Tawanda Marwizi Arts Correspondent
Dendera music is like a fountain that has brought life to most musicians from Chimbetu family and even beyond. Simon and Naison Chimbetu’s combination will forever be rated as one of the best blood collaborations in the local music industry and Marxist Brothers days will always be counted as an exciting season of the germination of a seed that has brought food to many music households.
Chimbetu family is a tree that has so far had most musicians from the same lineage in the country in the form of Simon, Naison, Briam, Allan, Suluman, Tryson, Douglas, Saiwe and little-known female guitarist Miriam.
At one point, the surviving singing members of the family Allan, Tryson and Suluman were said to be in a cold war for fans and they often exchanged heated words in the press as competition among them got stiff.
Then in the picture came Douglas who began fighting in his father Allan’s corner until he became his own man and formed a band that also claimed its piece of the dendera cake. It seemed the Chimbetu family was heading for a historic takeover of the music industry and established musicians in similar genres felt the heat.
Promoters competed to have “Dendera United” shows that sought to bring together the warring Chimbetus on one stage and they got big numbers as fans enjoyed the voyage on the dendera ship. Then, Simon and Naison should have been smiling in their graves. Indeed Chimbetus were making history.
But the pioneers of the genre should now be turning in those graves. Things have changed and dendera seems to be slowly slipping into the mud. Although Suluman has been trying hard to fight for the genre’s survival, other members are losing steam. Even Suluman himself seems to be giving in to the tough competition in the industry.
Numbers at Sulu’s shows have dropped, Allan and Tryson are spending most time in their shells and Douglas’ world has literally collapsed. There is no more excitement as was the case when fans clamoured for “Dendera United”. The worst affected in this diminishing trend is Douglas. He is the youngest in the line of Chimbetu musicians that have bands, but he is no longer holding shows.
The musician is struggling to host shows in and outside Harare with sources saying his marital problems have sent the musician out of showbiz. The musician had publicised clashes with his wife, which affected his performances. A band member who refused to be named said they sometimes join Suluman and Tryson for shows to get something for survival.
“We sometime go and perform together with Tryson and Suluman for survival. He has not organised any show for some time now,” he said.
However Douglas yesterday refuted the claims saying he was on a break and will resume live performances next year.
“It is true we are not having shows. It’s only that for now I have been on break and I will resume next year,’ he said. Douglas is now a regular at some bars in the capital.
Early this year he had announced that he would dissolve his band and join Chamu Boroma a dendera musician who claims to be the son of Simon. Douglas used to work with his father Allan when things went bad, but they are no longer doing so because the latter is also struggling. Allan has resorted to holding shows in remote parts of the country where there is less competition, leaving mainstream dendera fans guessing if he is still doing music.
“I hold shows in many parts of the country. Things are no longer the same, but we are fighting for survival. I will continue working hard until we are back on track. I believe dendera music will not die. I feel sorry for my son Douglas because he gets poor deals and he cannot perform for peanuts. That is the reason why he has shelved shows,” said Allan in an interview yesterday.
Tryson believes he will be able to rise again.
“We are working hard to keep the genre alive. Things are hard but I believe it will get better. Shows are not as rewarding as we would expect, but we are surviving on the little that we are getting,” said Tryson.
Recent visits to Suluman’s shows revealed that things are no longer the same. Numbers are dropping although the musician is trying to keep holding shows in the capital. He seems to have lost the game to his rival Jah Prayzah who is currently the man of the moment.
Most dendera fans believe Suluman can keep the genre alive, but the going seems to be getting tough for favourite horse on the race. The Chimbetus need a new strategy to prove that they can bring back the good old days of dendera.