HARARE – For close to two years jazz musician Dudu Manhenga and Italy-based drummer Blessing “Bled” Chimanga performed in the same band without any clue that they were actually paternal cousins.
The two musicians only discovered their relationship under dramatic circumstances early last year.
Daily News on Sunday’s Tarisai Machakaire (TM) spoke to Blessing Chimanga (BC) on how it felt to suddenly discover that he was related to band leader Dudu and this has impacted on their lives.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
TM: When did you first meet Dudu Manhenga?
BC: I first met Dudu in 2005 at a competition called Bocapa at the Book Cafe. I was at Prince Edward High School then and had come to play for a band that was competing there. Dudu and Blessing her husband were part of the panel of judges.
I was so impressed by the knowledge, skill and wisdom that this woman had and I humbly approached after the event and got her contact details.
She received me with a warm heart and she told me that she had been amazed by my talent. Strangely I felt so connected to her. After the event our relationship grew stronger and stronger. I was always updating her on developments in my music career. She continued to regularly attend Prince Edward concerts in which I was the drummer. She was so supportive.
TM: How did you end up playing for Dudu?
BC: In 2011 I told Dudu and told her about an opportunity that had just come up for me to go on my first solo tour to Norway.
She was so happy and touched by the progress I was making. She went on to advise me and also prayed for my journey.
This really touched me and made her look very different from all the artists I knew. She was somebody I could open up to for advice and encouragement. At the end of 2011 I got the privilege to work in Dudu's band as a drummer.
This was the beginning of a very rewarding professional relationship. She was strict and made sure there was progress from me musically and in my life. It was a real step up to play for Dudu. I began to call her my “mum”.
The jokes and craziness we shared before shows and during travelling will always be some of the most memorable moments of my time working for her.
TM: Did you ever imagine you could be related? Were there tell-tale signs?
BC: We never imagined we were related but yes signs were there but we were so blind. The connection we had from the first day we meet. The whole idea of me calling her mum and always seeking advice from her. The support that she always gave me, coming for my concerts when I was in school and sometimes coming as my family representative at some school functions.
TM: When did you find out you are related to Dudu?
BC: We found out on February 21 last year.
TN: What happened for you and Dudu to suddenly discover you are blood relatives?
BC: Dudu met a relative on her way to church in Warren Park. In their conversation she mentioned something about the Chimangas. Dudu then told her she was working with some Chimanga-referring to me .This relative of ours them told Dudu to go find out about my father’s name because she suspected she could be related.
Dudu called me and asked for my dad’s name, where he worked and if I knew anything about my family. Dudu forwarded the responses to this relative she eventually broke the news that Cephas (my dad) was the eldest among his siblings who also included Dudu’s dad. Dudu’s dad is alive and mine died in 1999.Our village of origin is in Magunje, Hurungwe.
I was brought up by my mum while Dudu was privileged to grow up with both parents to the age of 16.I only met my father a few times when I was very young before he eventually passed away.
TM: What was the feeling immediately after you found out you are related to Dudu?
BC: It is difficult to express in words. It was overwhelming and very emotional. I could not believe I had finally met real blood relatives from my father’s side. It was so powerful and overwhelming. For 21 years I had not known people from my father’s side. The realisation that Dudu, who I had worked with all these years, was my paternal cousin was the greatest miracle of all.
The exact date we found out we cried on the phone and quickly arranged a meeting the next day so we could meet and celebrate this greatest wonder.
We met at the 5 avenue shops in Harare and before she even explained we all broke down in happy tears and we were thanking God for such a blessing.
Just imagining that all these years we were very close yet we did not know that we were real family made the feeling great.
In our work we are grateful that we are both going strong and changing the world as a family. We toured Italy separately recently. She performed in Rome and while I was on the other side of Italy the country with my band Zimboita in Milan.
How has knowing about your relationship changed things between you guys?
Knowing that we are family has changed things for the better for us. We have gone crazy with supporting each other in everything we do. We have an interest in each other’s dreams and visions. In fact have become part of each other’s dreams. There is a lot of comfort and peace knowing that we can call on each other anytime.
We are crazy just like spoiled little kids some times. Most amazingly being now an Uncle of 4 beautiful vazukurus (Dudu’s four children) is just amazing.
TM: Do the rest of your relatives know about it?
BC: The rest of the family now knows because we are telling everyone we meet.
TM: What have you done so far to solidify your new-found relationship?
BC: We have performed a song called “We are family” together during the Let the Drums Speak Festival last year. We look forward to putting into song messages of our Joys of realising we are family. I am so grateful to God. I have met my family and I am glad we are there for each other and we are going strong everyday. I love my sister Dudu so much and she is the best sister in the world.