The Beginning is a biographical book by Tony Chief Chihota and edited by Penny Lumley. First published February 2021 then was independently published on Amazon September 2021.
Tony Chihota is one of the pioneers on the Zimbabwean Rap and Hip Hop scene through a group a called Peace of Ebony -A trio which comprised of Tony Chihota (ChiefCapone), Herbert Schwamborn (Qwela) and Chiwoniso Maraire. Peace Of Ebony shot to fame and arguably had the first Hip Hop radio hit in independent Zimbabwe. They had a cameo movie appearance in More Time a 90s Zimbabwean coming of age drama which explored awareness and safe behaviour amongst adolescents.
The biography follows the life of Tony from childhood, as a child of inter-racial parentage trying to fit in and the path that led him to rap music and how it bridged a divide to becoming a big shot rapper and the toll exacted by the currency that came with the fame.
The book’s chapters are split into 3 sections:
Part One The Wonder Years
Part Two The Dark Side
Part Three The Black Foot Tribe
From the first biography of Zimbabwean Hip Hop comes the untold story of Zimbabwean Rap music as told by a member of one the pioneering groups. The tapestry of hip hop music in Zimbabwe is not complete without A Peace Of Ebony. This book gives rare insights into how they met and how they got their name… And of course for some of us impressionable kids who grew idolising this trio, even trying out a few lines of rap, would go on to wonder whatever happened to Peace Of Ebony this memoir lays out part of the journey together.
It’s a fast paced easy read that will shock you, make you laugh and even inspire you as you delve into the underbelly of fame, the music industry and dodgy music labels with even dodgier contracts and then there’s the sex, crime and drugs.
I attended the 2022 Litfest Edition where as part of the new voices in local literature Tony shared the back story of how he started writing as part of rehab and therapy, he had been encouraged to journal his thoughts and this later evolved into a book project.
Beneath the easy storytelling, courses raw honesty, the story of someone finding their way back to the light.
The no holds barred book reads like a movie and you have to remind yourself that this is someone’s lived story and the demons someone has to or had to battle.
While this is an individual biographical work it left me wanting to know more about the other members of Peace Of Ebony, how they faired not just brief footnotes that they went on to pursue solo careers – but of course this in not their story. If they aren’t already I hope they intend to release a consolidated story/book/movie on Peace Of Ebony. (Especially considering that there’s moves towards Peace of Ebony making a grand comeback in 2023)
A large part of the memoir glamourises the fast life of fame, the glitzy lifestyle and romanticizes crime and drugs – in a way that reflects on how gangster rap influences us down a dark path… While the book does try to show that fame has a currency which can exact a heavy toll on us – I couldn’t help but think of how when they say money cant buy you happiness I am over here thinking, “maybe they don’t know where to shop, well, I want to be rich enough to find out for myself”
At the end of the day we each have our own paths to walk.
Its quite an unputdownable read, I read it one sitting, late into the night, then went on to create a playlist with music by the late Chiwoniso who perhaps could have been the tempering element of Peace Of Ebony between Tony’s gangster outlook and Herbert’s more disciplined demeanor.
The Beginning is a story of how it all begun and the full circle one takes in coming back to find one’s way, the first step, that is The Beginning.
How interesting. I really don’t know much about Zimbabwean Hip Hop but this book sounds like it’s worth reading. Will definitely add it to my TBR list.