Tuesday 20 September 2011
Simon and Naison Chimbetu started career singing in a Dzivaresekwa bar
Naison Chimbetu said they started singing in a bar in Dzivaresekwa but Simon denied this dismissing his brother as 'insane'. This makes the Chimbetus' story of how they started unclear. But Naison's story has not yet been disputed and I believe he said the truth that Simon did not go to war - Wonder Guchu
There is something unclear about how the Chimbetu brothers – Simon and Naison – started their music careers. Simon and previous reports claim that they started in Tanzania while Naison said they were spotted by a ZMC officials singing in a Dzivaresekwa bar.
This was in the early days of independence. When I spoke to Simon about what Naison had said, he dismissed it as false.
Even when Simon died, there were conflicting details as to whether he went to war or did not. Simon was buried at the Mshonaland West provincial heroes’ acre for his role in the war of liberation.
But Naison’s account does not mention any of Simon’s war credentials. I believe strongly that Simon did not go to war but was abducted from a school in Msengezi but was asked to return home because he was young.
When I asked Naison about Simon’s war credentials, he refused to answer saying it was up to Simon to answer the question.
When he went back home, Simon came to the then Gillingham (now Dzivaresekwa) to avoid persecution by the Rhodesian army.
Once in Gillingham, Simon stayed with his sister’s family before Naison joined him.
Below is Naison’s story
Although Naison Chimbetu is a wounded man, he is not bitter.
A visit to his Glen View home is enough proof of the simple life he is leading. His home is incomplete and at the gate is parked a broken down old Mitsubishi car.
It no longer plies the Glen View-High Glen route.
‘The car needs to be repaired,’ said Naison.
The house is almost bare. The few sofas are torn. There is no TV or radio although in one corner stands a big wooden stereo speaker.
The walls are also bare except for a frame that holds some silver discs, the only reminder of long gone success. Naison himself is frail and coughs a lot as he narrated how he started the music profession. He started singing without guitars in a Dzivaresekwa bar just before independence. But after years of putting in all his best, the odds have never been to his favour.
When he split with his brother Simon, Naison was left without any instruments and a backing group. Then his brother used his songs without his permission and did not remit any proceeds to him.
‘We started composing songs together with Simon when I joined him in Harare. During those days, we were not aware that there was a composer’s fee.
‘Almost every weekend we would go to this bar in Dzivaresekwa, buy some beer and find a secluded place to sit. Then after drinking two or three mugs we would start singing. Some of the songs we sang were Sango Rinoerea, Mwana Wedangwe and Sekuru Ndipeiwo Zano.
‘People would gather around us as we sang. Some of them cheered us on. This encouraged us so much that we would travel to places such as Mabvuku and Chitungwiza singing in bars.
‘Sometimes we would board a bus and sit at the back and start singing. Taive vanhu vasinganyare kuimba,’ he said.
One day they went to Dzivaresekwa tarven and as usual they started singing and people gathered around them. Unknown to them, Chris Matema, a producer with ZMC was in the tarven.
‘When he heard us singing, he called us and requested that we sing again for him. He then told us that our music was good and asked us to visit him at his offices.’
They went to the offices to see him and he sent them to Zexie Manatsa in Southerton for help since they had no backing group and could not play any instruments.
‘Manatsa was working on his album when we went to see him. So he could not help. We had to go back to Matema who then sent us to Mushandirapamwe Hotel where the OK Success was based.’
At the time, James Chimombe was playing with OK Success while Andrew Ngoyi was the leader.
‘We told Ngoyi about our songs and that Matema had sent us to him. But for days he and his group members ignored us. One day after loitering at the hotel Ngoyi asked us to sing for him. When he heard us, he told the members that we had good songs.
‘We then started practising with the group. On the first day, we practised for two hours in preparation for that night’s show.’
Although they had not had a backing group before, the brothers had no problem when the OK Success backed them. They received an overwhelming response from the patrons and hotel management supported their act.
Their first recording was a single called Nherera whose flip side was Kosamu. They then adopted the name Marxist Brothers although they were backed by the OK Success.
‘We chose the name Marxist brothers because we liked Marxism,’ Naison said.
Their single was very popular and they toured playing in St Mary’s Hall, Spider’s Web, and Mutanga Nite Club.
But success brought some trouble. Seeing the brothers’ success the OK Success refused to back them and made efforts to have them ejected from the hotel. For days they were denied an opportunity to play.
The hotel management intervened since the brothers had a huge following but still Ngoyi refused.
‘Officials at the hotel told them that if they did not want to back us, then they should leave,’ Naison said and Ngoyi left.
Without a backing group and with no guitar playing skills but with a contract, they went back to Matema who sent them to see the Sungura Boys who were palying at Meverechena Hotel in Domboshava.
During those days, the original Sungura Boys had Ronnie Gatakata, Ephraim Joe, Bata Sitirawo, Never Moyo, George Matizha and Moses Marasha.
The late John Chibadura who later joined the group and took it to dizzy heights was playing with Mawonera Super Stars then.
‘We managed to convince the group and they agreed to travel to Harare. After practising for about two weeks, we started playing together,’ he said.
Still using the name Marxist Brothers but backed by the Sungura Boys, the brothers recorded their first hot selling albums and singles Patakatsika, Sarura Wako, Denda, Tezvara Waramba and Ndiri Musonja.
Once again the popularity they stirred did not go down well with the Sungura Boys members who could not compose songs.
It was then that the Sungura Boys with the intention of getting rid of the boys poached John Chibadura from Mawonera Super Stars since he was a great composer.
But getting rid of the brothers proved difficult again when the hotel management realised that fans were against the idea.
Eventually, it was agreed that they would take turns to use the stage. But this did not work when the Sungura Boys started boycotting backing the brothers.
The hotel had to ask the Sungura Boys to leave once again and they left for Bulawayo leaving the brothers without a backing group.
Since the uinstruments belonged to the hotel, the brothers headhunted for players and picked Stuart Majoni, Solo Makore, the late George Fero and Jah Wekumbare.
The group then took up the name Dendera Kings.
‘We thought that if we were going to play overseas and people there hear that we were called Marxist Brothers, they would not support us,’ he said.
Together with this new outfit, they recorded Kunjere Kunjere, Dendera Resango and Africa among many others. It was at that time when their two young brothers Briam and Allan who had just finished school joined them.
And just when things were moving well, Simon left ZMC for newly formed Record and Tape Promotion. This according to Naison was why they split contrary to what people say it was because he drank too much.
‘I am not sure how RTP managed to convince Simon to breach our contract with ZMC. They also approached me but I refused and opted to stay with ZMC.’
Simon also left with the whole group.
‘I was stranded for about a year since I had no group and instruments because vanhu vanoimba havade kubatirwa magitare avo. In any case, Simon is my elder brother.’
When he formed the G7 commandos after the gallant freedom fighters that perished at the Battle of Chinhoyi, Naison said he approached ZMC for help.
Of course, the G7 Commandos did not perform and record as many hits as Simon did. They also failed to fill the gap that Simon left when he was jailed.