By TAPIWA ZIVIRA
For many, the mention of artiste Progress Chipfumo invokes opinions to the effect that the 41-year-old leader of the Sounds of the Motherland band, who started his music career in the early 2000s, has not made any progress, and has, instead, stayed at the same level, playing in the same outlets he used to play, with the same audiences attending his shows.
A man whose career has been littered with controversies, illness and misfortunes — including a stint in prison — Chipfumo is somewhat of a mystery; a man who prefers to say little, and perhaps speak out through his music, such that getting to conduct a meaningful interview with him is a difficult task even for skilled journalists.
In short, Chipfumo is among the many shy artistes who give short, muffled unquotable answers to questions, total opposites of the loud, foul-mouthed likes of the legend Thomas Mapfumo.
In order to understand the mystery surrounding Chipfumo, Standard Style met up with the man at his favourite spot in Southerton, Red 32 Bar, where he, by his standards, opened up so much on why he is seen to have not progressed.
“For me, music is a passion, and when I go on stage, much as it is work that is meant to earn me something to feed my family, it also is a channel for me to express myself, which is why you find out the songs that I compose are about what I experience or witness in our day-to-day living,” he said, taking a sip off a can of an energy drink.
True to his statement, the majority of Chipfumo’s songs speak about social issues, with an inclination towards family relations, and for a man who was brought up by his mother in the deep of Chiredzi, and was to live in a children’s home while he attended secondary school at Highfield 1 High, singing about family
issues is just befitting, if not fulfilling.
“What I went through in my life taught me the importance of love, and how small things can mean a lot to someone else. I learnt about this when I was given my first guitar by a white couple while I was at the children’s home, and this was to mark the beginning of my love for music, to this day. So you see how small things can change other people’s lives,” he said.
Love, Progress said, is what drives him to freely collaborate with other artistes, and so far he has assisted and groomed the likes of Sasha, Wanai, Baba Harare and Gonyeti, among many other artistes.
Chipfumo’s Sounds of the Motherland band played the instruments on all the songs on Gonyeti’s only album, which she released two years ago.
But even when one mentions this great work he has done with and for other artistes, he appears uncomfortable, for he is a man too humble to even mention the good things he has done for others.
“I do it out of genuine love, and with genuine love, you do not go about preaching what you have done, because on the other side, you also have so many people who have done things for you,” said Progress.
Could then that be the explanation why Chipfumo appears to remain in the background?
According to him, he considers playing for the loyal fans more important than anything else, which is why he is the only musician in his genre who goes out to remote areas like Guruve, Mvurwi, Chiredzi, Shurugwi and Banket, among other places like other sungura artistes, notably Alick Macheso and Nicholas Zakaria still do.
“It warms my heart to just go out there to people that I relate to, people whose struggles and realities I understand, for I also go through what they go through, and that is why when I am on stage, and I have this crowd of people, no matter how small, cheering me and singing along, I feel at home,” he said.
Chipfumo is one of the few artistes who freely mingles and mixes with fans during breaks and always maintains an open mic for any artistes who may want to try out their prowess during his shows.
Despite not having a conventional management and publicity team, a trend that leaves his activities crowded out, Chipfumo is content with how he works, and in
what proves the loyalty that he has built, his Facebook page, Progress Chipfumo Music, which was created and is run by fans, has a constant following, and fans
take turns to post updates, videos and other information on the page as well as the Friends of Progress Chipfumo Facebook group, which is also a product of fans.
Interestingly, Chipfumo’s music has a huge followership among Zimbabweans living outside the country and perhaps it will only take a little more steps for the artiste to claim his place in the arts industry.