That suspicion characterised our relationship. His manager thouhg, Chiweshe made it possible for me and Suluman to talk again.
Of course, I, just like everyone else had watched Suluman emerging from the backstage especially during his father’s last days and early days of his illness.
One such event was the Beit Bridge gala which was Simon Chimbetu’s one of the last gigs. During then, Simon was visibly ill and his suits could no longer sit on him properly.
Suluman together with his uncle, Alan took over.
At the time, Alan was the apparent sole heir to the Dendera beat. After all he had been there with his brother Simon and together with the late Briam, they had kept the band going when Simon was in jail.
That was everybody’s mistake number one.
After Simon’s death, I interviewed Alan who assured the nation that all was well. Alan inherited everything except Simon’s wife, Angela and the children. Unlike Simon who looked after the whole family, Alan did not. This left Suluman with the burden of being a father to his more than 10 siblings.
At the time, Suluman had left his job with the Air Force of Zimbabwe to take up a permanent position on the stage.
According to Simon’s wife, Angela, the family fell on hard times and Suluman had to be a man and save them.
Suluman did when he split from Alan thereby angering the whole Chimbetu family. The Chimbetu sisters who yield too much power over family matters ganged up against Suluman when he staged shows during Alan’s absence and then gave part of the proceeds to his step-mother. He also shared out the rest with the band members.
Briam was still on his death-bed when Suluman broke away from Alan. I called him soon after I had spoken to Alan. Briam told me that although he said Suluman’s action was wrong, he believed the young man can go it alone.
‘Suluman has decided to break away from the family tradition by fighting his uncles. I hope he will come to his senses and retract his footsteps,’ Briam said.
But he admitted, however, that Suluman can go it alone. He cited one example long ago in Chegutu when he formed a band with friends but was stopped by his father.
Briam was right. Suluman has not looked back since and has to date released three albums, Ndomusiya Nani (1997), Reverse Deal (2009) and Non Stop (2010).
Older musicians have fallen over themselves to feature on some of his songs.
He has become one of the most sought after artists riding on his father’s fame bagging the 2008 Nama outstanding album award with Ndomusiya and with Reverse Deal in 2011. To date, Suluman is one of the very few sungura musicians to perform at the prestigious elitist Hifa.
He has so far performed in Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa
It’s not clear though how far Suluman will go riding on Simon’s fame. So far, my personal opinion is that Suluman has been carried by his father’s sympathetic fans. In the absence of Simon, the people still want to see and hear his songs performed live. Alan cannot and Suluman can because his band still has some of the original musicians such as Knowledge Nkomo and Moffat Nyamupindu.
I believe this because so far most of his songs are nowhere near his father’s. They don’t have staying power. Dendera music has not been and is not about love or any such light issues but about stuff that impact on people’s lives. It’s for this reason that Suluman and any other Chimbetu musician still performs Simon’s songs.
So Suluman’s power is in his father’s songs. Once he stops performing them, his future is uncertain. It’s also for that reason he sought to bar others from performing the songs.
Suluman was born in Chegutu on 27 May 1982. He attended Nyahuni Mission, Ellis Robbins and studied then CCOSA College from 1999 to 2001.
In 2003 until 2006, Suluman was in the Air force of Zimbabwe. He left to join the Orchestra Dendera Kings in 2004 and worked alongside his father until the latter's death in August 2005.