HomeStandard PeopleChitekete continues to rule the roost

Chitekete continues to rule the roost

in the groove:with Fred Zindi

Classical music, which is highly sophisticated in both its vocal and instrumental forms, is rooted in Western cultural traditions of music styles such as opera, symphony and sonata. Such music came from composers like Mozart, Haydin, Handel, Beethoven, Bach and Tchaikovsky between 1750 and 1893. It moves from generation to generation and continues to be appreciated by generations to come.

It looks like in Leonard Dembo’s Chitekete, Zimbabwe has now found its own version of classical music.

A survey was conducted recently among 2 000 radio listeners throughout Zimbabwe.

Out of Zimbabwe’s top 100 hits since independence compiled by one radio station this year, it seems Dembo’s Chitekete (composed in 1991), despite its age, is still being played in many homes and at many functions.

The late Dembo’s all-time hit song Chitekete was voted Number 1 on this station’s Zimbabwe’s Greatest Songs of all-time competing with other great songs such as Thomas Mapfumo’s Madhebhura, Jah Prayzah’s Jerusarema, Albert Nyathi’s Senzenina, Bhundu Boys’ Jiti Jive and Simbimbino, Jemedza by James Chimombe, Leonard Zhakata’s Mugove, the late Oliver Mtukudzi’s Neria and Tozeza Baba, the late Simon Chimbetu’s Samatenga and Mwana Wedangwe.

Out of all these beautiful tunes, Chitekete came up tops to grab the number one position, according to this radio station’s survey.

The prolific hitmaker, also known as Musorowenyoka, who died on April 9, 1996 at the age of 37, was indeed one of the greatest musicians to have graced the Zimbabwe music scene. Born Leonard Dembomavara in 1959 in a poor Chirumanzu family, he attended primary school in Buhera and later went to Chembira Secondary School in Harare after which he decided that his future was in music. However, he never thought that one day, he would make it big as he has now with Chitekete which sold over
100 000 copies in its first three weeks of release.

His other albums include Shiri Yakangwara, Kukura Hakutane, Nhamo Moto, Ruva Rashe and Kukura Kwedu. Hits from some of these albums were Venenzia, Dudzai, Sharai, Murombo, Nhamo and, of course, the now classic Chitekete.

I asked a dozen people (six male and six females) all aged 40 and above if they knew the song Chitekete by Dembo. They all did, but when I asked them to recite the words of the song, only three were able to complete the verse of one of the greatest songs ever written by a Zimbabwean.

Chitekete appeals to many and they seem to know the meaning behind the lyrics, but are unable to say them. It is a very unique song, especially for its time.

For starters, the song has no chorus. It just rambles on and on about Honayi Ruva Rechitekete, but the genius behind Dembo made it resonate with the public from that time up to now.

They also seem to know the meaning behind the song.

The song is about a boy who is admiring the girl of his dreams. The boy has fallen in love with a girl who is at a distant place both physically and metaphorically. He is saying: “How can I come and take you given the thorny road that leads to where you are?” The thorny road is metaphorical probably given that the girl is from a rich background whilst the boy is from a poor background from where he says: “Handina shangu” (which means no shoes or I have little in terms of possessions.) Despite these setbacks, the boy is determined to win the girl (to be his mother’s daughter-in-law as he puts it — “Uve muroora wa mai”) who he describes as Chitekete, a word of love and endearment.

Below are some of the lyrics which many Shona-speaking people that I spoke to appreciated, but failed to recite them.

Honai ruva reChitekete chaamai nababa pari zvino vatadza kurara nekufunga iwe, Chitekete
Honai ruva reChitekete chamai nababa pari zvino vatadza kurara nekufunga iwe, Chitekete
Honai ruva reChitekete watondipa musengwa handichakwanisa kufunga kana kurara
Honai ruva reChitekete watondipa musengwa handichakwanisa kufunga kana kurara
Pauri pane dandemutande pane tsotso rinobaya, zvandisina shangu ndokutoraseiko?
Pauri pane dandemutande pane tsotso rinobaya, zvandisina shangu ndokutoraseiko?
Ndashaya maitiro, ndashaya madhonzero, ndashaya chandingakupe kuti ndive newe
Ndashaya maitiro, ndashaya madhonzero, ndashaya chandingakupe kuti ndive newe
Honai ruva reChitekete chaamai nababa pari zvino vatadza kurara nekufunga iwe, Chitekete
Honai ruva reChitekete…
Majerasi anyanya, shuwa anyanya
At some point during the early 1990s, some people began to attribute Chitekete to Chimbetu as the creator of the song. At his live concerts at some Zanu PF functions, you would hear some women shouting: “Iwe Simon, imba Chitekete.” Chimbetu was tempted to sing it, but would only chant the first line: “Honai ruva reChitekete chaamai nababa pari zvino vatadza kurara nekufunga iwe” without the backing of his band and he would stop there, much to the disappointment of the crowd who sincerely thought it was his song.

I remember during my first days as a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), I was active in assisting the Students Representative Council (SRC) through its president Terry Mhungu, by providing entertainment as I was in touch with most of the popular musicians of the time. At some point, in 1992, with the popularity of his monster hit, Chitekete, I was tasked to invite Dembo for a function at the UZ Students’ Union Cafeteria. He came with his band, Barura Express, and they performed from 9pm until midnight. Halfway through the performance, Dembo decided to take a break to go to the toilet. About a dozen drunk students (who called themselves UBAs or Ma UBA) followed him to the toilet and started to harass him: “We have paid our money and you decide to leave the stage? Why did you stop? You can sing for us now in this toilet,” they demanded.

Dembo politely replied that he would soon go back on stage once he had finished relieving himself. Besides, he said, “I cannot sing here in the toilet without my band.”

The UBA’s would not take it. They started heckling him and at the same time screaming: “You can sing for us here in the toilet without your band. How dare you take a break when we have paid our money? Sing Chitekete here now. Sing! Sing! Sing! UBA Ahoy!”

This is when I walked into the toilet and discovered what was going on. One of the students recognised me and told the others to stop. Dembo was fortunate that I came to his rescue in time as some had started pulling his shirt by the collar while others were trying to pull down his trousers. I pulled Dembo to one side and told these UBAs (some university girls told me that the acronym UBA means Unable to Buy Anything, while the acronym USA means Unable to Sleep Alone) to behave themselves. This was my address to them: “This gentleman has committed no crime. Why are you harassing him? Like any human being, he also gets tired, and like you, he also has to answer to the call of nature. So let him be. After all, he has come to this university to entertain you.” They obliged.

Dembo was soon back on stage. It was around 11pm. For the rest of the evening, he simply sang an extended version of Chitekete. The students were ecstatic.
After the concert, Dembo thanked me for rescuing him. The next day all the hostels, especially the female hostels, from Swinton to Carr-Saunders, had ghetto blasters blurring with Chitekete.

These are the same men and women, now in their 40s, who still find pleasure in playing this song today and have turned it into a Zimbabwean classic.
Indeed Chitekete rules the roost.

l Feedback: frezindi@gmail.com

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