in the groove:with Fred Zindi
Death is an inevitable, universal process that eventually occurs in all living organisms. Because death is a permanent, irreversible a cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism, there is nothing that humankind can ever do to prevent it. When death occurs, especially to a close friend, it hurts.
This is what happened to me when a close friend, the charismatic Delroy Calvin Wilson, better known as Dennis Wilson, former Radio 3 (Power FM) reggae presenter and icon, died on Wednesday January 6, 2021 from Covid-19. This was also the same day that the deadly Capitol insurrection in Washington, United States, which was incited by impeached one-term president, Donald Trump, occurred.
Ah! Come on! This is too much! Didn’t we just lose Peter Johns the other day?
I first met Dennis in 1982 when he had come to Zimbabwe with his then wife, Emma De Galle (from Grenada, West Indies). He was introduced to me by DJ Biscuit, aka The Mighty Emperor, whom we all know today as Dr Obadiah Moyo, the former Health and Child Care minister and former CEO at Chitungwiza Central Hospital. They were related in the sense that DJ Biscuit was married to Emma’s younger sister. According to the information I was given at the time, Dennis had simply come on holiday to visit his brother-in-law in Zimbabwe after independence. His visit coincided with that of my United Kingdom friend, King Sounds, who was also in the country. The three of us went to have lunch together in Belgravia. It was during lunch that Dennis spoke about his “lousy” UK job as a telephone technician in London where he would double up as a cab-driver to make ends meet. He said he thought that Zimbabwe would be a lovely country to settle in once he sorted out his British passport. DJ Biscuit and I agreed that it was a good idea. The following year he and Emma came to settle in Zimbabwe.
They bought a house in Marlborough and settled there until Emma returned to Britain a few years later.
Dennis was full of love and had this infectious laughter each time we shared a joke.
We would reminisce about our time in the UK (although I didn’t know him during my stay in the UK). One thing that brought us together is the fact that he loved reggae music just like I did. We shared music by Jamaican artistes such as Dennis Brown, Aswad, Maxi Priest, Steel Pulse, Beres Hammond, Cocoa Tea, Freddie MacGregor, The Heptones, Errol Dunkley, Big Youth, Toots and the Maytals, Bunny Wailer and, of course, the king himself, Bob Marley.
When he came to Zimbabwe, he started working as a telephone engineer at the then Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (PTC). After work, he would join DJ Biscuit at Brett’s Night Club where Biscuit had teamed up with the late Josh Makawa. There, Dennis would give an hour of reggae music.
In 1988, I took over the reggae sessions on Thursday and Saturday nights on the then Radio 3 from Mike Mhundwa who had left the station for greener pastures.
Only after six months, due to other pressures, I could not cope with radio sessions and also left. It was then that Dennis saw the opportunity to join ZBC and to establish himself as both a radio and club DJ. He would double up the reggae sessions on radio with outside gigs through collaborations or sound clashes with other DJs. For instance, I visited the Kebab Leisure Centre one evening where Dennis was at the turntables entertaining around 200 patrons, and everyone was on the dance floor skanking to the reggae vibes. On another occasion, he was dee-jaying at a well-attended sound- clash with Stereo One Sound at The Himalayas Restaurant in Chinhoyi Street where another Jamaican, Jah B, was also at the turntables. The show was themed: Two Jamaicans Clash. On yet another occasion, I attended a gig at the invitation of music promoter Josh Hozheri at Pamuzinda Leisure Centre where Dennis was in collaboration with DJs Robbie T and Huggies. He had what it takes to get crowds moving and send them wild.
As far as I was concerned, Dennis was a DJ, but little did I know that Dennis could also sing. In February 2016, when I was managing the group Transit Crew, Dennis came to our gig at Pariah State in Avondale. The band started to play the tune Push Come To Shove by Freddie MacGregor, which used to be his signature tune during his days on radio, and before we knew it, Dennis jumped on the stage, unannounced, and started to sing it, much to the dismay of J Fari and Mannex Motsi who were the band’s established vocalists. The crowd who were equally astonished at this change of voices, however, appreciated him. I thought that he would get off the stage after this one tune, but alas, No! He was elated when the crowd went wild. He went on to start another tune, Gregory Isaac’s Night Nurse, which the band could easily back him up on because like the first song this one’s rhythm also had only a two-chord progression. Then he tried his luck on a third tune, Money in My Pocket But I Cant Get No Love by Dennis Brown. This was a more complicated tune because it had more than two chords. The band, especially the late Munya Nyemba, the bass player, was completely lost. I realised that things were getting out of control and I went on the stage and politely asked him to come off. He obliged. However, every Friday he would come to the Pariah State and would ask me if he could go on stage. I let him go on for as long as he sang those two songs only.
When J. Fari, Mannex Motsi and I left Transit Crew, Dennis, after looking around for a band to join, decided to team up with the new Transit Crew outfit which now comprised of Pablo Nakappa, Adam Muchenje, Isaac Chirwa, Cello Culture and Anthony Liba. The versatile entertainer became part of the crew which played at Legends Bar and Grill every Friday in Newlands until his death last week.
Dennis Wilson was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1955. He moved to London with his parents at a young age. It was in London that he took to music and was involved in a small sound system until his love for music grew from strength to strength.
When asked how his love for music and show business began, this is what Wilson had to say: “Back in London, there was a dance hall next to our house. My young parents would put us to bed before they went to this dance hall. I would sneak out and climb onto a nearby tree and watch from there. I would see people, including my parents, enjoying themselves on the dance floor.
This fascinated me a lot and soon my parents knew what I was up to, so whenever they came back from the dance hall they would pass by the tree, I would come down and go to sleep. It was through these experiences that I realised show business was in my DNA,” he said.
Dennis will be solely missed by his legion of fans the world over. In Dennis Wilson, a good heart has stopped beating and a good soul has ascended to heaven, but his music legacy continues.
He was buried at Warren Hills Cemetery on Friday January 8, 2021.
Due to Covid-19 guidelines, only 30 mourners were allowed at the funeral where Moyo officiated. However since January 6, there has been an outpouring of heartfelt condolences and tributes from within Zimbabwe and from as far afield as South Africa, the UK, Jamaica and the US. That goes to show how internationally connected Wilson was. Those who have paid their condolences, to name just a few, include Eddie Kebab. King Sounds Ras Jabulani, aka Trevor Hall, Tich Mataz, Innocent Manase, Felix Nganjo, Kenneth Madangure, Emma De Galle, Auntie Daphne, Marlon, Nyasha, Caution Katundu, Aldrin Makotore, Arthur Tendai Janjawa, Jonathan Mbiriyamveka, Christopher Mandizvidza, Taonga Mafundikwa, Stephen Gwaza, Mannex Motsi, Terrence Mapurisana, Janet Manuhwa, Sweet Chilli, Appolonia Makwara, Moureen, Chibanda, Dhakisi, Mavis Mugairi, Monica Grant, Elisabeth, Garry Dzingi Moyo, Stephen Gwaza, Shazzy Bear, Vivienne Fortela, Yvonne, Darren, Pauline, Marion, Joy Chipudhla, Doug Anthony, Hepsy Kirlew, Allison Randall, the Brown family, Master Pablo Nakappa and Transit Crew members and Gift Dyakonda..
A big thank you is due to Moyo, Kennedy Madangure and all those involved in making the funeral arrangements.
WhatsApp groups, radio listeners and YouTube watchers were treated to Wilson’s funeral proceedings.
May his dear soul rest in power!