Back in the 1940s and 50s, George Sibanda was one of the first true music stars of Africa, a troubadour who left his mark on African jazz and songs in the hearts of jazz-lovers across the world.
Sibanda was born in Southern Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe to modern folks). Hugh Tracey, a white South Rhodesian who traversed Africa recording as many artists as he could find, first recorded Sibanda singing with the accompaniment of his solo guitar. Simbanda began his career singing in the bars of Bulawayo and wider Johannesburg but later his music was famous right across the continent. His songs were uptempo working men’s music, tell tales migrant labourers, loneliness, lovers, of unrequited love. His stories were legendary, singing about the current political climate, or issues that affected his people – gangsters, segregation and money issues – songs sung to make a person feel connected to those around him. Songs sung in protest – about unfightable injustice. His most famous songs were”Kwantu” and “Ototsi”, “Guabi Guabi,” which was sung in Sindebele was later picked up and recorded by Ramblin’ Joe Elliot, Arlo Guthrie and Taj Mahal.
Apparently Simbanda’s exact date of birth is unknown but tragically he died of alcohol poisoning in the late 1950s. To true African jazz afficionados, his music however, lives on. Check out “Guabi Guabi”, a perfect example of his easy style, his sweet voice and his funny, (if slightly controversial in this day and age) lyrics, “Listen, boy, I have a girl at the compound. I am going to buy her buns, sweets and a banana.
photo credit: VOA News