What you didn’t know about Friday Mbirimi


Not only was he a singer, song writer, and performer, the late jazz crooner, Friday Mbirimi, who succumbed to colon cancer and was laid to rest on Tuesday this week at Warren Hills cemetery in Warren Park, Harare, was an actor too.

After graduating from the University of Zimbabwe with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Mbiriri became an educationist, who had a long teaching career, becoming the first headmaster of Epworth High School in 1981.

But, he made no secret of his relentless fondness for music.

With his late brother Lovejoy and William Kashiri, they formed the popular jazz outfit, the Mbare Trio.

Mbirimi was also a former singer with Harare Mambos, a famous group which had Clancy (Mbirimi), Elisha Josam, Newman Chipeni, Kashiri, and Ernest Sando (Tanga Wekwa Sando), among many others.

He was also a session musician, who backed many musicians.

Mbirimi also had a long teaching career at the Zimbabwe College of Music, where he developed new musical talents as a lecturer between 2004 and 2007.

Meeting him for the first time was like meeting an old friend.

Mbirimi grew up with my dad and my uncle and so he became a dad to me too.

There were days though, when he could be called ‘dad’ or just Friday.

It did not matter to him what age a person was, he just treated all us with the same respect and yes he made fun of us all with equal zest.

I would always walk up to him and ask, ‘Excuse me Sir I seem to have forgotten your name. Is it Wednesday, Monday…?

And he would dish out as good as he would get.

It was an old joke between us but for years he would laugh as if he had just heard it for the first time.

Mbirimi was all about bringing joy since one Friday in 1943.

Yes, he was actually born on a Friday and his middle name was MacDonald.

I’m kicking myself for finding this out so late. The fun I would have had calling him ‘MacDee!’

The ex- Goromonzi High School student was a mountain of man, a gentle giant who somehow was able to squeeze into a three piece suit, bow tie, waist coat and all and shake his toosh to some township jazz to the glee of jazz audiences.

The man surely loved his music, a passion traced back to his youth in the Salvation Army.

Even if you sat with him during a show there were moments when he would allow himself to drown in the music.

The truth is the Mbirimi brothers, Friday, Lovejoy and Clancy are truly one of a kind- talented, funny, thoughtful and very much in love with music.

Mbirimi was that guy, always ready to offer some calming advice, teach a lesson or two about the industry and who could forget that bag of jokes.

His door was always open at the Zimbabwe College of music where he worked for some years, willing to listen, advise and point anyone in the right direction.

In 1961, the most influential man in the history of jazz music, the colorful and charismatic Louis Armstrong came to Zimbabwe then Rhodesia and shook Friday Mbirimi’s hand.

A lot of people have seen Clancy in Harare Mambo music videos, but he wasn’t the only Mbirimi to work with the group.

Mbirimi performed with the group while he was studying in university.

He had something else in common with Bob Nyabinde besides the music – he too was once upon a time an educator.

For years to come people will talk about a man, whose booming laugh and naughty cackle would herald fun memorable moments.

He was a man who easily turned strangers into bosom buddies and critics into fans.

A man whose love for music never allowed him to give up and his passion for art and people made him dear to all.

Those close to him will soon discover whether it is indeed a Friday without Friday MacDonald Mbirimi.

There will never be another like him, and I for one am glad that he walked before me and made the way for many-whether they know it or not.

Friday Mbirimi you are a legend and there is a spot for you in my hall of fame!

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