As Zimbabweans today remembered the legend Leonard Dembo “real name was Kwangwarai Gwaindepi” who passed away 24 years ago, social media was abuzz with nostalgic musical tributes befitting of the legend he was. Writer Trevor Mawaka took the time to pen down a tribute.
Of late the track, Chitekete has been remixed to give it a new lease of life by hip-hop rapper, Stunner, though with little success. I guess that’s why the Shona say Chakanaka chakanaka mukaka haurungwe, meaning if something is really good, you can’t improve it. One feels sorry for his kids who have tried to walk in his footsteps, only to realize that his shoes will never fit. After all, Dembo’s shoes are just too big.
If indeed there is a band in heaven, like they would want us to believe, then I am privy to who the lead singer and chief composer of that band could be. With so many accomplished artists having joined the long trek to the other side, and presumably joined that band, the lead singer should be someone who really can sing.
Iam sure heaven is not short of great Zimbabwean singers and composers. The list includes Paul Matawire, James Chimombe, Marshal Munhumumwe, Oliver Mtukudzi, Tongai Moyo and on and on the list goes.
The Barura Express frontman was a composer of note whose wordplay in composing contended with master composers of the day. His composing prowess saw him recording and releasing more than 14 albums in 10 years.
And if death had not stolen such a jewel, if Leonard was still sadza eating today, surely more hits would have come from where Chitekete, Vhenenzia, Madhiri, and others came from. Though Zimbabwe’s bright flower was plucked at the pick of its blooming season in 1996, what he accomplished in those few years when he wiped our sorrows and tears with his guitar and soothing voice may never be accomplished in a hundred years by most of today’s artists.
Leonard left a discography that is crowned by Chitekete, arguably Zimbabwe’s greatest song ever. This was a song that ruled the roost over all of southern Africa, even to be played at the Miss World. This song will forever preserve Dembo’s place in Zimbabwe’s history as it has managed to cross-generational preferences to be appreciated more than 27 years after its release. Recently the track has been remixed to give it a new lease of life by Hip Hop artist Stunner though with little success.
One feels sorry for his kids who have tried to walk in his footsteps with little success. His legacy seems to weigh heavily on them.
Masterpiece albums that gave Dembo fame and a little fortune include Mazano, Madhiri, Ruva Rashe.
Dembo is arguably one of Zimbabwe best ever musician and his music will resonate with generations to come.
Creatives ZW Unlocked is an ecosystem research project commissioned by the British Council, in partnership with Connected Sahara. As part of the research process, Connected Sahara and the ecosystem researchers Savannah Trust and Andani. Africa
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