HomeLife & StyleWhen the Dendera godfather flew to the world yonder

When the Dendera godfather flew to the world yonder

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BY LIFE & STYLE REPORTER

TODAY marks 16 years after the nation was plunged into mourning following the death of celebrated Dendera icon Simon “Chopper” Chimbetu.

Death robbed the nation of a guitarist, vocalist and composer par excellence, on August 14, 2005 at his Mabelreign home in Harare.

Chimbetu was said to have complained of chest pains and feeling dizzy before collapsing.

As the founder of Orchestra Dendera Kings, Chimbetu is revered for creating the beat that has stolen the hearts of many and has become an integral component of the Chimbetu family.

He was considered as the father of the Dendera music genre and was affectionately called “Mr Viscose”, “Cellular”, “Chopper”, “Simomo” and “Mukoma Sam” by his legion of fans. Being an extraordinary musician, he won the hearts of many people throughout his career by composing multilingual songs, singing fluently in Shona, Chewa, Ndebele, English and Swahili.

Chimbetu sired Dendera musicians Sulumani and Saiwe, who have both followed in his footsteps.

As a way of celebrating his legacy tonight, several musicians among them sungura maestro Alick Macheso, Roki, dancehall singer Jah Signal, rhumba group Diamond Musica, songstress Diana Samkange and Jean Masters will take turns to perform at the virtual Chopper commemorations.

Upbringing

Simon was born on September 23 1955 to Benson Chimbetu who was a bricklayer. He attended Msengezi High School in Mashonaland West province.

He became part of the liberation struggle when he joined local guerrilla forces and went as far as Tanzania for training.

When he returned home to Chegutu where his father worked on a farm, he was immediately sent to Harare (then Salisbury) to escape conscription into the Rhodesian army. After the country’s independence, Simon took up a job at a tobacco processing company while pursuing his musical career on a part-time basis.

Musical career

Simon launched his career in the late 1970s with his brother Naison. They were later discovered by Chris Mutema as they were performing in bars, and were referred to veteran singer Zexie Manatsa for assistance, but nothing materialised.

Mutema again referred them to Joseph Ngoyi who was frontlining the OK Express band based at Mushandirapamwe Hotel in Highfield. With the help of their  younger brothers Allan and Briam, they later formed The Marxist Brothers. They released their debut album Mwana Wedangwe in 1983. This was followed by seven other albums Kunjere Kunjere (1985), Dendera Resango (1985), Sarura Wako (1987), Kuipa Chete (1988), Marxist Brothers (1989), Boterekwa (1989) and Solid Gold-Greatest Hits of Early Music (1991).

Solo career

Following the disbanding of The Marxist Brothers, Simon formed Orchestra Dendera Kings. This marked the beginning of his solo career that saw him release his debut album Nguva Yakaoma in 1990. His career was briefly disrupted by his four-year incarceration for motor vehicle theft between 1990 and 1994.

Solo albums

Nguva Yakaoma (1990), Ndouraiwa (1992), Karikoga (1993), Pachipamwe (1995), Survival (1997), Zuva Raenda (1996), Lullaby (1998), African Panorama – Chapter One (1999), 2000 Blend (2000), African Panorama – Chapter Two (2001), Takabatana (2003), Hoko (2002) and 10 Million Pounds Reward (2005).

Imprisonment

In 1989, Simon was charged and convicted of car theft despite pleading not guilty. He served his sentence at Khami Prison between 1990 and 1994.

Hero status

Simon’s music carried themes centred on pan-Africanism, which led to him to be declared a provincial hero and burial at Chinhoyi Provincial Heroes Acre.

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