Remembering Leonard Dembo : @ 25 years in Death but entertaining the living
…. as Dembo family invites the nation for a tombstone unveiling on 23 October 2021
By Dr Tinashe Gumbo
The 9th of April 2021 marked 25 years after the demise of one of Zimbabwe’s finest and most influential music artists, Leonard Tazvivinga a.k.a Leonard Musorowenyoka Dembomavara who was called to be with our Lord on the same day in 1996. Leonard Dembo has remained a household name in Zimbabwe and beyond because of his music. His music continues to entertain, comfort, encourage and influence the people of all ages on economic, social and cultural issues.
For me, Dembo is in the rare class of the likes of Karl Marx, Karl Polanyi, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Steve Biko, James Kone and other philosophers whose philosophies and ideologies have continued to influence our economic, political, and social lives. You will underrate Dembo’s message at your own peril! Dembo music speaks to the heart, spirit, mind and flesh!
He was 37 years old when he died in 1996. To his multitude of fans, Dembo remains a source of inspiration for them. In my previous pieces on Leonard Dembo, I have already argued that music is a fundamental channel of communication: it provides a means by which people can share emotions, intentions, and meanings. Thus, Leonard’s music has continued to communicate key messages to people of all ages beyond his fans. His message was deep but full of advice to the audience. I continue to be in deep conversation with Dembo through his music. At times my wife Angela does not understand me when I enter my room, play a single Dembo song for the whole day, trying to make sense of what he is communicating. I have deep passion for Dembo music and I will not rest until I fully understand his history and philosophy. Let me not divert you reader from the focus of this piece, which is about remembering our hero, on 23 October 2021.
The Dembo family has planned to formally remember one of its greatest members. Indeed, Leonard put the family name on the international forum. This noble idea has received maximum support from the entire Barura Express family. Leonard’s children and the entire Dembo family have done so well as this event will consolidate all the Dembo networks. We should all emerge from Chaka more coordinated and motivated to do more to cultivate the Dembo legacy.
I have been following with keen interest the preparations for the tombstone unveiling for our music hero and have been motivated further to remain focused on Dembo legacy. The death of Mbuya Dembo and Leonard’s mother in law (Eunice’s Mother) within a month was a major setback to the preparations for this great event. Surely, it would have been good to have these two ladies present during this upcoming moment of remembrance of our hero-their son and son in law respectively (May their souls rest in peace).
Here we are Reader-on 23 October 2021, the Dembo fans will join the late musician’s family in remembering Leonard’s life formally. The event will be held at his rural home at Chaka Centre in Chirumanzu in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. This is a great moment for the Barura and Dembo families.
While Leonard belonged to the Dembo family as a husband to Eunice and a father to Morgen, Tendai and Fenny, he became a national and international figure in the music industry. One cannot attempt to monopolise Leonard and succeed. His influence lives on in the unending consequences that flow from his life and character. The Barura Express family members now feel strongly attached to this figure and this explains their continued call to authorities to consider awarding him some official hero status. Of course, that will just be an official move, as the Dembo fans themselves have already awarded him such because of his heroic life in the music industry.
The Chaka event will be punctuated with the official unveiling of Leonard’s tombstone, songs and dance as well as reflection sessions on the life, philosophy and message of the man who has been described by his fans as their hero. Indeed, for me personally, Dembo is my hero hence, I will do all in my capacity to support his philosophy and ideology which he expressed through his music.
When Leonard passed on, we surely felt that his death was premature. He left us when we thought he was at his best. As the Barura Express family, we were shocked and we felt exposed then. We struggled to accept this reality that he had gone but there was nothing we could do. Thus, 25 years later, we gather at Chaka, not to mourn, but to celebrate our Hero’s well lived life. This calls for everyone who has an attachment with Dembo, to join us as we commemorate 25 years of the passing on of our Music Icon.
Supporting this event comes in various ways. Physical attendance will be a strong message that one is part and parcel of the Barura Express family. However, I know that we cannot all be there in person due to other commitments of life beyond our control. Thus, a single cent will make a difference-I will share the official contacts of the Event Organisers (Nicolas and January) who will advise on how we can channel our support towards the event. Kindly note that ONLY these two are the official organisers of our event.
The Dembo fans will be reminded of the Barura Express hits during the event. The list here only applies to the Barura Express projects where earlier songs with the Outsiders are not accounted for here: “Amai Nevana Vavo “ (1984) (this can only be confirmed once the birth day of the group Barura Express itself is ascertained),“Nhamo Moto” (1986), “Kuziva Mbuya Huudzwa” (1987), “Sharai” (1987), “Kukura Kwedu” (1988), “Ruva Rashe” (1989), “Kukura Hakutani” (1990, which was a 12-inch disc-we called it an LP for long play), “Chitekete” (1991), “Tinokumbira Kurarama/Madhiri” (1992), “Mazano” (1993), “Kutinya Marimba” (1993), “Nzungu Ndamenya” (1994),“Pawpaw” (1994), “Shiri Yakangwara” (1995) and “Babamunini” (1996).
For more information about the Tombstone Unveiling event kindly contact our Organisers on Nicolas : +263 773424685 or January : +263 732492942
For any feedback about this article ( NOT about the unveiling of the tommstone) and any other information about Dembo, contact me on Email: [email protected] or WhatsApp or Call: +263773 218 860 or follow me on @DrTinasheGumbo1