By Mkhululi Ncube and Bongani Ndlovu
Thirty-four years ago, Martin Sibanda was drowning, in a dam, saying his last prayers to his maker and uttering his goodbyes to his family.
The Ndolwane Super Sound leader says this was a day he will never forget in his life, as the man reflected on his 49 years that he has lived on earth. He celebrated his birthday last week.
Born in Ndolwane in Matabeleland South to Philda Ndebele and the late Samuel Sibanda, Martin is the third born in a family of four. This is a man who went on to turn out for Ndolwane Super Sounds that gave the country some runaway hits, Africa, Phenduka, Donsa, Umph`hambe and Ingqokonqoko among others.
After that, the group split and Martin has given his fans, mostly in the southern part of Zimbabwe and South Africa, albums such as Bakhuzeni and Konke Sizakulungisa. But this would not have been possible if he was not saved by a schoolmate in late 1980s when he was doing form three at Embakwe High School.
For Martin or Big Boss, he was sure that he was going to die.
“I remember when I was in form three and from time to time, we would lift weights at the school gym. Since it was a holiday as the form fours had left, we went to a dam nearby.
There was a white man who had come from Germany and could swim. He swam in that dam until he found an island somewhere there. I could swim, but not that much, I could do ibhamu.
We swam with my friend and in the middle of the dam he said ‘let’s head back because we won’t make it to the island’. When we started heading back, my hands were tired because the day before I was lifting weights.
I started to drown. And this dam had a history as someone had drowned there before.
“I said goodbye to my loved ones and friends as I went down, their images flashed past me. When my feet touched the ground, I leapt trying to get to the water’s surface.
My hands were tired and luckily a young boy saw I was drowning. I will never forget that day, because I nearly died. Up until today I’m afraid of such water bodies,” said Martin.
Apart from this near-death experience that had the potential of him not realising his career in music, Martin says he has not had a drop of alcohol or taken any illicit drugs.
“The secret is self-discipline and not to take things that are poison and put them in your body. I avoid things like alcohol, taking illicit drugs and things like that. People can’t tell that I’m 49 years old. I also pray that I don’t get old although it’s the road that we are all taking,” said Martin.
Something that perhaps some of his fans do not know is that Martin once wanted to be in the tourism sector. He has a diploma in Tourism and Hospitality.
He believes in a divine being, God, but does not want to attend church, but respect for human beings and prayer are the ethos that he lives by.
“God isn’t someone who you go to church for. God was there before the church. I believe that wherever there are people who are on their knees praying to God I can join them. I don’t have a particular church that I go to.
I should respect people because they are the image of God and you draw Him towards you. This is where there are blessings from God when you treat people with respect and dignity,” said Martin.
His mother has been a major part of his life and no woman, not even his wife, can occupy the special place his mother has in his heart, says Martin.
“My mother is everything I ever dreamt of. I don’t know how to describe her; she is the reason I am here on earth. She is flawless and she protected me from a lot of things. The way she raised me was very strict and would correct me with the rod and that gave me wisdom.
She taught me not to hold grudges. I love her so much, as she is the most important woman in the world. There will never be a person who will take her place. My wife is with me because of the man that my mother moulded me to be,” said Martin.
Secretive about his wife and children, Martin said he was monitoring his children and would support any career path they pursue, even music.
He said his parents were at first not happy with the career choice that he had chosen, being a full-time musician, but gradually they accepted.
“They showed signs, but I haven’t seen them pursuing that much. It’s just that I don’t want to direct them to follow what I want.
Like my parents they didn’t see my talent so they didn’t support it fully, because they wanted other things for me. So, for my children I’m checking them closely and I want to see what they’ll do,” said Martin.
And in his music career, he has scored victories during shows, one that stands out is in Gwanda where he performed in front of thousands of people.
“There was a show in Gwanda at Phelandaba Stadium. It was a partly sponsored show and I started singing Phenduka.
That show was a good one because when it started, I thought not many people would attend. There were many people there. We had many other artists. I felt that I performed in front of many people and they enjoyed themselves,” Martin said.
On the downside, in Chegutu, while promoting his music across the country, Martin said he was greeted by an empty venue.
“The worst show was in Chegutu. We were with Romeo Gasa because I was touring Mashonaland West and when we got there there were no people. I’ve forgotten that I performed or I didn’t perform, but it was very bad,” said Martin.
At 49 Martin said he was not considering retiring from doing music, but was considering branching out.
“I cannot quit music and won’t retire. I might slow down on the shows or record music or I get into other genres. Like myself I’m a reggae man and for me I might branch into that and not do Rhumba as much,” said Martin.
He is working on an album that will be released soon. The Chronicle