Leonard Tazvivinga Dembo, also Musoro We Nyoka (born Kwangwari Gwaindepi; 6 February 1959 in Chivi, Masvingo province of Zimbabwe – 9 April 1996), was a Zimbabwean guitar-band musician who became extremely popular in Zimbabwe in the 1990s with his band the Barura Express. Incorporating traditional Shona sayings in his lyrics, his musical style was rhumba-based, played on electric guitars tuned to emulate the characteristic sounds of the mbira.The Engraving on Dembo's Tombstone
Early life and education
The ancestral origins of Dembo's Karanga tribe, the largest tribe in Zimbabwe, is Masvingo. His early childhood is not fully documented. From his relatives, one believes that Dembo grew up without a father, an experience he later on reflected in his song writing, particularly in such songs as "Nhamo Moto" and "Nhamo Iya Ndakura Nayo." He attended primary school initially in Buhera, and later in Bulawayo, and also at Chembira School, Harare. After completing primary school he returned to Bulawayo to look for work.
Dembo was interested in songs of love and wrote poetic lyrics crafted with deep-rooted meanings. Due to the skills he had as lead guitarist, he was known as the King of Sungura music. The great mastery which he used to construct his music, and the level of album production he worked with, inspired the nickname "Musoro We Nyoka", which literally translates to "Head of a snake". It refers to the slyness, wily attitude and intelligence of a snake, which the musician demonstrated. Today he is arguably still unmatched by any artist to come out of Zimbabwe.
At various times, Dembo also addressed social ills of his times in his music, especially the suffering of the orphans and young children. Although Dembo lived through the tumultuous years of Zimbabwean liberation struggle, he never seemed to be very much interested in the political affairs of his day. However, he sang a few tunes such as "Kana Ndorangarira" found on his 1987 album, Kuziva Mbuya Huudzwa which was an immediately hit across the country. He alluded to the struggle in such songs as "Matsotsi" (when he said that now that people were free, those who used to thrive in pickpocketing were to be punished).
His 1992 hit "Chitekete" sold over 100,000 copies and became a popular song played at weddings. By 2008, despite other great hits on the market, no song had surpassed the popularity of "Chitekete" released seventeen years ago.
The song is about a beautiful girl who is so protected by her family that she becomes untouchable by the boys who would date or marry her.See the chitekete flower, belonging to mother and fatherYou’ve given me a burden to carry I can no longer think or sleepWhere you are, there are thick piercing brambles …I lack the means, I lack the leverageI lack something to give you, to make you mine …How shall I find the strength to marry her?
Leonard Dembo's songs still continue to sell widely and budding musicians find inspiration from his hits.