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Simon Chimbetu dies

By Showbiz Reporter

ZIMBABWEAN music legend, Simon "Chopper" Chimbetu, has died.

He was 50.

Friends said he died in Harare on Sunday morning, hours after being taken ill with an undisclosed illness.

Chimbetu was enjoying chart success with his new album 10 Million Pound Reward which was released late last year.

The Chimbetu family was plunged into mourning, having buried Chimbetu's father only two weeks ago.

Top Zimbabwean DJ Ezra Tshisa Sibanda reacted with shock Sunday: "He was a living legend. One of the greatest artistic communicators of our time. He will be greatly missed."

In an interview with New Zimbabwe.com in November last year, Chimbetu described himself as a friend of every Zimbabwean.

“We all have different views about issues but we are Zimbabwean first and we should not forget that,” Chimbetu said.

Chimbetu career got entangled in politics following public comments in support of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party. He was also mired in controversy over his take-over of a farm in Kadoma from a white couple.

But the likeable sungura music king was on his bay back to the top and had started gracing the big time. On average, he was being hired for UK shows at least twice every six months.

In his last interview with New Zimbabwe.com, Chimbetu described himself as a "critic of foolish politics", insisting nothing was wrong with Zanu PF as an organisation but individuals within the organisation.

When asked how he felt when his career took a battering and he was reduced to playing at poor rural 'growth points', Chimbetu said: “Yes I play at Growth Points, but is there anything wrong with that? How do you grow as a musican if you don’t play at Growth Points? I find that the most normal thing to do and it gives me much satisfaction to be among the people who got me to where I am today.

“I have never been a man to exclusively play in comfy surroundings,” he said. “I went to war and saw how my friends suffered, died and were buried in shallow pits. Their suffering and my own has caused me to detest luxury.”

He also was against violence.

"I am against violence. If we fight, that's when the enemy will gain access to our minds and begin to control us....fighting among ourselves will make things worse," he told us.

Such was Chimbetu’s connection with the liberation war that he has named his farm and his backing band Dendera, after the Mozambican camp which the Chimbetu brothers called home during the revolutionary struggle against white settlers in the 1970s.

As a musician, Chimbetu, like many before him, found his footing in a band before heading out to pursue a solo career, first finding success in the Marxist Brothers.

The Marxist Brothers eventually dissolved in the mid-90s as the members left to pursue their own careers, while others joined Simon's backing band, Dendera Kings. This set the stage for Simon to assume the position of one of Zimbabwe's premier sungura artists.

Taking the torch from acts such as Jonah Moyo, Chimbetu hit stardom with albums such as Survival, and Lullaby. Compared to most Zimbabwe rhumba and sungura, Simon's songs feature guitar solos sandwiched between prominent vocal lines and repetitive guitar riffs. His music is similar to that of his earlier band, the Marxist Brothers, as well as popular rhumba musician Leonard Zhakata. His songs tend to focus on the working class and the poor; unsurprisingly, therefore, Chimbetu has come out in support of the recent land grab.

In our interview, Chimbetu spoke to his fans directly. He told our editor, Mduduzi Mathuthu: "When no-one likes Chimbetu anymore, tell them to remember the good things that I did.”

We mourn.
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