
He preferred to call his art "world music", but while it had many influences, there was one consistency.
"You will always find that I will guard jealously the Zimbabwean language," he said.
In Brown, Zimbabwe lost a conscious musician, Moyo said.
“He was a nationalist in his own right, not because of anybody’s influence. He deeply, deeply was a man of conviction and we have lost one of the finest musicians of our time.”
ANDY BROWN: MAWERE KONGONYA
ANDY BROWN: MAPURISA