The RUNN Family is Back

Last Tuesday saw the launch of Peter Muparutsa's album entitled "Echo of a Child's Anthem". The CD was launched at Harare's Book Café. Peter was backed by the RUNN Family band. The launch ceremony kicked off with a speech from Victor Muparutsa, the present Runn Family keyboards player who said he was too young to remember the history of the band but was glad to be part of this celebrated group.
This was followed by a two-song performance featuring Peter Muparutsa on vocals and bass which was being complemented by another bass player known as Beven, Blessing Muparutsa (of Dudu Manhenga's Color Blu) on drums, Jerry Muparutsa on guitar and Victor Muparutsa on keyboards.
They started off with a familiar song, "Hatichina Wekutamba Naye" and the crowd immediately went ecstatic.
Even those young musicians present such as Ray Mupfumira, Tino Manyowa and Hector Mugani who were witnessing a live performance by the Runn Family for the first time, admitted that they were mesmerised. After the second song, the band took a short break to allow for the auctioning of the CD before delving into three more songs from the new album.
This time, they made sure that one of their engineers and producers, although not a Muparutsa, was also on stage to play the part he had played during the album production.
This was none other than Clive "Mono" Mukundu who did justice to the guitar besides being interrupted by a malfunctioning amplifier from the Book Cafe. The three songs in the performance included the album title song,"Echo of A Child's Anthem" and "Chihera Changu" which Peter said was a song dedicated to his wife who was in the audience.
Indeed, as soon as Peter strummed the first note to that tune, his wife, together with their daughter, were up on the dance floor.
After the live performance, a second album auction took place and Sulu Chimbetu in support of fellow musician, emerged as the highest bidder for the CD which showed off Peter Muparutsa's four other tracks, "Tange Nhamo", "Ndichauya Nenhoro", "Huru Inokudzwa Newayo" and "Kungoti Pote".
At 7 pm on the dot, the album launch was over. Everyone present was impressed. In the audience were veteran musicians such as Friday Mbirimi, William Kashiri, Clancy Mbirimi, Cuthbert Maziwa, Sandra Mashiringo aka Queen Mashie (Andy Brown's sister), Sulumani Chimbetu, Somandla Ndebele, Paul Brickhill, Andrew Mamvura of Ethnic Posse, Jimmy Buzuzi of Winky D's Vigilance Band, Sister Flame, Kelly Rusike, Mono Mukundu and many others.
After the album launch, Friday Mbirimi who was obviously impressed by the performance when asked to comment about the show had this to say:
"The latest offering by Peter Muparutsa and the Runn Family keeps the creative fires burning in this gifted family, and is another lively offering with something for everyone! Like I said before, Zimbabwe is loaded with talent. However, the youngsters ought to listen to Peter Muparutsa to appreciate what good singing is, and what dedication does to one's delivery.
"He transported me to heaven for a while. This is song delivery as it ought to be. If music institutions had such teachers we would have a more successful music industry."
Since their emergence in 1978, the Runn Family has taken some strange turns. Among the accolades and commercial success from the release of hits such as "Hatichina Wekutamba Naye", "Gumbo Mumba", "Moyo Muti", "Inhapitapi Chete" "Let The African Children Play On" and "Ishe Komborerayi", the band which faded out in the late 1990s has never been forgotten..
The Runn (Real Unique Natural Notion) Family Band was formed in Mutare with inspiration from one Enock Muparutsa who was a member of a Mutare pop group, The All Blacks Combo. Among the founder members of the Runn Family were Peter himself (bass and vocals), Bothwell Nyamhondera (drums) Jerry Muparutsa (lead guitar) and the late Alois Muyaruka (rhythm guitar). Afterwards the band comprised mostly members of the Muparutsa family with Jerry Muparutsa on guitar, Mike Muparutsa on keyboards, Peter Muparutsa on bass and vocals, Fortune Muparutsa on vocals, Tendai Muparutsa on vocals and Lawrence Muparutsa on drums as the band's main members.
The only two outsiders, Godfrey and John Mkwananzi, who were twin brothers, joined the band much later but left in 1990.
I often accused the band of nepotism and insider dealing as it only allowed members of the Muparutsa family to participate. Most of the Runn Family's live performances were done in Mutare until 1981 when they were persuaded by Steve Roskilly of Shed Studios, their recording company, to perform in Harare in order to promote record sales. They later broke away from Shed to join Gramma Records in 1986. The switch saw the group immediately releasing the hit single "Hatichina Wekutamba Naye", a song dedicated to the late Mozambican president, Samora Machel.
This song put them on the map. Stephen "Dhongi" Makoni, a musician cum comedian would always take the mickey out of Peter Muparutsa by remarking: "Haaa! Tibvirei apa! Mune zera na Samora here kana muchiti hatichina wekutamba naye?' (Get away! Are you of the same age with Samora to want to play with him?), whenever Peter sang this song.
The single, which commemorated the death of Samora Machel received massive response from the public. In 1987 the band released "Moyo Muti", another massive hit and this was followed by a song for President Mugabe's inauguration simply entitled "Ishe Komborera President Mugabe". In 1988 the Runn Family were part of a national symposium on Child Survival and Development and one of their songs was adopted as the theme song for the Child Survival concerts which followed.
In 1988 they won the Local Pop Band contest, and their drummer, Lawrence Muparutsa was voted the best drummer while Peter Muparutsa was voted the best vocalist. Going by what I witnessed during the CD launch, he is still Zimbabwe's best vocalist.
Releases such as "Nhapitapi Chete" (which was later used in advertising a local bread spread, Sun Jam), and "You are My Everything", became classical hits for the band although they received very little promotion. Many people identified the group with the song "Nhapitapi Chete".
The Runn Family shared the stage with well known artistes such as Misty in Roots, Jimmy Cliff, Harry Belafonte, Manu Dibango, Miriam Makeba, Maxi Priest and Princess when these artistes came to perform in Zimbabwe.
As members had predicted of splits before leaving Mutare in 1990 Fortune Muparutsa left the band for a solo career while Peter Muparutsa, the lead singer and bass player left after taking on a full-time job as a producer at Gramma Records' Mosi-oa-Tunya Studios, and later Records and Tape Promotions (RTP.).
This move explains Peter's 15 years of absence from live performances. Among the artistes that he produced are Oliver Mutukudzi, John Chibadura, Thomas Mapfumo, Leonard Dembo, Talking Drum, James Chimombe, llanga, Zig Zag Band, Charles Charamba, Mechanic Manyeruke and his very own daughter-in-law Dudu Manhenga. Undaunted the rest of the Muparutsa family went back to Mutare where they continued to play together without the powerful voice of Peter.
The group now comprised Jerry Muparutsa, Michael Muparutsa (keyboards), the late Lawrence "Chamu" Muparutsa (drums), Alex Muparutsa (vocals, trumpet) Tendai "Edison" Muparutsa (vocals), Golden Muparutsa (bass) and the Mukhwananzi twins (background vocals).
Tendai eventually left and joined another group known as Assegai Crew which also trekked to Harare where they were contracted to play at the George Hotel in Avondale. Tendai Muparutsa and Lawrence Muparutsa later passed on.
Fortune Muparutsa, who was now based in England, also died in mysterious circumstances in 2008.
Born on March 13 1959, Peter Muparutsa can safely be referred to as one of the pioneers of Zimbabwe's contemporary music in the 1970's.
Alongside many local festivals and special performances, Peter Muparutsa also performed at many regional and international events, including a European Tour in 1995, Germany and Holland in 1996; Women in Arts Festival, Johannesburg in 2007, and the Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg.

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