The pre-Independence era in particular saw some big names emerge in the showbiz industry with great names such as Fanyana Dube, Freedom Sengwayo, Solomon Skuza, James Chimombe, Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo, Nduna “Ndux Malax” Malaba, Marshall Munhumumwe, Leonard “Musorowenyoka” Dembo, and Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi. The list is endless.
The music greats produced record hits, which they sang from deep down their hearts, unlike the current crop of fly-by-night artistes whose music has been referred to as bubblegum music, due to lack of staying power.
These legends will be remembered for their timeless music, which is still relevant decades later.
Although most of these icons have passed on, their music is still alive and if the country’s music industry was efficient, they would probably be making money from the grave like international icons Bob Marley and pop star Michael Jackson.
Their departure either by relocating to other parts of the world or simply through death, has left a vacuum in the country’s music circles.
Fortunately, most of the sons of these legends have taken over from where their late fathers left. Some have however, succeeded while others are struggling to fit perfectly in their fathers’ shoes, due to a number of factors.
Most heirs to the musical throne have been negatively affected by bankruptcy, poor management and a lack of support from the promoters.
It is against this background that Saturday Leisure sought to critically analyse the successes and failures of these successors. It has remained questionable whether these youngsters are taking to the microphone out of talent or keeping the fathers’ legacy.
The lack of transparency in royalties and album sales has negatively affected the survival of the musicians’ children as they are not able to feast on their late parents’ fruits. One sad tale is that of the late James Chimombe’s son Freddy Chimombe who is said to be living in abject poverty and squalid conditions in Harare’s Hopley Farm.
Freddy (38), a father of five, is struggling to make ends meet as he is reportedly suffering from poor health and is said to be partially blind after a snake spat venom in his eyes a few years ago.
Seven years after the death of his father in 1990, Freddy released an album titled Nherera, which did not do well and he was forced to go on early retirement after falling ill.
Last month, Harare music promoter Patson “Chipaz” Chimboza organised a charity match between musicians and soccer legends at Rufaro Stadium tailor made to bail out the financially crippled son of one of Zimbabwe’s illustrious music legends.
However, his brother Lincoln took over from where his brother Freddy had left and released an album titled Kudzanai which was received with some doubts on the market. He blamed the poor response to lack of musical instruments and lack of support before teaming up with Dembo brothers and eventually trying his luck with Zora music maestro Leonard Zhakata.
The Zimbabwe music industry is not complete if one does not talk about the late James Chibadura who was affectionately known as Mr Chitungwiza during his heydays. Chibadura died in 1999.
His offspring Simba and Knowledge have released three albums so far although they are not well known in the music circles and are struggling to make ends meet with their recording company, the Zimbabwe Music Corporation.
Their last two albums made little or no impact on the local scene although they tried following in their father’s footsteps whose music is still popular up to today.
The brothers have blamed the recording company for not marketing their two albums which subsequently led to their demise. The duo is facing an enormous challenge of not having music instruments which are said to have disappeared soon after the death of the music great while they were still little children.
Then comes the Dembo brothers. The new kids on the block Morgan and Tendai who are yet to release their own album are quite a promising duo. The two brothers who are doing well in the local music industry have successfully revived their father’s legacy.
Although they have been mainly performing tracks from their late father who is arguably one of Zimbabwe’s premiere sungura hitmakers, the brothers have wowed fans leading them down memory lane to the time of maestro.
The duo’s revival of their father’s legacy was mainly facilitated by sungura king, Alick Macheso, who has assisted the newcomers by letting them use his band and be curtain raisers at most of his nationwide tours until they secure their own band .
The new look Barura Express is slowly becoming a group to look forward to although they still depend on their father’s tracks.
One of the country’s successful heirs is Dendera Kings frontman Suluman Chimbetu.
He is undoubtedly one of the best sons of a legend who has maintained the survival of Dendera music.
Sulu, the son of the late Dendera guru Simon Chimbetu, is the man of the moment and has jealously safeguarded the legacy that made him who he is today.
The 29-year-old Chopper re-incarnate is indeed a role model to many aspiring successors in the music industry.
Sulu has shared the stage with some of the country’s finest and is ranked among the top five musicians in the country. Although like his father, who was not short of controversy especially after spending four years in prison for car theft, Sulu has sired four children with different women and is known for his weakness for women.
He has already been nominated for the country’s premiere arts awards with sungura giant Alick Macheso and dancehall pundit Winky Dee.
Talking to Saturday Leisure, Sulu said as the first-born he decided to take up from where his late father had left.
“I was also blessed with a vocal ability like my father and decided to venture into the music industry to mantain my father’s legacy, although at first I doubted that I would make it in the volatile music industry,” said Sulu.
Promising heir and Utakataka Express frontman Peter Dhewa Moyo has already fired warning shots that he would keep his late father’s legacy alive.
Although it is too early to judge the young man who took over the band after the death of his father in October last year, he has proven his talent and looking after the large family and settling his father’s debts.
Although he recently lost his father’s sidekick and the group’s famous chanter, Shiga Shiga to Energy Mutodi, he has already shown a fighting spirit and is unfazed by the departure.
Peter said although his father had kept him a secret in the music circles until later last year, a few months before his death, he always envied being part of the band.
“I have always loved music from the time I was a little boy but I could not be part of the band as my father was waiting for the right time to unveil me to the public.
“Although I am still mastering some of my father’s tracks, I am hoping that by the end of the year I would have released my album,” he said.
Peter said he believed that music was for the talented and it was the only way one would make it big in the industry.
Harare music promoter Partson Chimboza popularly known as Chipaz said most successors were hampered by lack of proper band management and trying to make it big at once.
“The problem that affects most of these youngsters is that they think they could just get into the music industry and make it at once without knowing that their parents endured a lot to be recognised as legends.
“Another factor is that the bands lack proper management which hampers the rise of the budding musicians,” he said.
The question still remains: Is succeeding the band all about keeping the legacy or it is a musical talent that one takes up where the parent has left a foundation to start from?