It’s a tough life when your name precedes your talent, and it’s a challenge one man can give you chilling details on. Having lived a sheltered life, harbouring dreams of performing, recording and writing songs all his life, Sam Dondo’s dreams are finally coming true. Like everything else in life, these dreams have not come without a cost. Whatever assumptions we have all made about him, why he sings and why his name is on everyone’s lips, watching him on stage finally brings everything full circle. It is the moment each one of us waits for while we watch eagerly as he takes to the stage like a fish in water; like a wand tapped to transform the moment, everything changes.
Sam Dondo was born 34 years ago in Harare and was raised in Kadoma. He grew up with a keen ear for music and he fell in love with all the genres his parents exposed him to. His first performing stage, like many musicians, was in the church, but his parents believed it was just a phase that would soon pass. In 2007, he moved to Botswana where the grass looked greener; it was there that a career in music became a possibility. He dedicated himself to learning to play the guitar and saxophone and he even got into the studio to record some tracks. It was in Botswana that the track Dyara Munamato was composed, which happens to be the title track for his debut album.
When I first listened to Dyara Munamato, I was sceptical. As an artist myself, I can’t help the rogue artist in me from escaping sometimes. We guard the music industry jealously from pretenders and from the rumours I had heard, there was a huge stench of pretence there. There was none! I loved all the tracks. Yes, there is no doubt about an Oliver Mtukudzi influence there, but I heard other great legends, too…James Chimombe, John Chibadura… Reggae influences, too, cry out in the sweet compositions and that’s not a bad thing at all.
In 2015, Sam Dondo returned home, quite like Dolly Parton with a suitcase full of dreams, and he was determined to make every one of them come true. In April 2016, he released his first album Dyara Minamato, a nine-track project inspired by what he’d been through in his life and what he’d seen his friends go through in their own lives. Of the nine tracks, two were collaborations with Jah Prayzah and Sulumani Chimbetu…I was pleasantly surprised.
In April 2017, he released his second album, a 13-track project called, Game Changer. When I asked him what he thought of his critics, he gave a sheepish smile, shrugged his shoulders and said, “…they have their opinion and they don’t know me…I get that…but that is not to say it’s not hurtful…but that’s what this business is about.” I guess only time will tell and so far, the tale certainly keeps me looking forward to the next project, which is due for release this year. Sam says it will have some surprises and I could do with a good musical orgasm.
Sam Dondo has been quite busy in the studio working on new songs and when he isn’t recording, he’s usually rehearsing. Last November, he toured Australia with Jah Prayzah and recently he was in the UK sharing the stage with Andy Muridzo, Winky D and Oliver Mtukudzi. Of course, we will all continue to talk, debate, and judge whether he is talented or if it’s just the money “talking.” Whilst we do that, Sam Dondo is going about his business, cementing his name in the hearts of many across the country. From where I stand, Sam Dondo is talented!
Patience Musa has written a previous Harare Magazine article reviewing Winky D’s latest album, Gombwe.