23 years later, Dembo remains the best Leonard Dembo

Godwin Muzari Arts Editor
Leonard Dembo would have been 60 this year and one can imagine how his 2019 song would sound had death not snatched the legendary artiste when he was only 37.

Dembo died on April 9, 1996, leaving a rich discography that has stood the test of time. Yesterday marked 23 years after his demise. Most people agree that he is arguably the best musician ever to grace the local scene.

And comments on social media yesterday as people remembered their legend said it all. His music still commands a huge following.  Some people shared their memories of the legend while others, that did not have a chance to see him, wished they had been born earlier. Still, they have consolation in the good music that he left.

Among musicians from his era who are still alive, some are no longer popular while others have continued to make hits. How Dembo’s ‘latest’ song would have sounded can only be left to imagination.

But his fans will tell you that such ingenuity is not easily swept away. They believe he would still be making hits. Maybe he would have made a bigger song than “Chitekete”. Just imagine how a song that is better than “Chitekete” would sound. It could only have taken the man himself to prove it. Most people believe it is still the greatest song of all time. Maybe, by now, he would be struggling to fill small venues at shows like some of his surviving peers. Only God knows.

What we all know is that 23 years later, he remains the best. His sons Morgan and Tendai have tried to carry over the legacy, but the shoes are just too big.

So, as people celebrated his life with various posts yesterday, the unavoidable consensus was that Dembo remains the greatest.

Even his former rhythm guitarist Innocent Mjintu says Dembo was the greatest musician he worked with.

To get his memories about Dembo, we had an interview with Mnjitu yesterday. He believes Dembo would still be making hits if he had not passed on.

“That man was talented. He taught me a lot about music. I worked with him from 1988 until his death in 1996,” Mjintu recalled. “I was the youngest in the band when I joined Barura Express from Nyaminyami Sounds. He treated me like his younger brother. I was with him most of the time. We ate together. We slept together. He always gave me advice about music.”

He recalled how Dembo looked for him to join the band.

“He sent some people to call me. Some guys had left his band and he wanted replacements. It was a Monday when I went for my first rehearsal. I was 16-years-old. I did my best and he was impressed. After only three days of rehearsal we went for a show.

“After the show he was all smiles. He took me home in his car and he was very happy. He offered me a good salary. Since that day I became the young man who usually travelled with the boss.”

Mjintu said he is still amazed with Dembo’s composing prowess and guitar skills. He said they were always dropping hits. They would record many songs regardless of having others that were doing well at any given time. They toured together and their shows became popular.

Mjintu laughed when he remembered an incident in Mozambique when Dembo refused to step in the sea at a beach because he did not trust the water. He said they always laughed about that incident.

Such an unpredictable character made Dembo a complicated person to many people, but Mjintu said he understood him well.

He says the music industry lost a great worker, composer and singer whose gap will not be easily filled.


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