Down Musical Memory Lane – Boetie Simoni, Pioneer of Shambo Genre

If you were a music crazy dude living in the urban areas in years gone by, and by choice or design happen to be fascinated by the traditional folk music of one Boetie Simoni, you will be labeled a moegoe (sucker) and someone in dire need of refinement.

Traditional folk music was regarded as a pastime for the uncivilizsed, uneducated and only for villagers finding themselves in urban surroundings in search of greener pastures. Several decades later, traditional folk music has become the in-thing and has captured the imagination and admiration of the most sophisticated members of the local community, including the who’s who of Namibia’s much-sought-after celebrities in musical circles.

The late traditional singer, composer, entertainer and noted acoustic guitarist, Boetie Simoni, was a highly gifted muso in traditional folk music. He was among the very first local performing musicians who embarked on the unthinkable – producing and writing lyrics in his mother tongue, as he sought to get his message across a wider spectrum of musical lovers and the oppressed during the height of apartheid. Popularly known as Boetie Simoni, the humorous multi talented artist was a symbol of courage and genuine simplicity. He never hesitated to strum a hastily arranged song at any given time during his days in the Omulunga township of Grootfontein, where he spent a significant chunk of his formative years.

Modern musicians in the mould of upcoming traditional folk and jazz guitarist, Jackson Wahengo, internationally acclaimed folk singer and acoustic guitarist Elemotho, and many others are doubtlessly indebted to Boetie Simoni, the man who laid the foundation for the popular Shambo music.

Shambo dance music derives its name from “Shambo Shakambode”, popularised by folk acoustic guitarist Kwela and his trusted companion Lexington, Kangwe Keenyala and Meme Nanghili na Shima.

In the intervening years, Setson Wahengo teamed up with the Mighty Dread Band to give the Shambo music a facelift that was to change this traditional music for good, capturing the imagination of young and old. A chap from the old block, Boetie Simoni made headlines when he recorded his debut album with the hit song, Ounashe va Shivanda (Grootfontein laaities are cunning) under the stewardship of the late Paul Joubert at the old South West Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SWABC) in the 1970s. Some of his popular songs were Kwela-Kwela, Kulomyango (open the door) and Maselele.

Unlike other dominant live performing musicians of his time, the finger twisting acoustic guitarist was never accorded the respect he so dearly deserved, or either the ideal opportunity to perform in front of big audiences in organised structures such as live shows. Boetie Simoni would occasionally entertain music revelers at traditional weddings and hastily arranged get-togethers. He would also be seen entertaining bar revelers at their favourite water holes at the single quarters in the Omulunga residential area in Grootfontein, in return for a few pints of free beverages in the shape of his favourire assortment of home brews. At times the multi talented venturing muso would take to the streets to entertain curious onlookers for few coins.

Despite his unrivalled musical virtuoso, the much-adored soloist, blessed with a sweet voice resembling the juicy taste of cooked honey, never really made enough money to live on, and mostly depended on the charity of strangers. Like many of his peers in the dog-eat-dog business of live music, Boetie Simoni, exited the game of life, as a pauper in the 20th century but his musical legacy will linger on forever.

The late Boetie Simoni has certainly laid the foundation as can be attested by the response during the Jackson Wahengo’s sold out gig at the packed to rafters Warehouse in Windhoek last weekend. Today, dozens of local musos have benefited immensely from Boetie Simoni’s original work, which have been blended with house music and Kwaito. Prominent modern day prominent musicians Tunakie, Tate Kwela and D-Naff have taken the lead in mixing Shambo with Kwassa-Kwassa.

Interestingly, Shambo music is not only confined to the eras of Oshiwambo speaking folk, this fast growing folk musical genre is a popular pastime amongst all people from all walks of life irrespective of race, gender and tribe. It’s a great pity that emerging musicians have made it their sole province to engage in plagiarism by reproducing songs without acknowledging or better still giving credit to genuine authors.

Source : New Era