Gonora Sounds – Hard Times Never Kill
Written by ABR on 30/01/2022
Gonora Sounds’ international debut, Hard Times Never Kill, is an album about survival and beating the odds, straight from the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe. Many people will remember bandleader Daniel Gonora from a viral video that’s racked up more than 10 million views on social media. The clip features a blind street guitarist, Mr. Gonora, shredding on solar-powered electric guitar, while his unmic’d voice soars above the infectious beat provided by his 12-year-old son, Isaac, on a homemade drum kit.
For more than a decade, this is how Mr. Gonora has pieced together a living for himself and his family, a disabled man playing for the world’s most beleaguered currency’s pocket change. But Mr. Gonora is no ordinary busker. A seasoned pro, he was a member of one of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated groups—the Jairos Jiri Band. Sadly, Zimbabwe’s AIDS crisis decimated the band, and Mr. Gonora found himself with no other option but to take his music directly to his fans in the streets.
Thanks to Mr. Gonora’s large local following, he and his son became the subject of an award- winning short documentary by Zimbabwean filmmaker A.a.V Amasi, You Can’t Hide from the Truth. After successful runs at film festivals worldwide, Mr. Gonora’s unique music and message got the attention of an independent record label, The Vital Record, who traveled to Zimbabwe to record this album, Mr. Gonora’s first international release. Hard Times Never Kill is an honest portrait of contemporary life in Zimbabwe, which is more difficult than most Westerners could possibly imagine. Nevertheless, the album also documents the grace, strength and optimism that—somehow—shines on in Zimbabweans against all odds.
The album showcases Mr. Gonora’s full breadth as a musician, vocalist, composer, and songwriter. The first single, Mukoma Shadrek, features Mr. Gonora’s famous street setup. People will be astounded by how big and rich the sound gets with just two voices, a jerry- rigged guitar amp and a DIY drum kit. This is what gets people spontaneously dancing on the Harare high streets. Sometimes Mr. Gonora actually has to ask them to stop, so it doesn’t cause a commotion!
Kusaziva Kufa, is one of the album’s full band sungura tracks. Sungura is an upbeat, uniquely Zimbabwean genre that emerged around the time of independence. These tracks feature some of Zimbabwe’s best sungura musicians: Malizani Mbewe on bass, Nelson “Mr. Longman” Mutanda on lead guitar and, of course, his son Isaac (now 18-years-old) on studio drums. What’s more, these tracks were produced by Zimbabwe music luminary and sungura pioneer, Bothwell Nyamhondera (whose producing credits include Oliver Mtukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo and Aleck Macheso, to name just a few).
Kuna Mambo is a moving collaboration with the renowned Zimbabwean gospel group, Vabati Vajehova. Dr. Tuku protégé and rising star, Vimbai Zimuto, contributes her vocals to a duet on another track, MaZimbabwean, about the Zimbabwean diaspora, from which the album gets its title: “Hard times never kill, but it pushes you where you don’t want to go.” The album also includes a song with Mr. Gonora on solo acoustic, an intimate and revealing track that will assure any listener that his mesmerizing guitar style doesn’t depend on Harare’s notoriously unreliable power grid!
Mr. Gonora is hoping to tour behind his new album, as soon as that becomes possible, ready to touch audiences across the globe the same way he touches them everyday on the streets of Harare. Hard Times Never Kill is an album to lead us out of the pandemic—the perfect booster dose of strength, resilience, and optimism that the world needs right now.
Hard Times Never Kill is out on February 4 2022 on The Vital Record.
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