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AFRICAN ECHO ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

James Chimombe Musician Par Excellence
Godwin Muzari(Harare)

THE late James Chimombe was undoubtedly one of the best musicians to grace the Zimbabwean music scene yet it is difficult to classify his music as it cut across many genres.

While it is common in the local music industry that every artiste is identified with a certain type of music, Chimombe was to an extent an enigma. Through blending rhumba, mbaqanga, Western Blues, jiti and 
sungura, the great musician left an indelible mark on the mainstream music scene.

He had a massive fan base that many could never have imagined and it was often suggested that he did not belong to his generation as he proved to be far ahead of his contemporaries musically. It would be erroneous to contest such an assertion when evidence abounds that Chimombe's music has stood the test of time, attracting even youths who only got to know about him after his death.

Timeless classics like Jemedza, Kudakwashe, Zvaitika and Cecilia can match the very latest releases coming more than 10 years down the 
line. But it was Chimombe's ability to embrace and use many genres that put him above the rest. To many a musician and their fans, it is next to taboo to alternate between genres, as this is tantamount to 
lack of identity.

There are indeed examples of musicians whose attempts to reach for varying genres eclipsed their careers and it remains a mystery how Chimombe managed to oppose the tide and succeed.

 Chimombe was often dubbed a "jiti musician" but a closer look at his music shows that he went further than that fast-paced genre. The song Kudakwashe would keep you glued to your chair and certainly takes you down memory lane. One is left to wonder whether the beat is jazz or jiti. Such 
uniqueness showed Chimombe's prowess and it was befitting that some critics described him as a man whose "distinct and varied musical style made him one of Zimbabwe's creative musicians of all time." 

That there has not been a musician able to take over his type of music speaks volumes about the musician's creativity. He was inimitable in every sense of the word. It is, therefore, not surprising that Chimombe's fan base is still growing today and most of his fans that had the privilege of watching him perform live still moan his departure to the second world. Sadder still, there has not been an artiste of Chimombe's stature since his death on October 24 1990. He started out in the 1970s but only got the recognition he deserved in the mid-1980s after he released his debut album titled Mavanga.

However, in 1979, serious music followers had already acknowledged his music prowess when he won a gold disc for the Ocean City Band's hit single, Bindura. His backing group - the Huchi Band - became one of the most sought-after outfits in an industry that also boasted of  great names like Biggie Tembo, Leonard Dembo, Marshall Munhumumwe, Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo. His other spectacular hits include Munakandafa, Gwenga Ratsva, Mwana Mudiki, Makuva Enzara, Siya Waoneka and Chamupupuri. That was Chimombe, a musician par excellence.

 

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