RollingStone Profiles Zeke Manyika: Zimbabwe's Trailblazing Drummer and Musical Innovator Who Redefined the Pop Sound of the '80s

Celebrating the Extraordinary Journey of Zeke Manyika, a Zimbabwean Musician Who Redefined the Sound of the Eighties

In the vibrant world of music, particularly in Zimbabwe, there are few individuals who possess the innate ability to transcend boundaries and redefine genres. It's also rare to read about the said individuals on rock music websites like RollingStone. But then we have Zeke Manyika, a Zimbabwean drummer who made his mark in Scotland and is undoubtedly one of those rare talents. Over four decades ago, Manyika embarked on a musical journey that would shape the soundscape of the Eighties and leave an indelible mark on the music industry. His relentless pursuit of innovation, his unwavering commitment to his craft, and his ability to bridge cultural divides make him a true trailblazer in the diaspora.

Zeke Manyika

Manyika's remarkable career began to take shape when he found himself collaborating with some of the most influential artists of the era. From his groundbreaking work with Scottish indie band Orange Juice to his contributions to the Style Council, led by Paul Weller, and Matt Johnson's The, Manyika proved his versatility and knack for pushing musical boundaries. It was his captivating tom-tom solo on "Giant," the closing track of Matt Johnson's debut album Soul Mining, that caught the attention of none other than the iconic Kate Bush. This encounter would lead to an unforgettable collaboration that showcased Manyika's drumming prowess on Bush's hit song, "Running Up That Hill."

Reflecting on that surreal moment, Manyika recalls his initial disbelief when receiving a call from Kate Bush herself. In his own words, he hung up on her not once, but twice, dismissing the possibility of such an extraordinary opportunity. It was only on the third call that he realized the magnitude of the situation. Arriving at East Wickham Farm, Bush's countryside recording studio, Manyika was greeted by Bush and her parents, along with a rather memorable encounter with her enthusiastic dogs. What followed were four incredible days of recording, where Manyika's talent and genuine connection with Bush's vision for the music solidified their collaboration.

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Manyika's journey to becoming a renowned drummer was not without its challenges. Growing up in Rhodesia during a period of white supremacist rule, Manyika witnessed firsthand the oppressive tactics employed by the authorities, including the use of dogs as instruments of repression. This experience shaped his perspective on dogs, making his initial encounter with Kate Bush's pets a nerve-wracking moment. Fortunately, the dogs turned out to be friendly, breaking down barriers and providing a poignant reminder of the power of understanding and acceptance.

Throughout his career, Manyika's musicality and willingness to explore diverse genres set him apart. From British pop collaborations to his groundbreaking solo albums, his influence spans five decades. Described as a "clutch professional" by his collaborators, Manyika's mere presence in the studio elevates the creative process, with his contributions often turning to gold. His musical journey has continued in recent years, as he embraces new collaborations with Faze Action, a DJ duo, and rising French producer Folamour. These endeavours showcase his ongoing dedication to artistic exploration and his ability to connect with audiences across diverse musical landscapes.

However, success in the music industry does not always come without its challenges. Despite his undeniable contributions to Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," Manyika's involvement in the song has not received proper recognition. While his drumming skills were essential to the track, the official credit went to another drummer. Nevertheless, Manyika harbours no ill feelings, cherishing the experience and the opportunity to collaborate with an artist he holds in high regard.

Beyond the realm of music, Manyika's journey is intertwined with his personal history and the social and political context of his homeland. Growing up in Rhodesia, he witnessed the struggles and sacrifices made by his father, Kennedy Manyika, who played a pivotal role in the nationalist resistance against white supremacist rule. Zeke's own journey of self-discovery and musical exploration led him to Scotland, where he faced the challenges of being stateless and pursuing a career in music. However, his father's unexpected visit to his band practice in London served as a profound moment of reconciliation and connection, bridging the gap between their experiences and creating a deeper understanding between father and son.

Today, Zeke Manyika continues to make music and inspire audiences worldwide. His collaborations with contemporary artists demonstrate his ability to adapt and evolve while staying true to his artistic vision. With plans for an upcoming album of his own, Manyika is poised to make yet another impactful contribution to the ever-evolving musical landscape. Through his journey, he reminds us of the power of music to transcend borders, bridge cultures, and unite people in a shared experience of rhythm and emotion.

As we celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of Zeke Manyika, we honour all the Zimbabwean artists who continue to make a significant impact on the global stage. Their voices, their rhythms, and their stories enrich our collective cultural tapestry and remind us of the power of music to connect us all.

Read the story on the RollingStone website here

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Mungwadzi Godwin

twitterinstagramI like sharing positive stories about Zimbabweans at home and abroad. I also write articles on Personal Finance, Fashion, Music, and Tech. Let's connect!

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