Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Double Dose of Dembo

Some years ago Sterns/Earthworks released a CD entitled Roots Rock Guitar Party. I remember thinking at the time: how can you assemble a collection of Zimbabwe's greatest guitarists and not include Leonard Dembo?

I would presume that the only reason Dembo was omitted from this otherwise excellent compilation was a matter of licencing. In the early '90s, he had risen to the pinnacle of the Zimbabwean music scene, only to die prematurely of AIDS in April 1996.

Dembo was born as Kwangwari Gwaindepi in 1959 and gained notice in 1982 as a member of a band called The Outsiders. Disagreements with his band-mates followed, and in 1985 he established Barura Express, which quickly notched a series of hits, notably the 1991 smash "Chitekete," about a young man who wishes to marry a beautiful lady. It is one of the biggest-selling Zimbabwean records of all time and is played at weddings to this day.

The Barura Express cassette The Singles Collection Vol. 2 (Gramma ZC 108) is a singular example of modern African guitar music, notably the opening tune "Zii-Zii," a song about a lover who is far away, whose repetitive motifs evoke a feeling of restrained euphoria:

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Zii-Zii

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dudzai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kodzero

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Hakutane

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Gire

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Sheri Unodada

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Ndipeiwo Pokupotera

The Very Best of Leonard Dembo (Gramma ZC 113), covers some of the same ground, and includes "Chitekete":

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Shamwari Yangu Warova

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Venenziya

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dudzai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Wada Ne N'anga

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Chitekete

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Manager

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Sharai

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Vane Mazita Ngavaremwkedzwe

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Kwedu

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Zii-Zii

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Dambudzo

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Murombo

Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Kukura Hakutane

Read about the Zimbabwean artwork in this post here.

Update: I have been made aware that several of the tracks in this post are available for download through Itunes. Hence the links to them have been removed.


Myke said...

Mediafire links don't work; they've copyright-blocked you.

John B. said...

Oops! You can still download the individual tracks by right-clicking. I will make the zip files available through another means.

John B. said...

New links for the zip files:

matt said...

Thanks John, Zimbabwean sounds always bring a smile to my face and then vibrate through my body to my feet which start to move involuntarily.

LolaRadio said...

Thank you so much!

African Music Recycler said...

Thank you very much for these fines cassettes.

Greetings from Vienna/Austria


Buddy Nuggets said...

the guitar playing on this is amazing! thanks for sharing

Apurva Bahadur said...

Many thanks for sharing. Brings a lot of joy. Apurva from Pune, India.

Rob said...

Awesome stuff...are these duped off vinyl originally, occasional vinyl clicks, as on Leonard Dembo & Barura Express - Zii-Zii @ 3.29, still great, just curious.

Hunter Funk said...

Wow, how have I lived so long without this music? I've been getting super heavily into juju/chimurenga lately through I.K. Dairo, Thomas Mapfumo, and King Sunny Ade. But this... this is on another level. Thanks so much for putting these up.

BarryB said...

Great stuff. I've heard a few cuts before, but not these collections--thanks for making them available! And incredibly agile as Dembo is at fast speeds, I have to tell you I personally prefer his moderate tempo numbers like Kukura Hakutane. His tone is incredible. It just floats.

David said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful music, sir. I love sungura and this site is amazing. You are doing a very very important work, my friend!


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