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Zimbabwe...Waiting For The Rain here

That Song ...Jim MacKinnon, Southern Africa program manager for Oxfam Canada, was studying at McGill in 1980, when Zimbabwe won its independence:

When this newly independent country lowered the Rhodesian flag at midnight and raised the Zimbabwean flag, Bob Marley played to a delirious crowd at Rufaro football stadium late into the night.  It was at this moment that I knew I had to travel to Zimbabwe. 

Five years later I was teaching in rural Zimbabwe... the country was overflowing with confidence and hope... Musicians such as Oliver Mtukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo were staple listening, and so was the legendary South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela. This was also the time when Paul Simon held two concerts in Harare at the same Rufaro stadium and recorded Graceland with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Zimbabwe was the leader of the frontline states against apartheid and the music reflected this.

Jim continues...

My then girlfriend Céline was also teaching at the same school. One of our favourite cassettes at the time was "Waiting for the Rain" by Hugh Masekela.  We carried around this unofficial copy with the pencil-written title but no names of the individual songs. There were a number of brilliant tracks on the cassette, but one instrumental stood out. It inevitably invoked fond memories of waiting for the rain - a mystical moment in rural Zimbabwe because rain is life. 

The smells and smiles on everyone's face when it does rain are immeasurable.  No one ever complains about rain.  If I close my eyes now I can still smell the rain.  

Upon returning to Canada, Céline and I decided to get married. Using the well travelled cassette, the first song after the ceremony and dinner was the Hugh Masekela instrumental from Waiting for the Rain. Our families danced and our minds drifted back to the sounds, smells and faces of Zimbabwe - it was the perfect moment.

Years passed and the cassette wore out and became distorted.  We continued our love of Southern Africa music and continuously looked for a CD version of Waiting for the Rain to no avail.  By then we already owned ten excellent Masekela CDs, but no Waiting for the Rain.

The story of this cassette and the song were passed on to our two children, Chloé and Maxime. For our 15th wedding anniversary, Chloé clandestinely called the local CBC afternoon show to ask Brent Bambury... Brent also had no luck in tracking down the song.  But Chloé was not to be denied.

Being 12 years old in 2004 and quite comfortable with the Internet, Chloé Googled Masekela and found a copy of the LP in London.  With some assistance from her grandparents, it arrived three weeks later...

The entire family gathered around as we opened the package. The jacket cover showed the title, Waiting for the Rain, with a youthful Hugh Masekela holding his trumpet. The LP was in pristine shape, but our record player wasn't.  We went to the basement and pulled out the mothballed piece of machinery.  We plugged it in.  The lights worked, but the turntable wouldn't turn. I improvised with an elastic band and somehow got the turntable moving in the right direction at about the correct speed.

Our moment had come.  We put the LP on and tried the first song - nice but not the one we were looking for.  We continued this until we reached the fourth song - bingo. 

We quickly grabbed the jacket cover and started looking down the titles - one was "Zulu Wedding" - the right spirit and certainly fitting. But that was not the fourth song.  We counted down and then stared at the title in horror and then burst out laughing...

Our journey was over, we had found the song and somehow it seemed appropriate.  Chloé read the title of the song - The Joke of Life.  How fitting.

...Our family of four moved back to Zimbabwe with Oxfam Canada in 1998 for three years. Since returning to Canada I continue to visit the region on average four times a year in an effort to support the work of Zimbabweans to change the terrible situation they now find themselves in.

When I tell our Joke of Life story in Zimbabwe I receive the best laughs.  Despite the numerous hardships facing everyday Zimbabweans, they continue to try and see the bright side of life.  From the heady days of Bob Marley to 28 years later of a tired Mugabe desperately clinging to power,

Zimbabweans continue the struggle.  They continue to Wait for the Rain.

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