Godwin Muzari Arts Editor—
When the late Simon Chimbetu initiated his son Suluman to take over his music in 2005, he did not only instruct him to keep the Dendera legacy alive, but also to uphold the principles of the brand. Among other pillars, Chopper, as Simon was popularly known, built his music on a strong revolutionary calling that inspired Pan-African and patriotic lyrics that still speak deeply to the hearts of proponents and admirers of unity and black empowerment.
The songs still inspire feelings of pride in the African identity and entice listeners to celebrate sovereignty. Through tracks like “Ndima” (Kuregererana Kwaramba), “Pane Asipo”, “Ndarangarira Gamba”, “Survival”, “Zimbabwe”, “Rwendo Rurefu”, “Africa (Henrick Mwana Wemurungu) and “Hoko”, Chopper expressed his beliefs about nationalism.
And most of the songs are timeless hits that make the backbone of Dendera music. That was Chopper, a consistent revolutionary who, besides composing other exciting songs on love and many social issues, did not hide his views about the explorers’ deceitful intention to construct ‘one way from Cairo to Cape Town’ that he sang about on the track “One Way”.
So, when Chopper introduced Sulu on stage for the first time at the historic Umdala Wethu gala in Beitbridge in July 2005, a few weeks before his death, he gave the young man a mandate to take the complete Dendera package to another level and keep the Chimbetu music legacy alive.
Sulu started well and has risen through the ranks of local music. However, the young musician apparently set aside one of the greatest attributes of Chopper’s music in his early days in the industry. On his first four albums namely “Ndomusiya Nani?”, “Non-Stop”, “Reverse Deal” and “Syllabus”, Sulu concentrated on building his own brand and making a personal mark in the industry. The “revolutionary” aspect of Chopper’s music was not evident on the albums although Sulu did well with social commentary compositions. However, he continued to sing his father’s revolutionary songs at important national gatherings and made his beliefs about unity and independence known.
Now, after making his presence in the industry strongly felt, Sulu has exhibited that he has not forgotten his roots – the roots of the Dendera brand that Chopper planted.
The musician says his father gave him a mission to stand for everything that makes up Dendera music. He says he is taking every word that his father told him about Dendera music including being proud of his identity and fighting detractors of national sovereignty through lyrics. Sulu says he was waiting for the right time and maturity to be able to address issues of nationalism in his own words and voice.
And that time came with the album “Gunship” that carries the track “Hondo”, which explores the importance of national history and the liberation struggle. The urge to take the message further pushed Sulu to come up with his latest compilation “Just Singles”. The musician says since he composed the track “Hondo” something has been burning in his spirit.
This strong urge led him to release the tracks “Zororo” and “Macamaradha” on “Just Singles”. A love song titled “Open your Heart” completes the three-track compilation and comes as refreshing composition for party lovers. The house music track is a party song that is likely to take the clubbing scene by storm. It features Lisa Viola from Angola and was recorded in Australia.
But the collection reflects Sulu’s desire to keep a complete Dendera legacy. He believes he is now mature enough to tackle issues of serious national importance and remind young listeners where the country came from. He feels it is a duty bestowed upon him by his father and enhanced by his experience as a peace-loving musician who has his country at heart.
On the song “Zororo”, Sulu assumes the role of a fighter who hoped he would rest after a certain achievement yet the situation on the ground compels him to continue fighting.
The fighter says, “I also wanted to rest and enjoy with others but I cannot afford to rest because the war has to continue”. The song apparently points to the transition from liberation war against colonialism to a new struggle against neo-colonialism. The lyrics seem to have been inspired by Chopper’s songs “Ndima” that narrates how post-war reconciliation did not address the issue of racism and calls for fight against subtle oppression on racial and class grounds.
The beat on “Zororo” is a laid back Dendera tempo that characterises most songs that carry deep messages in the genre. It follows Chopper’s thought-provoking style.
On “Macamaradha” (comrades), Sulu goes deeper into history and retells how freedom fighters created camps outside the country to train and strategise how to fight the enemy. He sings about comrades that went to Tanzania, Mozambique, Libya and China to acquire knowledge and skills to fight the colonial regime.
He relates how the spirit of war would inspire young men and young women to leave their families for the unpleasant and unbearable life in the bush and battlefront.
But the song also incorporates Sulu’s personal experience as a youth and a soldier serving the Airforce of Zimbabwe before he became a musician. He sings about Kamativhi, Chimonauswa and Suri Suri, places that he visited as he trained under the National Youth Service Programme and during army training.
The musician previously revealed that his father told him that they could only speak the same language after he undergoes the youth service training programme. Indeed Sulu is now speaking Chopper’s language and the latest singles say it all.