Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THEIR high-octane mass displays, choreographic precision and well-polished vocal renditions paired with classically-recipe instrumental interludes undoubtedly wowed multitudes at Bulawayo’s Barbourfields Stadium during the historic 42nd anniversary celebrations of the independence Monday.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) group has recently become a focus for the country’s arts and creative industries with its scintillating performances at national events.
Their musical uniformity, however, has not been matched in other artistic disciplines.
The police band is also proud that one of its former members, retired superintendent Fredy Lecture Changundega, composed the current national anthem. The late famous Zimbabwean novelist, Solomon Mutsvairo wrote the lyrics with Changundega doing the actual composition.
With their dazzling performances, the police band captures the imagination of the public at all times.
Dressed in their traditional navy uniforms and gold, the men and women in law captivated people at the just-concluded major Independence Day celebrations, held for the first time since 1980, outside of Harare.
This year’s Independence Day celebrations as well as Children’s Day were held under the theme: “[email protected] 42 — Leave no one or place behind” in accordance with the orientation of the policy of deconcentration and decentralization of the Second Republic.
The Police Band has existed since colonial times under the leadership of Bandmaster T Scout and Trumpet Sergeant Major JF Mee.
Formed in 1897 with the aim of performing at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 in Salisbury and Bulawayo, the police band transformed over the years from an outfit that solely promoted western colonial music to a people-centered band.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was officially celebrated on June 22, 1897 on the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s accession on June 20, 1837. It was the first Diamond Jubilee celebration of a monarch British in history.
ZRP music director Chief Superintendent Taizivei Zinyandu said the whole idea of the police band was to promote public relations.
“The Police Band was formed initially for the purpose of performing at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897 in both Salisbury and Bulawayo. It became popular among Rhodesia’s white community playing western colonial music,” he said.
Chief Superintendent Zinyandu said that when the country gained independence in 1980, the band’s administration changed with Superintendent Davis Masango taking over the band’s leadership, becoming the first black musical director.
“We then started playing traditional African and revolutionary songs because the whole idea was to promote local content. Today the police band provides services to the whole nation unlike the colonial era period and everyone can now access our services,” he said.
“The Police Band is a section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police charged with providing musical services to the state, the police and the general public in order to promote good relations between the police and the public.”
The Police Band is based at Morris Depot, Harare, but is available for performances nationwide.
They also perform at bilateral summits and international conferences.
The Police Band outfit includes the Brass Band, which mainly does processions and plays non-electric instruments, Dance Band, which plays electric instruments like guitars and Choral Group and it is a police choir , who usually sings at the funerals of national heroes and heroines and they are very popular with the interpretation of the folk song Gwebede.
Gwebede is a gospel song derived from Ezekiel chapter 38 and is about the valley of dry bones. The song further prophesies about dry bones and when the band sings they will sing about the house of Israel and in the prophecy dry bones will rise with the coming of Jesus Christ.
Other outfits include the Imbube Band, the Marimba Band section, and Trumpeters, which usually perform at the funerals of national heroes and heroines.
“We render services to the state at national events such as Independence Day celebrations, Heroes’ Day commemorations, State banquets, funerals of heroes and heroines and the opening of Parliament. For policing functions, our group performs at crime awareness campaigns, graduation parades, among others,” Chief Superintendent Zinyandu said.
“When it comes to private functions, we cater to both corporate and private functions such as weddings, graduation parties, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations and memorial services and funerals. Again, within private functions, we offer services to companies and non-governmental organizations such as processions, awareness campaigns, anniversary celebrations, fundraising shows, among others.
In terms of fees, for individuals, they charge $300 for the first four hours of each performance and then $75 per hour. For businesses and NGOs, the police group charges $500 for the first four hours, then $75 per hour.
In terms of selection criteria, Chief Superintendent Zinyandu said they prioritize officers who have a keen interest in music.
“We will then train them in our music school. Others join the police group during initial recruitment already with the required skills and we just develop those skills once they graduate,” he said.
The entry requirements for those who intend to undergo police officer training also apply to those who wish to join the police group.
“It’s a single entry. We do not recruit anyone specifically for the group since we use the same recruitment policy. We are pulling our personnel from the police,” Chief Superintendent Zinyandu said.
“After graduating from basic police training, they undergo further training in music theory and practice which normally lasts 12 months. Subsequently, they are enrolled in other advanced courses in other music schools and universities.
The police band has 253 members and is permanently stationed at Morris Depot in Harare, except for a base in Bulawayo which only supplies the trumpeter section specifically for the funerals of members who are believed to have died nationwide.
“It is a small section of nine people who are based in Bulawayo to provide such services. We intend to decentralize the group as soon as possible so that our services are accessible to everyone,” said Superintendent Zinyandu.