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Green ArrowsThe Manatsa Legacy Lives on
This might be the first time you ever heard of Zex Manatsa. But in Zimbabwe, Zex is a legend and one of Africa’s most amazing musicians. His son, Aaron Manatsa, is also doing amazing things.

At the age of 17, in 1959, Zex launched his musical career in Mhangura , Zimbabwe. He went onto creating the Green Arrows band in 1968.

1972, the Green Arrows began writing their own songs to mass appeal. South African saxophonist West Nkosi, who was also a consultant for Gallo Records, discovered the band and became their producer in the 70s. The resulting album, “Chipo Chiroorwa”, sold so well and the band moved to the capital city of Harare. Their success continued in the 1970s and 80s, as they continued to produce well-received tours and hit records.

The Green Arrows are known for their Manatsa brothers. Zex’s low, raspy, lead vocal and bass playing defined the group’s sound, while his brother Stanley played the leading electric guitar with a fused ‘wawa’ sound effect that made him the best guitarist in Zimbabwe at the time.

The Green Arrows are best known for hits like “Chipo Chiroorwa” and “Dzvinyu”. Their track “Musango Mune Hangaiwa” stayed at number one in Zimbabwe’s pop charts for a staggering 17 weeks. At the peak of his career, Zex inspired and was hero-worshipped by many top musicians who include Oliver Mtukudzi, James Chimombe, Lovemore Majaivana, Tinei Chikupo, Leonard Dembo, Thomas Mapfumo and Simon Chimbetu. In fact, he played a key role in giving guidance and support for success to many top Zimbabwean musicians including those mentioned above.

In the 1970s and 80s, Zex released many tracks which have proved to be all-time hits such as “Chipo Chiroorwa”, “Bambo Mwakwatila”, “Vaparidzi Vawanda”, “Mwana Waenda”, “Chechule Anavala Bottom”, and “Chimwamuna Chamimba”. ( I guess the use of Malawian language in some of their compositions was to appeal to the Malawians who in those days made up the majority of the migrant labour force in Zimbabwe).

Zex continued to make history in the late 1970s including when he married his wife, Stella. His musical promoter, Jack Sadza, called their wedding “the Wedding of the century” where he chose the national stadium at the time (Rufaro Stadium) as the venue for the wedding, and fans would pay to witness the ceremony. On August 29, 1979, Rufaro Stadium was full to the brim with excited fans. This is the same stadium that Zex Manatsa was to open up for Bob Marley in a few months’ time.

One eyewitness who attended the event recalls: “It was one of the most memorable events ever to take place in the capital city of Zimbabwe, Harare (then Salisbury). The festivities and huge concert took place, with some of the most important bands in the country performing in honour of one of the legends of Zimbabwean music ‘the legendary Zex Manatsa’.

A crowd of people, estimated to be over 60 000, packed the stadium. At Zex & Stella’s entrance, Thomas Mapfumo started performing one of his most popular tunes ‘Africa’. Later that afternoon, things started to get out of hand as more bands performed. The crowd became really wild and started tearing fences apart to get closer to the stage. A few people were hospitalised as a result”.

It seems Zex’s wedding became a major music event on that day to the extent that everything else came to a standstill. Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was at that time prime minister of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time), and who was campaigning for the forthcoming elections, had made what seems, the big mistake of organising a political rally on the same day. Muzorewa later blamed Zex for the poor attendance at his political rally. The Daily Mail had a screaming headline on their front page the following day: “Zex’s Wedding Spoils Muzorewa’s Rally”.

Manatsa remained popular in the post-independence era, producing hits such as “Chivaraidze” and the swooning “Tii Hobvu”. The band’s popularity declined as the 1990s approached when Zex was involved in a horrific car accident and attributed his survival to the workings of God. He eventually retired to pursue religious work.

It seems the Manatsa legacy lives on. Zex has 6 sons who are all professional musicians. Aaron Manatsa says he is following his father’s footsteps, and now leads the new Green Arrows band. Just like his father, producer, singer, song writer, Aaron Manatsa, also plays bass guitar. He has created a fusion of western contemporary, indie rock, pop sounds mixed with Southern African jazz and traditional sounds. The sound is innovative and fresh.

Aaron and the Green Arrows band carry an encouraging, inspiring humanitarian message in their music. They aim to entertain and inspire the hearts of many.

The Manatsa brothers travel all over the world for gigs, festivals etc.

Manatsa Music also provide various services within the music industry which include music production, band backing hire, P.A systems etc.

It looks like the Manatsa legacy will live on forever.

Gallery

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Zex Wedding