Biggie Tembo

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The suicide death of Zimbabwean guitarist and singer Biggie Tembo represents one of the truly tragic tales in African music. The frontman for the popular group the Bhundu Boys in the '80s, he had suffered…
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The suicide death of Zimbabwean guitarist and singer Biggie Tembo represents one of the truly tragic tales in African music. The frontman for the popular group the Bhundu Boys in the '80s, he had suffered since being voted out of the band in 1990. Although according to Afropop Worldwide, he possessed "irresistible live energy and charisma," he had been unable to achieve success as a soloist. His debut solo album, Out of Africa, released in 1992, had failed to generate much excitement. While he started numerous musical projects, he completed none. On July 30, 1995, he gave in to the pain, hanging himself in his Rhodesian home.

Born in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland, a small, rural community outside Harare, Tembo was drawn to spirituality from infancy. His mother was a medium/priestess in an indigenous, pre-Christian religion, while he spent most of his youth living with a Roman Catholic priest. As a child, Tembo was one of hundreds of youngsters who served as runners for soldiers of Rhodesia's liberation army who were called "bhundu boys." He adapted the name when he formed a musical group shortly after Rhodesia was granted independence and became Zimbabwe in 1979. Performing in clubs around Harare, Tembo and the Bhundu Boys built a reputation as one of Africa's most exciting bands. When their tune "Hatisi Tose" became a major hit in 1986, the group began touring in Great Britain and the United States. Signing a worldwide contract with Warner Bros., the Bhundu Boys rose to the upper echelon of African pop music. Their fortunes continued until 1988, when two members died and the group's concerts suffered. Dropped by Warner Bros. in 1989, they were unable to recover lost ground. In the year prior to his death, Tembo worked as a part-time preacher and had begun writing deeply religious songs.