Andy Brown

Leader of Andy Brown & the Storm and a tasty Afro-pop session guitarist, this player is one of the most important musicians to come out of Zimbabwe. Because of his shifting political perspective, his discography offers the unique feature of songs for both sides of an issue that is quite controversial in many parts of this continent. Theoretically, both settlers who are being run off their land and the irritated rapscallions doing the running off have the option of popping in a Brown cassette for some supportive tuneage.

His musical training followed a typical pattern among professionals, involving the move from a rural background to the big city, in this case Bulawayo, where his first professional band literally created an Impact. He moved on to the capital, Harare, where his band affiliations included Grabb and the Rusike Brothers, followed by Ilanga in 1986. The singer with the delightful name of Comrade Chinx fronted this outfit, utilizing Brown's lead guitar in a manner not unlike the Junior Wells and Buddy Guy relationship.

Brown's career as a bandleader began in the late '80s with the formation of Andy Brown & the Storm, a group that achieved legendary status in Zimbabwe, bolstered by a discography that includes many approaches to ensemble sound. A native expression describing the man who bites into unknown and delicious food with eyes closed, ready to savor the experience, has been adopted by the Storm fandom. This not unsubstantial audience has been happily following the group through periods of rock & roll electric guitar and drums, the introduction of a horn section, a reggae crush, and a back to the roots probe in which cartons of mbira were hauled out.

Over the course of releasing more than a dozen albums, the group's music spread through the international market. By the late '90s recordings it was no big deal for Andy Brown & the Storm to weather a trip to Germany to cut tracks. But a factor much more important than itinerary scribblings is the relationship with Brown and the Zimbabwean government. The lead singer of Limp Bizkit can attack the United States government on television without worrying that he might get locked out of his recording studios in the morning. ZBC studios of Zimbabwe, on the other hand, are actually owned by the government. When Brown mouthed off too much in opposition to government policies, he was banned from recording. The particular issue in this case was the government's so-called land invasion policy, in which territory belonging to certain settlers would be confiscated, often by roving bands of thugs.

Fans of African music who might feel sympathetic toward this artist as a result will have to deal with the fact that he subsequently changed his stand, resulting in a point of view more to the liking of factions unsympathetic toward the elite upper class of settlers. Songs on this group's later recordings might make the faint-hearted long for something along the lines of early British Invasion rock, if there has to be an invasion.Brown's new stand in favor of running out the settlers has resulted in government funding for his group, including fat fees to play at state functions. In one notorious incident in 2001, Brown was accused of threatening to kill a well-known music journalist who had criticized both Brown's music and Zimbabwe's Mugabe government. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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