SO LONG SEKURU MDHUU
By Takawira Dururu
Being a student on intern can either be a frustrating or exciting experience, depending on the circumstances. But my five month stint at ZBCâ€™s Montrose Studios in 2001 in the City of Kings proved a very exhilarating moment, despite a false start, thanks to the support of the veteran staff which then included my best friend Sipho Dube, Elias Mange-Ndebele, Nonceba Mnkandla, Ezra Tshisa Sibanda, Regina Nyirenda and the late but great Deans Patrick Mutume.I first met Deans in the music library where he usually frequented for a chat towards tea time; his voice was unmistakable, even though it never fitted well with the man I had imagined he was before I met him. The first characteristic I deduced from him was that he was a cheerful personality. Our friendship developed instantly from that initial encounter at the library.
I had known Deans as a presenter on Radio Zimbabwe (then Radio 2) when he was synonymous with Rhumba vibes from DRC. His popular programme was the hour long Sunday midday Rhumba selection. He also did soccer commentary from Babourfields Stadium alongside Tshisa, and the duo also co-presented another evening sports programme during the week. Most listeners will however agree with me that we really enjoyed Deans on his mid week parties on Wednesday especially when he co-presented Kwaziso/Ukubingelelana with Malachi Nkomo.
It goes without saying therefore that my encounter with DP in the library was a rare but exciting moment for every listener and aspiring broadcaster. He always had a special way of calling his name that made any listener fall in love with it.
When we got to Montrose for our attachment in that month of June, ZBC was gradually embarking on the famous VISION 30 programme whose implementation was shrouded in secrecy and therefore the staff were rather anxious. No one was certain of their future at the time, and no one could afford to give you much attention as an intern. It was rather sad that I spent more than a month stuck in the library learning to make a compilation, a task anyone could grasp in one day.
Sipho Dube later pulled me out of that library, taking me with him to all of his live shows and outside recordings. But my brother was not normally around most of the time so I found myself with nothing worthy to do.
It was Deans who suggested I should join him on his shifts to learn real broadcasting and that is when my internship kicked into life. The studio desk looks very complex to any newcomer, but Deans virtually knew much more than the engineers. The guy knew the functions of each and every minute button, something that I have not been able to master in my entire career.
It was during this experience that I realised he was a natural broadcaster. He taught me the basics from scratch, explaining the science, the philosophy and the psychology behind the studio console. Up to this day, I have held on to the basic rules of using a studio – raising the tone fifteen minutes before going on air, checking the mics and generally focusing my mind on the job at hand.
It was Deans who explained to me the sense behind playing more local music than foreign. Itâ€™s no use paying royalties to foreign artists at the expense of locals. He taught me how to think as a broadcaster, and how to be flexible when operating in an unconducive environment. For example, the link between Montrose and Mbare was usually unreliable, and in most cases you could be cut off air. But Deans taught me to press that red button which monitors the studio output and not the station, so that even if I was off air, I would continue operating without knowing until the engineers restored transmission once more.
I learnt the basics as fast as I could, and when he realised my passion for broadcasting, he never hesitated to put me on air, even though it was against ZBC policy to let interns go on air. His argument was that itâ€™s no use teaching someone theory which they will never put to practice in any day. But at that time no one cared much since the future was uncertain – what with VISION 30 mired in mystery.
Deans was never afraid of risks. Right at the time when I was still mustering those skills he was imparting, at a time when I was a novice, he left me by myself in Studio E one Friday mid-morning during Tshay â€˜inkundla. Brenda Moyo was the other co-presenter in Mbare and she duly crossed over to Montrose when it was time to hand over to Deans. But Deans was nowhere to be found, and after hesitating a little, I put those headphones, raised the extreme left fader and spoke to her. She was nice to me and allowed me to play my first ever song on air â€˜Kacellular ndizvoâ€™, by the last System Tazvida. It was later that Deans told me never to expect things to move by the rules of the book, because rules as they say, are made to be broken.
Thus began my career from that Friday morning which I still owe to Sekuru Mdhuukirwi as he was famously known by the Radio Zimbabwe faithfuls. It was part of his character to teach all those who sought broadcasting knowledge and he always mentioned it with pride how he trained other broadcasters who joined ZBC after him, as a way of assuring you that you were safe in his hands. Some of them went on to gain more fame than him, but he never stopped taking pride in his products.
â€œUri kunzwa here Eric Knight arikurova radio izvozvi? I taught him this desk the way Iâ€™m doing to you. One day you will be as famous as him.â€
But Deans was a fun character. That he loved his beer is beyond any doubt. He was proud of that mantra. One Saturday afternoon when we went to collect him at his Nkulumane home, we got there a little bit earlier because the driver, Godfrey Matsanga, had some other errand that he wanted to run. Deans was not around and his wife immediately dispatched children to call him wherever he was.
We were all stunned to see him emerge after some lengthy period walking so slowly with his friend whom he had been imbibing with. He really took his time to collect his music before joining us as we waited impatiently in the car. Later on at work when I asked why he had acted like that, he told me he had booked the car for half past twelve, so there was no need for him to rush because it was not yet time. If only he knew how he had inconvenienced the driver!
We never really agreed on everything we talked or did, but I respected him for the way he stuck to his beliefs. In his world, Deans did not believe in the maybe or the might be. His world was either a yes or a no, a do or a donâ€™t, period. He was really proud of being Zanu PF and he never offered any apology for that. For someone who left for the liberation war at a tender age of fifteen years, that is indeed very understandable.
It was the war that taught him broadcasting, fishing out his natural talent and fusing it with skills learnt in other countries, where together with his comrades they ran the Voice of Zimbabwe, whose values we understand later gave birth to ZBC in 1980.
For all the effort that Deans put in honing my skills, I never did radio as he had wanted me to. One afternoon when I called him from Pockets Hill, he was quick to say, â€œIwe unofanira kuuya kuno kuMbare kuzoita radio chaiyo kwete news. Thatâ€™s not what I trained you to do. A broadcaster must be able to do a four hour shift on radio non-stop.â€ My attempts to follow my mentor at Mbare were futile and itâ€™s sad that he has passed on without seeing me in action in the way he had wanted. Iâ€™m however very proud of the time that I spent with him.
When news reached us that Deans had suffered a stroke in 2005 while attending a workshop in China, we were really sad. But he seemed to be recovering and we all thought one day we shall hear that melodic voice on radio until we learnt of his sad death when we reported for work on Monday.
Our consolation comes from the fact that when he became indisposed in 2005, he had given broadcasting his best, in his career spanning more than three decades. We still however wanted more from him, especially his indispensable skills and knowledge.
Deans was buried in his home area of Rusape, and some of his students were not able to attend because of distance. They however could not hide their sorrow at the passing on of their tutor.
â€œNematambudziko, Dins Patrick Mutume gone. He taught me how to read Kwaziso/ Ukubingelelana. A good teacher and a proffessional broadcaster. Zororai murugare baba DPM,â€ lamented Brenda Moyo on Facebook.
Eric Knight the General also concurred, â€œThe Broadcasting fraternity is 1 soul poorer. Thanx Dins for showing me some of the ropes of the trade. You were a marvel to work with, the first man to teach me the dynamics of that “CONSOLE MIXER” in Studio E (Studio Eric) at a complex situated at CNR Remembrance Drive and Simon Mazorodze Road. I really hope that you were born again prior to your departure. We will miss you.â€
Deans shall indeed be missed greatly, never to be replaced again. For a polyglot like him, it is appropriate to bid him farewell in one of the languages that he spoke so well.
Asante sana tata Deans, Kwaheri yakonana.
So long Sekuru Mdhuu!