By Dumisani Gumpo
THE director and founder of Zimbabwe’s Sunduza Dance Group, Simon ‘Mahlaba’ Banda has died. He was 47.
Confirmed reports say Banda passed on in the early hours of Monday morning after a short illness. Family and friends say he will be laid to rest either on Wednesday
Banda is credited for changing the way Imbube or Isicathamiya was known.
The late Simon Banda
He customised the genre of imbube and sent people on their feet whenever he was on stage. While imbube is originally South Africa, however Banda took it and localised it, to allow it tell a Zimbabwean story. Indeed, he succeded in this. Today there are many Bulawayo groups who are following him.
By yesterday afternoon, social networking sites were flooded with condolence messages of the great man.
The likes of Jeys Marabini will always esteem Banda for helping him launch a successful music career.
Jeys toured the world with Banda’s Sunduza Dance Group, an experienced that moulded him into a fully fledged musician to start his own group. Jeys sent a post on Facebook
“Rest in PEACE Simon Banda Dr MAHLABA, my brother, mentor, I will always love you”.
Jeys’ message pens the influence Banda had in his career as a musician.
Lucky Moyo, who worked with Banda albeit in different groups to rebrand Imbube in the world market also spoke of his shock on the sudden death of the great lead vocalist, dancer and choreographer.
“Banda is one of the young musicians who took imbube music and the performing arts to a different level. With his fast paced dance moves and very rhythmic compositions Banda and Sunduza Boys hit the Bulawayo arts scene to encourage young people relate to their own traditions and culture. He was an artist extra- ordinary dancer, drummer, singer, song writer, leader and team builder.”
“I knew him on a personal level, he was connected and often liased with singers like Albert Nyathi, Jeys Marabini, Philani Khumalo , Pedzisai Sithole, Umfolosi brothers, Cont Mhalnga and indeed he assisted in Oliver Mtukudzi’s song that "Zwamunoona wusawira , uno kunda ukama".
Kenny Mangena who plies his trade with Uzambezi and the gospel group Royal Destiny also expressed his shock:
“Banda was a multi-talented individual who also was charmy and always happy”.
Saimon Mambazo Phiri of Siyaya fame also wrote on Facebook:
“Simon Rainbow Banda…was strong; so talented; so solid; so full of life; cant get used to using the past tense. We have been robbed of an extra ordinary human being. Thanks for the memories bro…RIP”.
Aspiring politician and former radio two presenter Ezra Tshisa Sibanda said:
“The passing of our friend and beloved Sam Banda, the founding artistic director of Acapella group Sunduza Boys is a crushing blow to Ndebele Traditional Music. It changes many things, it will be difficult to bring back the fading genre without Sam, he has been one of the few working hard to push our music to be recognised not only in Zimbabwe but worldwide. His death changes lives, alters the future and perhaps it will even transform how we understand the past and that will be sad”.
Lucky Moyo is organising a church service in memory of Banda and anyone wishing to join them should call him on 07859778755 or come to: Amara Hall, East Hill Rd, Dartford, DA1 1RX, Kent. There will be various speakers all celebrating the life of this great artist.
Banda grew up in Lupane and spent his time developing young artists and working with other established ones. All musicians, dancers and poets will feel Banda’s absence. He is a true legend. Rest In Peace MfokaMadala. Lala ngoxolo.