Born in 1963 in Rutenga, Mwenezi area, Paul Matavire, lead singer with Jairos Jiri Band developed glaucoma at the age of six which threatened his failing eyesight. A year later he was totally blind. Undaunted, Matavire taught himself to play drums, keyboards and the guitar in 1982.
On completion of his secondary schooling Matavire joined the Jairos Jiri Associiation, an organisation looking after disabled people, as a social worker. Jairos Jiri Band, was based in Bulawayo where Matavire was working.
When his parents heard that their son, Paul Matavire had abandoned social work to follow this risky career, they protested. Matavire continued as a musician and in no time at all he released two controversial hits “Tanga Wandida’ and ‘Dhiabhorosi Nyoka’. These songs dominated the radio airwaves throughout the country for almost a year, thus winning him the title ‘Dr Love’ as he wooed the hearts of many women through his rich Shona language lyrics.
Matavire’s music gained popularity due to his humour, the use of rich and deep Shona lyrics, and his willingness to tread on what many regard as sensitive societal issues. His songs touched on anything from religion to marital issues, but still retaining the humour that made them ever so popular. His hit song ‘Dhiyabhorosi Nyoka’ stirred controversy at its release by its reference to the biblical Eve, and women in general, as the root cause of every man’s troubles, while at the same time acknowledging the pivotal role women play in society.
Surprisingly Matavire’s music has remained popular even among the youth in Zimbabwe years after his death. He is also remembered for his willingness to experiment with the Shona language in his songs, coining phrases that have remained part of everyday conversation among many Zimbabweans.
Later, other hits such as ‘MaU’ released in 1988 established Matavire as one of Zimbabwe’s finest commentators on social issues. As if commenting on topical issues was not sufficient, Matavire found himself in trouble in 1990 when he was alleged to have raped a visually handicapped woman from Jairos Jiri Association. All evidence led to the fact that Matavire had indeed raped as the victim had torn a piece of Matavire’s shirt she kept as evidence despite his denials. Before the court had reached its verdict on the matter, Matavire had released a record entitled ‘Joke of the year’ in which he pleaded innocence on the matter. This brought even more controversy regarding the case. As Matavire argued, “If one has a talent, it must be stretched to the limit.” He certainly did.
Matavire with his entourage of 27 musicians travelled to Europe in 1989 where they were reported to have had successful performances. A proposed 1990 European tour was cancelled due to the court case, but Matavire continued with concerts within Zimbabwe including being a supporting act for international artists.
Matavire later served a one-year prison term after being convicted of rape. On release in 1991, Matavire released a single entitled ‘Back from College’ which was a recapitulation of his prison experiences.
Matavire was also known for leading a simple life. Semi-retired before his death, he balanced music with tending goats and cattle in Rutenga where he moved after 2000 when he was awarded a farm by the Zimbabwe government during the land reform programme. His last release in 2003 was ‘Zimbe Remoto.’ Paul Matavire died in 2005.
His music lives on, may his soul rest in peace.
Source: Paul Matavire