A PEACE OF EBONY: BACK AND GROOVING 30 YEARS LATER

A PEACE OF EBONY: BACK AND GROOVING 30 YEARS LATER

If you still remember a song called “Pretend It Never Happened “; a crunchy rap number infused with organic melodies and sunny, unadorned female vocals on leads, chances are you easily recognise the name “A Peace of Ebony” as a Zimbabwean hip-hop band that quickly rose to prominence in 1992 and quickly sank into obscurity in the same year.

Founded at the turn of the 90s by Hebert Schwamborn (Prince Qwela), Tony Chihota (Chief Capone), Chiwoniso Maraire and Keith Farqhuarson as the executive producer, the teen outfit stormed the African rap scene with youthful gusto and set it ablaze with a string of hits from a debut album which redefined the hustle of hip-hop this side of the Sahara.

So defined was their success that, even up to this day, “A Peace of Ebony” is often credited by the media as the “pioneers of rap music” in Zimbabwe. But how true is it?

Schwamborn dismisses this assertion as a mere industry myth. He rather positions the group as a second generation of “Hip-hoppers” in Zimbabwe.

“Hip-hop had already fully established itself in Zimbabwe and our older brothers and peers were already grooving to the sound of the time and influencing us”, explains Schwamborn.

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He however admits that they were the first hip-hop outfit in the country to fully commercialise the hustle by releasing their music on CD for both the Zimbabwean and South African markets. At that time, CDs were a big deal.  Very few rap groups sold their music on disc.

With all those positives to brag about, sadly, theirs was a short-lived flame and fame. In 1992, the same year they registered a breakthrough, the group broke up and each member went their own way.

Chiwoniso went solo and curved a successful career with the mbira, Schwamborn worked in television and record studios around the world; producing music under different aliases, one of them being “Metaphysics”, which happens to be his current trade name. Chihota also explored solo pursuits, and at one time founded a band.

But what really necessited the breakdown of a promising dream still tender in its nascent stages?

“Shady promoters, unscrupulous sharks of the music industry – all wanted a piece of the ebony”, Tony Chihota tells MyAfrika Magazine, with a pinch of sarcasm.

The usual fate many promising talents in the dog-chow-dog music industry always succumb to greedy sharks disguised as promoters and managers. Chihota chronicles all this cess in his tell-all book” The Beginning “, which is available on Amazon and bookstores.

However, like all great stories, there’s always a happy takeaway towards the end…or what could be presumed as the end.

Old and new generation fanatics of hip-hop will be thrilled to learn that ” A Peace of Ebony” is making a bounce back onto the scene, and they will not be going anywhere too soon.

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Breaking a thirty-year old hiatus, the group announced their comeback in 2022 with a single “H-Town” featuring Bkay and Kazz; “Temptation” featuring Sulumani Chimbetu. They also managed to stage some live performances.

Early 2023, the yester-year kings of verse decided to reincarnate their founding dreams by roping in feisty Chengeto Brown, daughter to the late group member Chiwoniso Maraire, on the single “Tryna“.

Curious fans will be wanting to know if Chengeto will be a permanent feature in the group, filling the cleave left by her mother.

But Tony is quick to water down those speculations.

“Chengeto is and always will be part of the ” Peace of Ebony” family and we will definitely do many more projects together. However, Metaphysics and I wouldn’t want to hold her back from continuing in her own path which is still greatness in the making”.

The video to “Tryna” is currently in production. Directed by seasoned filmmaker Tomas Lutuli Brickhill, the project is being shot in the streets of Harare and in Germany; in a move designed to promote cultural exchanges and celebrate diversity of lineages. Metaphysics and Tony have German and Ukrainian blood respectively, with Tony having spent much of his upbringing in Russia.

“As much as we respect our African culture, it’s important to show some love and shed some light on our European heritage. A bit of variety never hurt no one”, admits Tony.

The video to “Tryna” drops April 2023. And that won’t be the last fans will hear of them. The boys are back and grooving for the long haul.

Music is the only thing that have occupied their lives throughout the years, and they don’t see themselves doing anything else other than that.

“We are genuine fans of music. We are fans first and musicians second. And as a fan, you never get tired and it never gets boring,” concludes Metaphysics.

Elias Muonde

Elias M Muonde is a writer, poet, scriptwriter, and journalist based in Harare. His writing has been published in a handful of anthologies as well as in The Standard Newspaper, The NewsHawks, various international journals, blogs, and online platforms. A film enthusiast, Muonde has worked on several film projects in different capacities: from production management to assistant directing. He also wrote over a hundred episodes of radio drama aired on Radio Zimbabwe.

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