By Garikai Mazara
For 37 years, Paddy Kamusakara has largely remained a secret and not even the Chimbetu family has publicly acknowledged him as theirs. And to make matters worse, Simon Chimbetu, the supposed father, went to his grave with most of his secrets. Listening to Paddy narrate his ordeal, one cannot help but hold back tears and, he says, as we conclude the discussion, that what he is seeking is not a cent or part of the estate left behind by Simon but mere acceptance by the Chimbetu family.
And his quest for belonging is being compounded by the fact that he has five albums, three of which were released when Simon was still alive. “I have remained this quiet all along because people will misconstrue my coming out, my wanting to find my true Chimbetu roots, as a bid to boost my music career. But truth is, I am just seeking my roots and this has nothing to do with my music career, if only I can be recognised as a Chimbetu so that I know where I belong and my kids know their roots.”
Interestingly, for someone with five albums to his name, the media never saw the link, him given his resemblance to Simon, particularly the facial and mannerisms, but rather opted to compare the two.
“I remember when Simon was still alive and one newspaper ran a headline that said “Chopper finally meets his match” after I had released my second album and my father phoned me to ask if I was up to the comparison. He jokingly asked it, but since he was someone who understood how the media works, he didn’t give it much heed.”
Paddy says he does not know much of his background because the person who holds most of that information is his mother, who is in Murehwa and in another marriage.
“I have tried several times to ask my mother the circumstances surrounding my birth and fatherhood and she has not been forthcoming. At times I take that to mean that she is trying to save her marriage, to protect her marriage, but to me she is being unfair as I feel I need to know my parentage. And as well, as a child, you cannot pester your mother as to her past, it will be like you want to know her sexual history, which won’t be the case but mere seeking of identity.”
Paddy grew up in Murehwa and Harare, Murehwa being where his mother comes from (and she re-married soon after giving birth to Paddy, leaving the young baby with her parents). It was during the days that he would be in Harare, with his maternal relatives that he would have dreams, dreams which led him to seek his father.
“I would get queer dreams, at times I would be singing in the dreams, in a language that I didn’t understand or know (and these dreams continue up to this day). At times I would engage in conversation with the person. This led me to find who this person was. To explain it, it might not make sense, but I think there is a strong spiritual link with the Chimbetu family. Even today, when something happens in the family I get an intuition, my sixth sense tells me something has happened in the Chimbetus and either I make phone calls or I visit the Mabelreign home.”
It was at the Mabelreign home a fortnight ago, during the funeral wake for Angela Chimbetu, that The Sunday Mail Leisure spotted Paddy. When asked why and how he resembled Simon Chimbetu like that, Paddy was understandably evasive, arguing that the funeral environment did not augur well for a discussion of that nature. Further probing, at Warren Hills Cemetery where Angela was laid to rest, produced a phone number.
Those who have had the fortune of interacting with Simon Chimbetu, once they see (and talk to) Paddy, need no further convincing. The similarities are just too numerous to mention, from the smile, the facial appearance, the laugh, the talking mannerisms, especially Simon’s overly respectful gestures.
Paddy also gives a narration, in which a woman hugged him in town, and at first she thought he was Allan.
“When she realised I was not Allan, she was quick to apologise and then said, ‘Ah, it’s you Simon. How you look like Allan’. I told her I was not even Simon and she was even more puzzled. She went on to look for what she called the scar on the left eye and when she found it, she asked why I have it, just like Allan and Simon have it.”
Paddy says it was around 1996/97 that he got the courage to confront Simon at Spaceman in Glen Norah where he held rehearsals and told him of the dreams that he was having. “I could not go to the auction floors because he was every busy and I reasoned I could get him at the rehearsals. When I told him of my situation and my dreams, he just advised me to keep those dreams, and not to forget them, as well as not tell anyone about them or our meetings.”
So it was mostly at the rehearsals that father and son would meet, until Paddy got the urge to sing. “When I approached him, he said since I did not have the experience needed in a band of his size, I could get the necessary exposure in the small bands. He even suggested that I join Dr Nero’s G7 Commandos. But I did not get much joy with the G7s because they did not rehearse as often as did Orchestra Dendera Kings.”
When Simon moved his rehearsals from Spaceman to Seven Miles, Paddy would follow him and, noticing the young man’s increasing interest in his music, he asked him to come for auditions at the National Sports Stadium, where Chopper had since moved his rehearsals. “When I went for auditions at the National Sports Stadium, there were a number of us, to include Chamu Boroma and Shacky Phiri and Allan was conducting the auditions. Because Shacky was already experienced, having gained that exposure from the G7 Commandos, he got the nod ahead of all of us.
The auditions were to fill in the void that had been left by Gladwell, who had gone to the United Kingdom.”
Although Paddy says the whole Chimbetu family knows about him, even relatives from Simon’s sister, he was never formally introduced to them as his son.
“See it’s not easy to ask your father to introduce you to his family, it is not like that. In fact, I am not like that. You will seem like you are being too fast, but now that he is late, at times you wonder if you did the right thing not to ask him to.”
Suluman Chimbetu acknowledged noticing Paddy at most Chimbetu family events, though he quickly said he has not bothered to ask in what capacity he would be attending, nor does he know of any relationship between Paddy and the Chimbetus.
He said the best person to confirm if any relationship existed would be Allan. However, Allan’s number was not available by the time of going to print.