Following an article published on Sunday March 19, 2017 headlined; “The tragedy, triumph of Andy Brown … Five years after his death, we retrace music superstar’s roots”, which came out after the Leisure team visited Andy Brown’s resting place in Mberengwa and met Gogo Ntombana Ncube, who claims to be the late artiste’s biological mother, here is a childhood friend’s reaction.
By John Holder (MP)
Andy Brown and I went to the same hostel in 1973 and we stayed together until 1977. We lived in the same room/dormitory and we were very good friends. We did primary school together and we both went to Founders High School.
Andy stayed in Southside (Bulawayo) with Mr Cherry (foster parent) but most of the times we were in school together since he went to the Seventh Day Adventist hostel, which was almost like an orphanage but besides being a hostel it was a place that turned young Adventist goers into man. At the hostel, there were about four guys that used to play music namely Andy, William Frank, William Stevenson, Henry and David Harley. The guys had a miniature band Andy played in before joining Ilanga.
The love for music
Television, radio and a number of things were not allowed at the hostel so we would entertain ourselves with music since they had no qualms with us bringing instruments. The guys (abovementioned) entertained us with their box guitars and drums. Every time Andy had nothing to do, he would just sit and play his guitar and people would gather. Music was, however, discouraged back then by our elders. It was associated with bad behaviour. Besides their music, we would also sneak out, go to gigs or gatecrash into parties (giggles).
He was a jolly guy and a crowd puller from when he was young, very good with the guitar but above all, he was quite intelligent at school. In fact he was in “A” stream. At high school we had two “A” streams, three “B” streams and the rest were “C” streams. We had C1 up to C5 and these were classes for children with challenges in learning.
The hostel had a few people. I think we were about 24. It was a small refuge and basically most of the coloured children were from a disadvantaged background. William Frank was from Four Miles in Zvishavane, Harley was from Kadoma and Stevenson from Kariba so it was constituted of coloured youngsters from rural areas and from poor backgrounds.
Most of them, if not all, did not know their fathers but had black mothers so we were segregated in that manner. And I think this segregation is one of the major reasons that made Andy a complicated someone. We would not know which side we belonged to. We could not belong to the full coloured community at the same time we could not belong to the black community. Thus, Andy and the rest of the guys could only be jolly in communities like the hostels that accepted them unconditionally, without looking at their background, things like race, wealth etcetera. Life was even more complicated for him (Andy) because he came from a disadvantaged background. He could not afford certain things and some people would look down upon him, yet he had a brilliant singing and guitar playing talent. He was not stupid, he was in “A” stream like I said but because he did not have resources like other kids, he had to settle rather battle for things like second hand blazers, shoes and other stuff from friends and it indeed frustrated him.
Family and Gogo Ntombana Ncube’s story
Andy had a black mother like myself. Parents you do not choose, you can choose your friends but never your relatives. But from the pictures you sent me, I can confirm that is Andy’s mother. Can’t you see the similarities yourself? The nose, head and face looks like that of Andy. Everything about her is Andy. What I know is his mother was alive and most of our mothers are still alive. My mother is about 88 years old though she is blind. It is important never to feel shy about your relative. Relatives are God-given, whether they are insane or normal the fact is they remain yours. The thing is in the coloured community, we used to have a problem of people that felt embarrassed of their parents. However, it is also important to note that in our culture we have sisters to our mothers that can equally claim to be biological mothers, but I personally knew Andy’s mother, I have pictures in my archive in Zvishavane. But we never talked much about his own family after he left the hostel. We would just talk about our old days.
How they separated
I went to stay in Gweru after our hostel closed around 1977 and Andy reconnected with the Cherry’s in Southside. In Gweru I went to Nashville High School where I completed my O-Level in 1979. But after this we would every now and then meet as people that shared an important and similar background.
Andy’s other interests
He was also into sports and at one point we had a soccer team that he personally set up. However, we also had challenges within the coloured community. Some thought they were of a higher class thus we would not properly associate. But despite this, Andy remained a good guy who wanted to unite people and we enjoyed him a lot. Our community was quite small and we knew each other. I’m in parliament and there are people, some that were my hostel and classmates that I sit in the house (parliament) with though we are not in the same party.
I know mostly Ammara because I was around Andy when she was born. We were excited when Ammara was born. I visited her and the mother with Andy. I’m sure she wouldn’t remember my visits she was too young. I’m surprised the daughter went into music but as they say a leaf doesn’t fall far from the tree. But I’m impressed and am sure that Andy would be proud of her daughter’s achievements if he was around.
I support artistes in my constituency in whatever way possible and that is greatly inspired by the relationship I had with Andy. There are quite a good number of artistes among them Gift Amuli and Atalia Parehwa. People should never be embarrassed about their race or talent and they should never be discouraged by negative issues.
The Zvishavane-Ngezi legislator, John Holder, was talking to The Sunday Mail Leisure Reporter Prince Mushawevato.