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Ex-Dendera member goes solo

Shacky Phiri (centre) at the launch of his album Gore Rino in Harare last Tuesday

By Style Reporter

Long-serving dendera member Shacky Phiri (51), who recently resigned from Sulumani Chimbetu’s Orchestra Dendera Kings to embark on a solo career, has launched a new album. The album is titled Gore Rino, which, according to the experienced crooner, is short for Gore Rino Tichadzidza Zvakawanda.

The launch of the seven-track album, which took place at Eastpoint in Harare, follows a three-decade musical career which started in 1990 when he joined the late Naison Chimbetu’s G7 Commandos as a dancer and backing vocalist.

“I was born on February 21, 1968 in Chegutu and grew up a music enthusiast even during my primary school days. I would sing in the junior and senior choirs at schools and many would commend me for my vocal ability,” Phiri said.

“That shaped my passion and love for music and I remember growing up in love with the dendera music sound, especially when the late Simon and Naison Chimbetu released songs like Mwana Wedangwe in the 1980s then working as one group called Marxist Dendera Brothers.”

The soft-spoken musician, who has worked with almost all of the Chimbetu siblings, revealed that joining Naison’s G7 Commandos was a big break for him and he could not believe himself when the departed giant commended his vocal ability.

“I joined Naison Chimbetu’s G7 Commandos in 1990 after moving to Epworth from Chegutu. Naison and his backing group would come and perform at Tsaga in Epworth and I would always marvel at their talent and flawless performances,” he said.

“I was then interviewed for a job at G7 Commandos at the late Naison’s Glen View house and I sang the song Sekuru Ndipeiwo Zano which left the dendera co-founder in awe. That day became the launchpad for what was to become a lifelong career as a dendera music singer.

“A great composer, vocalist and dancer, Phiri worked with Naison until 1999 when he took a break and joined Simon Chimbetu’s Orchestra Dendera Kings in 2000.

“I remember that my departure pained Naison because he felt he had invested a lot in nurturing me to be the fine musician I had become. However, blood is thicker than water and the two brothers buried the hatchet over the small matter.”

Phiri, who said he was actually invited to join Simon Chimbetu’s Orchestra Dendera revealed that he worked with the group under “the master of song” as Simon was fondly known until his death in 2005.

“When Simon passed on, I took a break for one year after which I rejoined the band and worked with it through the production of the album Sonny under Allan and Sulumani Chimbetu,” he said.

When the two Chimbetus of song parted ways, Phiri was to rejoin Orchestra endera Kings this time under Sulumani Chimbetu and he worked with the group until his resignation this year.

“I worked with Sulumani for over a decade and we toured far and wide delivering flawless dendera music. It was a great experience and I have no regrets about it,” he said.

“It is only this year that I left to focus on my solo career realising that I am a man come of age and I have a lot to share musically.”

Phiri also revealed that he remembered having a brush with Simon Chimbetu in 2002 when he released a solo album titled PaTomorow.

“Gore Rino is not necessarily my first album. I have always been composing songs and in 2002 I recorded my first album called PaTomorrow out of mischief.

“I was given a reprimand by Mudhara Simon who indicated that it was against policy to record an individual project while contracted to Orchestra Dendera Kings.
He was that strict and professional, but a joy to work with.”

The album got some airplay, but given the circumstances he couldn’t push it that much and he hopes the 2109 production, Gore Rino will spell good things for his career.

“The album Gore Rino is laden with teachings and life lessons. It comes with seven tracks, namely Akanganisa Ndiani, Denda, Maricho, Ndimwi asekuru, Ndakura, Saga Renyemba and Nzira Yemudimurirwa,” he said.

“In the song Denda, I am talking about sickness as born out of truancy and highlighting that today’s generation must be open to teachings so that they don’t expose themselves to danger.”

In Ndimwi Asekuru, Phiri talks about a young man who regrets being misled by his uncle to marry early while at school and destroying his life in the process.
The song Maricho then shares a message about working hard regardless of the situation to guarantee survival.

“The song Ndakura talks about stages in life and the need to realise that there is time for everything and I am happy that it comes from an artiste who has realised the need to chart his own musical path,” he said.

“Another must-listen on the album is Saga Renyemba, which highlights that in our various jobs, we oftentimes don’t get much and remain open to abuse by those in authority.”

The song Akanganisa Ndiani talks about bullying and abuse by those with power and advantage as seen by the comparison between the two proverbial birds Sawara naDhimba. The song Nzira Yemudimurirwa then closes the album with warnings about dangers in life and highlighting that taking shortcuts is dangerous.

Backed by his backing group Orchestra Sango, Phiri revealed that he was maintaining the sound that made him and hopes he will be a worth addition to the dendera music genre.

“Dendera is a genre that I have lived with and I don’t see myself departing from it. I am, however, reliving the Marxist Dendera sound and I hope it conjures the right memories to those who genuinely love the type of music,” he said.

Phiri said he was ready for live shows and was happy with the quality in his group which has already performed a couple of shows to fans’ satisfaction.

“We are geared for this task and we are happy with morale in the camp. We have performed as a group and we are happy with the quality and response from fans,” he said.

“We are, however, extending a call to promoters and well-wishers to support us with platforms to showcase our talent and related tools of the trade like instruments, a public address system plus transport.”

Married to Netsai Mupesa, Phiri is a father of 3 boys and three girls and revealed that he was highly encouraged by the support from his family.

“The greatest gift one can have is a supportive family and I thank God for my wife Netsai and the six kids. They are very supportive and actually help even as we rehearse.

“My wife sometimes doesn’t sleep because I wake up at midnight creating melodies with my guitar.”

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