Dr Gibson Mandishona was born in a small town of Chegutu , Zimbabwe in 1944. After attending secondary school in Zimbabwe, he completed BSc (Lond ) with majors in physics and mathematics. He later attended UK universities and attained MSc and PhD degrees in mathematics at the unversities of Kent and Nottingham respectively. In 1975 Dr Mandishona was a university lecturer in mathematics, before he moved to Addis Ababa, where he worked at the United Nations, as a consultant in statistics and demography (1976-1980). During his spare time he followed up activities of a newly developing movement; “intermediate technology”. In 1977 he assisted in the construction of a canvass type windmill, for water pumping in a rural village not far from Addis Ababa.
When Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, Dr Mandishona was recalled home from the diaspora, alongside other specialists, and was appointed director of the Central Statistics Office. He continued work in this post, whilst experimenting on renewable energy devices on a part-time basis. He built his own prototypes of a biogas plant and a producer gas generator (gasifier). Finally he broke his chains from desk-bound statistical work in 1993, when he was appointed Project Manager of the five-year GEF Zimbabwe Solar Pilot Project (1993-1998). this project oversaw the installation of some 20,000 solar PV systems in rural homes ,business centres, schools, clinics and cooperatives. Dr Mandishona spearheaded the International Solar Energy Society hosting of the World Solar Summit ( 1996) in Harare, Zimbabwe. At the expiration of the GEF solar project in 1998, Dr Mandishona formed The Centre for Renewable Energy and Environmental Technology (CREET), which has been involved in consultancy and practical renewable tasks. Dr Mandishona and CREET have received awards and trophies locally and internationally. Dr Mandishona was founder chairman of the Scientific and Industrial Research Centre (SIRDC) for ten years; and he is currently chairman of the newly established Harare Institute if Technology (HIT). He is Dean of Physical Sciences in the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences (ZAS).
He has participated in several conferences and seminars regionally and abroad on topics relating to mathematics and renewable energy.
On July 2 we published the first part of an interview with Gibson Mandishona, one of Zimbabwe’s leading research scientists and mathematician. Gibson Mandishona is also an accomplished musician and arts manager with shining track record.
This is part two of the wide ranging interview with News Day’s Munya Simango (ND) where Gibson Mandishona (GM)’s musical contributions to jazz are revealed.
ND: Tell us about some of the notable personalities that you have worked with.
GM: During my time in Ethiopia I worked with Bob Marley to compose the song Zimbabwe. Although I am not a reggae fan; music is music, and being knowledgeable on Zimbabwean themes and traditions, I was able to assist Bob Marley on the project.
I also facilitated for Simangaliso Tutani and Chris Chabuka, some of Zimbabwe’s finest jazz musicians, to study music theory at Berkley College in Boston, in the US. Simangaliso studied in the United States while Chabuka got his diploma from Berkley College through distance education using music materials which I procured for him.
ND: Besides being a musician you have been credited with making an outstanding contribution to jazz through promoting the genre in Zimbabwe. Do you acknowledge that and what are the highlights of the contribution?
GM: After the death of Tutani we established the Zimbabwe National Jazz Festival with Sam Mataure, Penny Yon, Mainos Mudukuti and others. This revived Zimbabwean jazz at the time, as we also groomed a number of young artists including Patience Musa, The Other Four and Africa Revenge. Later on I edited Joyce-Jenje Makwenda’s seminal book entitled Zimbabwe Township Music, which was a stimulating experience.
In 2002 we organised, under the patronage of Robbie Mupawose, Mbuya Mlambo and Pashapa; the National Hunger Concert with Joyce Makwenda, Fungai Malianga, Hilton Mambo and Ray Mawerera. Eventually we raised enough money to donate to various children’s charities spread nationwide.
ND: What is your view of Zimbabwean jazz music and musicians?
GM: The current crop of jazz musicians is doing well, they are dynamic and they are following modern trends . . . the young people are trying their best.
ND: We now have a number of jazz festivals; the Harare Jazz Festival, Jazz Under the Stars and Winter Jazz Festival.
Having provided leadership to the Zimbabwe National Jazz Festival in your time, what is you view of today’s jazz festivals and music festivals in general?
GM: I have observed the resurgence of festivals. There should be more local acts participating and festivals should use more venues in different locations. In the past, we used to have more than 30 groups performing at different venues as part of one festival.
ND: What challenges do you think Zimbabwean music industry stakeholders need to urgently address?
GM: Musical instruments and music theory books are in limited supply and are not readily accessible to the general population.
There is limited patronage of music and the arts by society, the absence of music as an examination course in the school curriculum, lack of palatable family friendly venues and limited corporate investment in the arts. Stakeholders should come together and map out strategies to improve this situation.
ND: You are a role model and mentor for the young people in the music industry today. What message do you have for the youth?
GM: I would like to emphasise the need for persistent practice in order to master one’s chosen instrument. Also we should not be copy cats. Let us create jazz that is uniquely Zimbabwean and based on our culture and music traditions.
ND: Dr Mandishona thank you for your time. We hope that your life and work will inspire many.
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