By Prince Mushawevato
Street kid, stardom, jail, bedridden, fall from grace, perseverance, respected, and loved.
Each of the aforementioned words aptly capture moments in Progress “Proggie” Chipfumo’s life and music career. The underrated yet tremendously gifted vocalist and guitarist this week celebrates 25 years in the music trade.
The celebrations will be held at a popular city venue this Saturday. Chipfumo’s musical journey is action packed and certainly can not be captured in a few paragraphs of a thousand words or so. But the free spirited singer has outstanding moments that easily stand-out when his name is mentioned.
The composer has battled numerous obstacles, including overcoming a near death experience. Proggie has “been there, and has done that”.
Chipfumo started his music walk in 1994 when he was about 17 years old.
However, his professional music career began in 1997 when he joined Portia Gwanzura’s Hohodza Hot Band as a guitarist/backing vocalist. He then snappishly terminated his five-year romance with Hohodza and subsequently released a chart-topping album “Progress Report” in 2002. So good was Chipfumo that even sungura supremo Alick Macheso could not help but fall in love with the captivating talent. The singer and his group, Sounds of the Motherland, were touted as the next big thing in the music industry.
Macheso, aka Baba Sharo, responded by making him one of his regular supporting acts back then. Who has forgotten the Pamuzinda, Globetrotter, Harare Gardens, Lashers Nite Club, Madzeka Nite Club, Chibhanguza Hotel moments with the duo? Actually to date, there is a section of music critics who still believe that Jah Prayzah is a beneficiary of Chipfumo’s “sluggish business approach”.
Does the musician concur with this school of thought?
“Fans are entitled to say what they want. However, fact of the matter is that Jah (Prayzah) came with his own style and I had mine. We were both upcoming musicians then, though I was senior. We did joint shows and I at times assisted him on the guitar but unfortunately, I terribly fell sick and that derailed my progress,” recounts Chipfumo.
He went on: “…it’s just like the late Tuku (Dr Oliver Mtukudzi). He introduced Baba Sharo to the capital when they did joint shows. Macheso is now a darling of many and can play anywhere because of the help he got from Tuku. That is how I see myself and Jah. Fate holds differently for everyone.”
But it was not only sickness that slowed down Chipfumo’s music career. This guy has had a cat and mouse relationship with the police. The “Ndinovatenda Nei” singer was arrested for assault at least thrice in the period between 2007 and 2010. He was jailed for an alleged domestic violence case. By nature, he is an easy-going person who spends most of his time with fans in public places. However, the otherwise highly jovial singer has a short fuse.
“I have been able to contain myself in the most difficult of circumstances but there are times when one pushes you into a corner, taking advantage of your supposed soft side, which in turn forces you to react in a not-so-cool manner,” says Chipfumo.
The singer has a stirring voice and boisterous presence on stage. While this is easily acknowledged by many, when stars are counted for major gigs, he is often omitted.
Is the “Tariro-Hope” singer, whose music is inspired by personal experiences, at peace with the obtaining situation?
“At least I’m surviving through music. I have managed to do a little in my life through music. However, I would want to get more. I believe one day I will strike the right chord and get proper recognition in the music industry. Things are tough for me but still I’m able to put food on my table and take care of my family.”
An underlying tone suggests that the artiste believes life has been unfair. However, Proggie has been able to defy the odds and stay afloat, even when everyone seems to have written him off. Perhaps this is a childhood learnt trait. Chipfumo was born in Chiredzi and spent the better part of his life on the streets before moving to a children’s home in Harare. He was consequently taken in by foster parents.
In 2012, there were rumours that the artiste had passed on after he was admitted into hospital for tuberculosis treatment. He says all that does not deter him in anyway. Instead, he focuses his energy on people like organisers of this Saturday’s gig dubbed, “Progress Chipfumo: Celebrating 25 Years in Music”.
“Hope keeps pushing me. I have devoted fans, fellow artistes, media and some promoters that respect me, which is good enough for me. I’m someone who can handle a flop, unlike some artistes that will contemplate or even go on to quit music in such situations. My fans know that I don’t have money, yet they keep showing me love.”
Eastpoint’s entertainment manager Daniel Lunga, better known as DJ Danny, added: “We are proud to play a part in helping celebrate this tremendous talent. It is very important to honour outstanding artistes like Proggie. We have been working with him for a while and he has a weekly Thursday slot at our joint.”
His other albums include “Ndinovatenda Nei”, “Let Them Know”, “Tsiurika”, “Hold My Hand” and “Progress Check”. The Sunday Mail