A prayer for Sulu

Many of us believe every African family has its “spirits”; that ancestor, that great grandfather or obscure late aunt who is responsible for the good or bad things that we experience.

When things are not so rosy, the elders of the clan consult vari kumhepo (the spirits) on where the misfortune is coming from and how they can send it away.

Of course, these beliefs do not sit well with over a century of missionary-inspired ridicule. And so in the place of this, families now consult a new breed of “prophets” who essentially do what the sangoma did decades ago, albeit this time under the cloak of Christianity.

We love our prophets. We listen to them more than we take the counsel of our own parents. Indeed, they have become little gods who are bigger than God.

I grew up in a Christian family, one that has not had its head turned by the trinkets offered by our new prophets.

We kneel and pray to God, asking his Son to intercede on our behalf. We do this because — and not to target Emmanuel Makandiwa but rather that it is the statement in common currency — “Makandiwa haasi Mwari”. The prophet is not God.

Sometimes when we pray to God, we pray for someone else. We call it an intercessory prayer.

I have an intercessory prayer for my brother, the musician Suluman “Sulu” Chimbetu.

Sulu sounds uncannily like his late father, Simon “Chopper” Chimbetu. There is a reason why he has scooped several National Arts Merit Awards and other gongs. The man has a song to sing, a song that we can all enjoy.

Sulu is Chopper’s most successful offspring when it comes to following in the footsteps of the late great. He stages shows across Zimbabwe every week and those who follow him know that his live acts rank up there with those of the likes of Marshal Munhumumwe, Safirio Madzikatire and Tongai Moyo (may their souls rest in peace), and living legends like Alick Macheso, Oliver Mtukudzi and Zexie Manatsa.

But there is need to intercede on Sulu’s behalf.

He will in May release another album and after the reception of his last offering, “Jamboree”, the “Sean Timba” hit-maker needs our prayers. Not because “Jamboree” was bad. Au contraire. That is the album that had wonderful compositions like “Error”, “It’s Not Necessary”, “Tiringwe”, “Alice Mbewe” and “Mhasuru”.

Yet somehow at the time of release, “Jamboree” was largely ignored, perhaps swallowed by the noise of lyrically thin pop tunes that came out around the same time.

Oliver Mtukudzi, Victor Kunonga, Baba naMai Charamba, Kireni Zulu, Alexio Kawara, Gift Amuli and Progress Chipfumo know what this feels like: to produce good music and stand back in wonder as people fail to appreciate it for what it is.

As we await Sulu’s seventh studio album, which he plans to unveil in the United Kingdom during a May 4 and 5 tour, we should pray that Sulu’s music reaches the ears and hearts of fans this time.

Sulu himself is a prayerful someone.

In the song “Moses” on the “Jamboree” album, Sulu calls for salvation from a terrible curse that has hit the family (Zimbabwe).

Some said Sulu had gone political in “Moses”, pointing out that this was direct criticism of Robert Mugabe’s rule. His great father Chopper, despite being Zanu-PF to the core, also sang several songs critical of Mugabe’s Government, though it often takes a discerning ear to pick it.

The Chimbetus’ prayers, it would seem, were answered in November 2017 when Mugabe’s rule ended and President Emmerson Mnangagwa ascended to the helm.

We too must pray for Sulu and have faith those prayers will be answered.

Sulu also prayed in the song “Mugomo”, pleading for Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo to return home after years in exile.

“Ko nhaimi Mukanya makamira mugomo, makamirirei?” To which Sulu sings Mukanya’s response; “Kumirira zhizha ndirimuno mugomo, ndirikuuya.”

The zhizha (harvest) is on the horizon because Mukanya arrived home last Wednesday evening after 14 years away.

Sulu’s prayer was heard. Now we want the prayer for Sulu to be heard. For his hardwork, Sulu deserve a turnaround. May his new album bring forth a good harvest. May this seventh album bring happiness to millions.

I watched Sulu perform at an Independence concert in Kadoma last Tuesday. He has his mojo. He remains supremely talented. And the demon that is holding back his career needs to be exorcised.

Amen.

 

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