Will the real Chimbetu stand up?
By Kuda Bwititi
WHO is the rightful heir to the Chimbetu throne? Though the family might have resolved to take their family wars off the public radar, the war is raging silently, through album releases.
The remnants of the Chimbetu empire — that is Allan, Suluman and Tryson — are outfoxing each other when it comes to winning the hearts of their different fans, whether through live shows or album releases. So who is the real deal?
The name Chimbetu is an indispensable component of Zimbabwe’s music. It was the legendary Simon Chimbetu who established what has now become a music dynasty through the sensational serenades of the unique and influential dendera sounds.
The dendera beat holds a special place because it can be classified as a genre on its own. Notwithstanding its close link to sungura music, dendera music deserves to be classified apart because the tantalising blend of the exquisite rhythms and unique crooning of the late Simon, Naison, Briam and the living Allan and Suluman Chimbetu cannot be matched.
Although he is currently facing stiff competition from the younger Suluman, Allan deserves special mention because he has been part and parcel of the dendera revolution since the early 80s. And it was a peculiar start. “I started off as bouncer for my brother’s (Simon’s) shows. I was the doorman on most occasions and I recall many times I would square off with some eccentric revellers. It was a tough job, dealing with drunkards and hangers-on that always attempted to get into the shows for free,” he said.
Allan also revealed that he has a karate black belt and this helped him to acquit himself well in his initiation role in the Chimbetu music empire. “I got the belt in 1990 when I had just finished school. Karate is all about discipline and being a karateka helped me to restrain my temper even when I encountered unruly fans that would always want to pick a fight,” he said.
While some musicians take alcohol to enhance their performances on stage, it is ironic that despite having been in the entertainment industry for close to 20 years, Allan Chimbetu has never taken even a sip of beer. Why?
“I have never even had the temptation to consume alcohol. I know of some artistes that cannot even go on stage without taking a glass or two of beer, but the motivation that I get is the belief that ndakadhakwa kudhara, so I don’t have a problem in facing the crowd,” he said.
A devout member of the Johanne Masowe apostolic sect, Allan Chimbetu believes in his allegiance to the religion and this has helped him maintain this extraordinary level of discipline. For the past six years, he has been a member of the church and despite the tight work schedule, in which he has to perform on weekends, Allan says he hardly misses a service.
When The Sunday Mail Leisure visited his Kuwadzana home, the interview was interrupted when a sea of his fellow church members descended on the home for a church service on Wednesday. “It’s part of the church procedures, the followers regularly visit a member’s house on selected days. I am lucky that it is my turn today. I wasn’t even aware that they were coming to my house, but it’s a sign that it’s a blessed week for us,” he explained.
Mixing Christianity with the nightclub lifestyle is akin to mixing water and oil. But Chimbetu says he does not find it difficult to intertwine the two contrasting forums. “When I am performing live, I only focus on the job at hand and my sober habits also help me to be disciplined. I try to be as professional as I can because music is my full-time job. I am also lucky that I have an understanding wife who supports me in the profession,” he said.
He is married to Tambudzai Tambandini Sithole and, although shy and unassuming, her affectionate nature is revealed by her ever-present smile. The couple is blessed with four children, first born Douglas (18); Sarah the only girl in the family (15), while the others are Victor (10) and Panashe (5).
When he is not performing, Chimbetu spends his time with his children at the family farm in Chegutu. While much has been publicised about the alleged bad blood between him and Suluman, Allan says the relationship with his nephew is an amicable one despite all the media hype about the duo’s animosity.
“Last week, I actually visited him at his home in Mabelreign because there was a member of the family who was not feeling well. We have a normal relationship as a family and there is no animosity,” he said. Born on February 12 in 1972 in Chegutu, Allan Chimbetu was the last born in a family of eight in which Simon was the eldest child.
He did his primary education at Mahwada Primary School in Msengezi and his secondary schooling at St Peter’s High School in Highfield. Despite being a polished vocalist, he also deserves recognition as a guitarist of note because he has played both the lead and rhythm guitars on many of Simon Chimbetu’s renowned hits.
“I don’t think I will be able to tell you all the songs in which I have played the guitar. They are so many,” he boasted.
Some of the songs in which he has proven his mettle as a top-notch guitarist include hits such as Usaende pa Barika, Ndaremerwa, Newspaper, Pane Asipo, Window and the classical New Year celebration song, Tenda.
He believes this year’s festive season will possibly become a Chimbetus’ festival because a song on his latest album will keep revellers on their feet. “The song is entitled Christmas and if you play together with Tenda then you will have a fulfilling Christmas and New Year holidays,” he said.