The Herald (Harare)

20 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Dendera Dynasty Lives On

music review

NO music family in Zimbabwe has ever had the honour of being successfully equated to the famous Jacksons than the Chimbetu siblings. Many pundits continue to draw more similarities from the two families' music histories despite the fact that they live in different worlds.

While the Jacksons became famous with their pop music, that became an instant phenomenon the world over in the early 1970s, the Chimbetus are also famous for their rich tradition of producing good artistes and good music.

Just like the Jacksons, - Jermaine, Jackie (real name Sigmund) Tito (real name Toriano), Marlon and Michael - the Chimbetus, through the late gifted composer, instrumentalist and singer Simon, have a music dynasty that spans decades.

This music heritage has been kept alive with the number of artistes that the family is producing "everyday".

To date, close to 10 artistes have emerged from the Chimbetu dynasty.

The influence continues to grow because some musicians who are not even related to the family have been inspired by them.

The fact, however, remains etched to the rise of Simon, who is credited for being the founder of the timeless dendera beat.

This heritage has been made stronger right to this day, seven years after Simon's death.

If the truth be told, dendera has become a big music brand in Zimbabwe, and no one can lay claim to it except for the Chimbetus.

Simon started off his music career with determination and passion and this saw him teaming up with his younger brother Naison (also late) to form the Marxist Brothers.

The Marxist Brothers - whose name was inspired by Simon's liberation struggle background -grew to become a force to reckon with in local music circles.

The two brothers recorded a string of albums which caught the attention of all and sundry.

While the Jacksons made it big with hits like "I Want You Back," "ABC", "The Love You Save" "I'll Be There," "Mama's Pearl", "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "Maybe Tomorrow" among other chart toppers, the Chimbetu siblings were also burning their own trail of success on the Zimbabwean music scene.

They recorded hits like "Mwana Wedangwe" (1983), "Kunjere Kunjere" (1985), "Dendera Resango" (1985,) "Sarura Wako" (1987), "Kuipa Chete" (1988), "Marxist Brothers" (1989) and "Boterekwa" (1989).

Simon can, without doubt be credited for this success and he became the most successful of the Chimbetu brothers.

He emerged even stronger after Marxist Brothers went their separate ways with Naison forming his own G7 Commandos.

Simon continued to shine with the Orchestra Dendera Kings.

The group also spawned other artistes in the mould of Solo Makore, who formed Fogo Fire.

There was also Foster The Force while his brother Briam held fort when Simon was in jail for receiving stolen property.

Simon spent four years in jail from 1989.

Allan led the group soon after Simon's death.

Simon's fame rose to greater heights after his release churning hit albums such as "Pachipamwe", "Survival" and "Lullaby".

Briam had, during Simon's incarceration, released the album "First Cut", which received fair reception from dendera fans.

Allan is also another musician who emerged from the Chimbetu family and because of Simon's influence, guided the ship soon after his brother's demise.

So strong is the music influence in the Chimbetu family that Simon's son, Suluman, has also taken after his late father.

"Mwana Wedangwe", as Sulu is fondly called in music circles after one of his father's songs of the same name, is among the country's top musicians.

He is even touted as the Simon incarnate after mastering his father's most famous songs.

Adding to the matrix Naison's son Tryson, who is arguably the best among the crop.

Then more recently Douglas, son to Allan, has entered the fray although he is still trying to make a name for himself.

He might be "sleeping" in his grave but Simon must be a happy man after laying the foundation for the dendera dynasty.

And, like the Jackson family, the Chimbetus have also inspired their female siblings to develop an interest in music. Simon, fondly known as Chopper, has a daughter Saiwe, who has an album to her name.

She was also a backing vocalist for the late Sam Mtukudzi's group, AY Band.

Recently, another Chimbetu product, 16-year-old Miriam, sister to Tryson, also announced her interest in music.

She might be a girl and still of school-going age, but she has shown the world that she can carry the music torch from uncle Simon and dad Naison.

She is a gifted guitarist and vocalist, who has featured at a number of her brother's shows and has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Alick Macheso among others.

Similarly, the Jackson family has produced female singers in Janet and La Toya.

Looking at the history of the Chimbetu family, it is clear that Simon was an artiste who was determined to live a lasting heritage for his family.

While some people only think of living for their children and relatives assets like houses or cars, Simon was determined to giving his kith and kin a fishing rod in the form of music.

Family members continue to feed off the legacy started in the late 70s, growing to be a brand that surely will last forever.

Simon believed in imparting talent to others and this is one thing that has put the Chimbetu family on the music map, just like the Jackson family.

Simon was born on September 23, 1955, in Musengezi and attended Musengezi High school before moving to Harare.

He went to Tanzania for military training after joining the liberation struggle. Simon returned home shortly before the war ended and started a legacy that produced chart-busters like "Nguva Yakaoma" (1990), "Ndouraiwa" (1992), "Pachipamwe" (1994), "Survival" (1997), "Zuva Raenda" (1997), "Lullaby", (1998), "African Panorama-Chapter One", (1999), "2000 Blend" (2000), "African Panorama-Chapter Two" (2001), "Hoko" (2002) and "10 Million Pounds Reward" (2005). It is clear that the music torch Simon lit decades ago shall, like the Olympic Flame, continue burning for many more years to come.

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