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Born Free was founded in 1972 by bandleader, drummer and vocalist Nicky Mwanza, but the band never recorded until a complete personnel change. Star-in-the-making Mike Nyoni joined as vocalist and lead guitarist; Zimbabwean-born Peter Lungu replaced Mwanza on drums; Joseph Musonda alternated between rhythm and bass guitar. Mwanza went on to form Cross Town Traffic, and Nyoni’s Born Free signed to ZMPL, recording the album Mukaziwa Chingoi (Promotion) LP in 1975.
The album showcases Nyoni’s talents first and foremost, and betrays a study of funk: this is not a fuzz guitar showcase, but a wah-wah guitar dominated album – the instrumental “Mad Man” sounds like it could have been cut in Detroit, Michigan in the early ’70s.
After Born Free, Nyoni went solo, signing to Christopher Ndhlovu’s Chris Editions for two albums: Kawalala (c. 1977) and his most straight forward funk/soul release I Can’t Understand You (c. 1978). This last album was released in Kenya and France with different cover art as an AIT/Reprise album, and it set up Nyoni for a string of kalindula releases in the 1980s. He gigged on his own and with Sounds Unlimited and Broadway Quintet before his death in the ’90s.