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Remembering Leonard Dembo

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Remembering Leonard Dembo

Story by Patience Nyagato

Today marks 28 years after the death of Zimbabwe’s music icon, Leonard Dembo, whose legacy still lives on through his timeless music.

Born Kwangwari Gwaendepi in 1959, the man known as Leonard Dembo in the music circles, launched his career in the early 1980s and became a darling in the entertainment industry after churning out hit after hit for over a decade.

Although his music career was cut short after his death in 1996 at the age of 37, his vocal mastery and lyrical prowess have outlived him.

“I started listening to Leonard Dembo in 1986 i remember his first show I attended, we were not allowed to get in because I was under 18 so i went on top of the wall just to see him. From that time to now he is my biggest musician. I have phases in life when I am happy and there are his songs that I play when I am sad as well,” said a fan.

Yet another fan said, “I was just three-years-old when my dad started going with me to his shows and I am happy today we are now a movement that follows Dembo. We call ourselves greatest fans of all time.”

“I loved Dembo’s music so much that when I grew up I decided to connect with his family. He might have left, but i actually became part of his family. If you check those who know on social media, people tag me on anything that concerns Dembo. All the people around me know and even my ring tones are his songs,” another fan noted.

Having worked with Dembo during his prime, Guitarist Innocent Mujintu who was part of the Barura Express back in the 1980s, knows it all when it comes to the Sungura maestro and his timeless compositions.

“Dembo was very kind to me. I remember we started working in the 80s and recorded a number of albums together. We went on tours to a number of countries. One thing we did as a culture was to treat all our songs as our babies. We would take time and give 100 percent on every single piece. I think that made us stand out because we took enough time.”

Dembo went on to receive recognition beyond the country’s borders and one of his greatest hits, ‘Chitekete’ was played at the 1996 Miss World beauty pageant held in Namibia.

Music and arts expert Plot Mhako says Dembo’s originality and authenticity set him apart from the rest, “Dembo did not try to imitate somebody else and sound like what most artists do. He is someone who remained very much related to his own identity and this is something that I think is a secret for artists who want to make music that will stand the taste of time.”

Dembo horned his skills with the “Outsiders Band”, which released hit songs such as “Dambudzo” in 1982.

He then joined another group known as “Five Notes” before he formed the Barura Express in 1984 upon which he released an 8-track album titled “Mai Nevana Vavo”.

Dembo went on to release the album “Nhamo Moto” in 1986 and many other hits including Venenzia, Gire, Zii Zii, Ruva Rashe and Shiri Yakangwara which are still popular to this day.

It might be 28 years after Dembo’s death but experts believe his legacy lives on and his music remains of substance, quality and relatable.