Saturday, 10 October 2020

GUITARIST NOW SANGOMA

 

He was warmly called “Obhija” during his days when rhumba music exponents Ndolwane Super Sounds were at their peak.

The death of Abson Ndebele “the glue” that held the band together however, forced him to change his profession, from arguably one of the best bass guitarists in Zimbabwe then, to a traditional healer, a popular one for that matter.

A quest to highlight the contribution of the Ndolwane Super Sounds instrumentalists that include Martin Sibanda, Charles Ndebele and Obhija to the success of the band, revealed that Obhija is now the most sought after traditional healer in Zimbabwe.

Obert “Obhija” Vundla is one of the guitarists who made a name for himself in the group that had talented instrumentalists.

Now practising his new profession in Bulawayo’s Pumula South suburb, Vundla (45) says his new job is very rewarding.

One can easily confirm that the traditional healer is living large as he has a huge television set on a modern television stand and very modern sofas. The red electric bass guitar hanging on the wall, is the slightest hint to a visitor that there is someone who plays the instrument living in this home.

On visiting Vundla’s house, one is greeted by three traditional drums dangling from a mango tree in the yard which are part of his tools for his new job.

A few minutes after our arrival at his house, Vundla called a certain gentleman asking him to come and prepare “gango” for us.

He also asked his wife, uMaNdlovu to prepare isitshwala and provide chakalaka and other spices to the gentlemen making the gango.

In between our conversation, we are interrupted by phone calls from people booking appointments for consultation.

Vundla’s story starts off in 1991 when he left Zimbabwe for the so called greener pastures in South Africa.

There Vundla, whose arms are heavily tattooed, said he had gone to look for a job but ended up becoming a feared gangster in the streets of Johannesburg.

“I joined Ndolwane Supers Sounds soon after being released from jail for robbery in 1997 where I had spent three years. When I left jail, the guitar was ringing in mind and I really wanted to play it hence I joined Ndolwane,” said Vundla.

He says although Ndolwane Super Sounds were popular, he always made more money from gambling and robberies.

“I was living a good life as a gangster. Music was part-time for me and if I recall well, I only made good money from the Donsa album otherwise for other albums I can say I was getting peanuts compared to what I was making in my gangster life,” said Vundla.

Acting both as a bouncer and guitarist, Vundla said he kept a gun even during performances and Obhija says even up today, he is still feared in South Africa because of his past life.

“I always carried my gun even during our shows and as a result we hardly had any problems during our shows as people feared me,” he said. The hardened criminal at that time, said the death of Ndolwane Super Sounds leader Abson Ndebele, was the turning point for his life.

“Abson was a great loss to me, inxeba lakhona (that wound) will never heal, he is the only person who managed to control not only me but everyone in the band. That man had natural talent, he was a great composer, he even changed me from playing rhythm guitar to bass because he could spot talent. I can say he was the glue that held the band together,” said Vundla.

He said he left the band soon after Ndebele’s death to pursue traditional healing.

“Ngahlutshwa lidlozi (ancestral spirits had been calling me) from long back and Abson is the one who knew how to deal with me when my ancestors visited me. So, I surrendered my uniform and the guitar at Abson’s funeral (in Zimbabwe). Chase Skuza witnessed this,” said Vundla.

“I can say we had no leader of the band after the death of Abson but I still relate very well with both Charles and Martin.”

Vundla said in 2008 he went for initiation for two years under a famous inyanga (traditional healer), Gobela from Matiwaza Village in Bulilima District to master his new skill and now is one of the most sought-after traditional healers in Bulawayo and beyond. “I was very unwell and my sickness demanded that I go Enkundleni for initiation as I had been postponing that for a long time. It was a tough period for me during initiation, I had financial challenges but Allen Ndoda and Madalaboy supported me during this time,” he said.

Vundla is an inyanga, who heals his patients using traditional methods and idlozi (the ancestral spirit) he has is male hence he is called Khulu by others.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m boastful, but I assist a lot of people and I’m earning my living from that. As you witnessed during this interview I received many calls from people who want to be assisted. Some call me from as far as South Africa and Botswana,” said Vundla.

He said he travels far and wide to get his herbs. Vundla who comes from Masendu under Chief Masendu said his new profession has brought stability to his life.

He said his wish was for Martin and Charles, who split in 2011, to reconcile and give people one more album. “Ndolwane Super Sounds fans are still troubling me as they want the band back,” he said.

At the end of the interview, Vundla strummed his guitar to demonstrate that he still has the skills. Chronicle

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