EVER-RISING dendera singer Suluman Chimbetu is surprised at how the stars are shining on him. The winches of the gates of fortune have surely opened up with a heavy downpour of accolades, and surely, his late father, Simon "Chopper" Chimbetu, should equally be turning and twisting in his grave with happiness, that his legacy is not only living on, but living on very well.
But Sulu's feat - banging three top awards at the just ended Nama - is something that was not achieved, even by his late father.
Even his detractors, who accused him of riding on the crest of his father's sympathy, have been silenced and left scampering for cover with shame and disbelief.
"Words cannot express what I am going through but all I know is that I feel like a million bucks. I am surprised and still can't believe that I made it. Frankly speaking, I am over the moon. To be honest when I received my first award on the night it came as a shock and when I was called on stage for the second time, and when Peter Ndlovu, who is a legend in his own right, presented me with the second award I was completely blown away.
"And the third award took me by surprise. I was about to leave the venue thinking that I was done for the night. While I was in the car park I heard people calling my name and I had to return to stage where I saw all the dignitaries waiting to congratulate me. It was a humbling experience," he said.
Sulu says he is still in a state of shock after he grabbed a record three awards at the 12th National Arts Merit Awards, held for the first time in Bulawayo.
Suluman, who is affectionately known by his fans as Sulu, picked up three gongs - one for Outstanding Male Musician, Outstanding Album for "Syllabus" and the coveted People's Choice Award.
The 30-year-old singer said it could have been anyone but it was his day and everything went into place just like a well-written script.
The three awards bring to a total of eight Namas on his shelf.
"I also got a plasma television from Dr Philip Chiyangwa after winning the Video of the Year on ZBCTV and for me that was another accolade," he said.
With four albums to his credit - "Ndomusiya Nani" which features the plug track "Sadaka", to "Reverse Deal" that features "Samungere" and "Nzanga", to "Non-Stop" that features "Kata" and "Temperature" and the latest "Syllabus" which spawned the the mega-hit "Sean Timba" often called "Batai Munhu", the guy can't believe his luck.
The four albums reaffirm Sulu as a stand- alone artiste who does not need handlers to lead his way. And besides recording his own songs Sulu has collaborated with a number of musicians, among them Jean Masters, Shinsoman, Jah Prayzah, BV Labien and Oliver Mtukudzi whom he looks up to as his own father. He also did a song with Nox Guni, which is due for release anytime soon.
Already he has achieved a lot in a short period of time where other musicians take a lifetime to achieve.
"I don't think I have arrived yet. Hapana kusvika kunosvikwa. There is still more things to learn and explore. And because music is dynamic you can't rest on your laurels but what you have achieved now but instead I have to think what will come next," he said.
He said he was also hoping to do more collaborations with other artistes, saying he had learnt a lot from them. "For now this is only the beginning and I want to work with as many artistes as possible including (Alick) Macheso. Uyu mudhara wedu, in fact, he is one of my mentors and he inspires me a lot.
"I am aware that people say a lot of bad things about Macheso but none of it is true. I have so much respect for him. We enjoy a close and cordial relationship," he said.
Despite all the successes, Sulu does not forget his roots or the people who showed him the way when he was starting out. "Most people think that my music journey has been smooth. No, I had to start from scratch just like anyone else and the only strength I had was my late father's music which I played during shows.
"Do you know that I got my first PA system from Dr Thomas Mapfumo. He sold it to me for almost next to nothing. Then, of course, there were other people who made sure they supported me during my time of need," he said.
Among the people that were there as Sulu climbed onto the stage at the beginning of his career were Partson "Chipaz" Chimbodza, Josh Hozheri, Bishop Ollah Juru, Barbara "Mama Red Rose" Chikosi, the late George "GSM" Munyanyiwa, Kiglon and Audiotronics.
Fellow musicians that include Oliver Mtukudzi, the late Tongai Moyo and Minister Webster Shamu as well as his record stable Diamond Studios were instrumental in shaping Sulu's music career. "I know there are people who claim to have been there for me when I started out but most of the things that I have right now like the band, instruments even the bus came through hardwork and sweat," he explained.
Sulu said one of his greatest feat was being able to speak to people from all walks of life.
"I enjoy being criticised whether good or bad this is what had made me who I am today. I easily interact with all the people and I don't discriminate whether they come from a poor background or not.
"You could be a vendor, cleaner or an executive I usually stop and talk to people because that is the only way I become close to them. I am also on every other social network because I always want to be in touch with my fans who have been very supportive of me from the start," Sulu said.
On the issue of style and swag, Sulu said it was an in-born thing.
"My father who inspires me a lot was a gentleman and he used to dress for the occasion. So I took that from him and added a bit of my own flair with help from my wife," he said.
The Orchestra Dendera Kings, his backing group, has planned a series of shows to celebrate his Nama glory. Last Wednesday, Sulu threw a lavish party for his band members and many more such shows have been lined up in the next coming few weeks. Apparently the band is made up of seasoned instrumentalists, some of whom have played with his late father.
He has got two drummers - Carlton Mparutsa and Shame Musase - Moffart Nyamupindu on bass, Knowledge Nkoma on lead guitar, Vivian Ndlovu on rhythm guitar, Solo Makore (formerly of the Fogo Fire fame) on rhythm guitar, Shacky Phiri on backing vocals and dance, Francis "Slomo" Dhaka on backing vocals aand dance, Philip Dzivike on backing vocals and dance, Darlington Chabata on backing vocals and dance, Richard Chikepe and John Kajayi as sound engineers.