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The Green Arrows

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A six-piece Zimbabwean group with a distinctive three-guitar attack, the Green Arrows were anchored by brothers Zexie Manatsa (bass and lead vocals) and Stanley Manatsa (lead guitar), and by the mid-'70s they were arguably the most important band in South Africa. Formed in the mid-'60s as the Mambo Jazz Band, the group specialized in playing "beer music" in bars and hotels, which is where South African producer and saxophonist West Nkosi found them in the early '70s. Recognizing the band's considerable potential, Nkosi took them into the studio for a series of singles in 1974 and 1975 and then oversaw the recording of the Green Arrows' debut album, 1976's groundbreaking Chirpo Chiroorwa, which became the first LP ever by a Zimbabwean group. Led by Zexie Manatsa's low, raspy vocals (and powerful bass playing), buoyed by the jangly guitars of Stanley Manatsa, Givas Bernard, and Fulton Chikiwati, and anchored by drummer Raphael Mboweni, the Green Arrows had a funky and decidedly electric sound that provided a template for the chimorenga style that Thomas Mapfumo and others would later refine and evolve. The band was tremendously popular in the region through the 1970s into the early '80s but gradually ran out of steam following several personnel changes, morphing in time in a more religious direction as the Gospel Arrows. Alula Records reissued the entire Chirpo Chiroorwa LP with additional material on CD in 2006 as 4-Track Recording Session, and it remains the best introduction to this innovative and exciting band. ~ Steve Leggett

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Years Active:

'70s, '80s