Zimbabwe: ‘Buffalo Soldier’ Finds Fame At 92

A 92-year-old Malawian musician, Giddes Chalamanda, who made a significant impression in Zimbabwe in the 1950s with a group named Paseli Brothers, is making waves with his latest music that has catapulted him to international fame.

Chalamanda migrated to Zimbabwe in the 1950s where he worked in the farms, but soon his mussical talent was noticed and he joined the already popular Paseli Brothers who toured almost every part of the country.

The group was made up of fellow Malawians who had also migrated to Zimbabwe.

Chalamanda has become an instant international social media star at that advanced age, with his latest song titled “Linny Hoo” garnering over 80 million views on the video-sharing platform TikTok and 6,9 million others on YouTube.

His achievement could not escape the attention of Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, who awarded him a lifetime achievement medal for his contribution to the music industry on Thursday last week.

The honour was part of Chalamanda’s 92nd birthday celebration.

Popularly known as AGidde, Chalamanda received a trophy and a gift from President Chakwera.

“I am very happy to meet the president face to face accompanied by my daughter Linny,” Chalamanda was quoted as saying at the meeting. “At my age, I never expected this, I am really thankful to the President for the gesture.”

According to several sources, Chalamanda was born in January 1930 in Malawi and his father left him when he was young and went to South Africa to work in the mines.

Inspired by the tales of success in the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Chalamanda left Nyasaland in the 1950s to be employed in tobacco farms.

Because of his musical talent, he was always picked by organisers to perform at different joints in Zimbabwe and it was during those performances that he bumped into the Malawian home boys, the Paseli Brothers, that was based in the country.

Forging a very good relationship with Barry Paseli, Chalamanda started performing with the Paseli Brothers in Zimbabwe.

Together, they shook the country with their scintillating music dominated by the guitar and banjo, being invited to perform as far as Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

Music producer Hugh Tracey noticed the group and he recorded their songs in the then Salisbury (now Harare).

Tracey felt that although the Paseli Brothers played in the “common Southern African guitar style,” they were particularly talented.

Chalamanda later relocated to Malawi where he established himself as a renowned musician from the 1970s.

He is an acoustic artiste well-known for songs like “Buffalo Soldier”, which is believed to have been composed and sung by him in 1960s before another version of the song was sung by Bob Marley in 1978.

The difference between Chalamanda’s “Buffalo Soldier” and Marley’s version is their story line.

Chalamanda’s version, which was recorded in 1974, five years before Marley released his version, talks about himself dreaming of going to Indiana in America.

On the other hand, Marley’s version talked about how slaves were taken to America influenced by his Caribbean culture and outlook. But Chalamanda still maintains that his version of “Buffalo Soldier” is older than Marley’s.

With the Paseli Brothers, Chalamanda participated in the recording of the group’s popular songs in the 1950s like “Achachanda u’we”, “Achalendo”, “Afadzi Achileka”, Alinile Mwanawe” and “Akazi-a-Chileka”.