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Music that doesn't speak for the oppressed is not really music!

05 Jan 2024 at 20:12hrs | Views
Of late, we have witnessed divided opinions on our music legend Winky D (Wallace Chirumiko).

This is on account of his recent songs, which have mainly touched on the social injustices faced by the majority in Zimbabwe, predominantly as a consequence of corruption and mismanagement by those in power.

Some of these songs include Vashakabvu Part 2, Ngirozi, and Eureka (Ibotso, Vafarasi, Chauruka).

As to be expected in a deeply polarized country as ours, there were fierce disagreements between those who are fully behind this Zim Dancehall artist and, of course, those rabidly against the stance he has chosen to take.

It is never easy speaking out and standing up for the oppressed suffering millions in Zimbabwe due to the inevitable ferocious backlash from an angrily intolerant regime that does not want its nefarious activities to be exposed.

Therefore, any who dare go down this road have found themselves in the midst of relentless attacks, propaganda, and smearing as well as threats to their personal being.

There are those, especially in the opposition, who have lost their lives, been savagely beaten up, had their homes razed to the ground, or abducted and never to be seen or heard from ever again.

The names Netsai Marova, Cecilia Chinembiri, and Joanna Mamonbe readily come to mind – who were abducted in 2020 after being 'arrested' for staging an unsanctioned gathering during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Activists like Itai Dzamara were forcibly taken and have since vanished into thin air.

Who can forget the hundreds massacred by ZANU PF thugs at the dawn of the new millennium, most of whom were callously murdered after the 2008 presidential elections, where President Robert Gabriel Mugabe lost to MDC's Morgan Richard Tsvangirai?

Of course, there are those who have been arrested, some repeatedly, and jailed on spurious charges – such as Job Sikhala, Tsitsi Dangarembga Hopewell Chin'ono, Jacob Ngarivhume, and numerous others.

It then comes as no major surprise when we see Winky D under this barrage of attacks simply for expressing the disgruntlement and anger of millions of impoverished Zimbabweans.

What is even more disturbing is that there are some within the ruling establishment who have gone to the extent of alleging that Winky D was no longer a musician but a politician.

As a matter of fact, they have gone so far as to threaten that he should not be shocked when he is treated as an opposition politician.

In other words, he may experience the same persecution as those I have already highlighted.

However, is there anything wrong with musicians singing on issues to do with the poverty and suffering endured by ordinary citizens at the hands of their leaders?

Only unpardonable ignorance can inspire such misplaced and misguided beliefs.

I will not even bother reminding Zimbabweans that our fight against colonial rule was also supported by such legendary singers as Thomas Mapfumo, Zaxie Manatsa, Oliver Mtukudzi, amongst many more  

These great men are still revered to this day – with Mtukudzi declared a national hero after this passing on in 2019.

If it is such a terrible thing for musicians to sing about politics, why are these legends not despised and regarded with disdain as having crossed the red line in their industry?

Anyway, there is more.

We now need to take a look at the history of the art of singing itself.

According to most accounts, the first instances of singing in the history of mankind were actually not associated with frivolity or entertainment.

Early singing was connected with matters vital to the individual, social group, or religion.

This was also used to invoke their gods with prayers and incantations, celebrate their rites of passage with chants and songs, and recount their history and heroics with ballads and epics.

We can trace this phenomenon back to the 500 B.C. biblical times of the Psalms of David and the Song of Solomon.

There is evidence of the various Mesopotamian cultures that thrived from 3500 to 500 B.C. already considered music an art, and their writings mention both professional musicians and liturgical music.

The poetry of Sappho (600 B.C.) and others was often sung in contests, with melodies and rhythms based on the poetic meters.

Egyptian musical culture existed by the 4th millennium B.C., and music was prominent in the social and religious life of the Old Kingdom.

When under oppression or slavery, the group would use singing as a way of expressing their pain and sorrow, whilst similarly comforting and strengthening each other with promises of freedom coming soon.

This is what was witnessed as recent as the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism in Africa.

That is why during our liberation struggle, songs played a pivotal role.

These nationalists movements even had their own singers – such as the ZANU and LMG choirs, for ZANLA and ZIPRA, respectively.

As such, the history of music clearly shows that early singers seldom sang about falling in or out of love, drinking or partying all night, or buying the latest car.

There was always a deeper meaning that touched on the livelihood, wellbeing, and plight of the affected people.

Indeed, they could be described as politicians or activists.

In so doing, 'real' musicians sing the stuff that Winky D, and others before him as Mtukudzi, Mapfumo, Manatsa sang.

I will dare label anything else outside this 'genre' as not being 'authentic music'.

'Authentic musicians' sing for the poor and suffering and against social injustices and oppressive leaders.

In other words, what Winky D is doing is exactly what is expected from him as a musician.

He is the real deal!

Those who want to sing about sleepovers, lovers, money, cars, and drinking alcohol can do so.

However, as history has shown us, singing on frivolous issues or merely for the sake of entertainment was never what music was about.

So, before all of those ZANU PF apologists start spewing vitriol and hurling threats towards Winky D – for ostensibly ditching music for politics – they need to understand that music was borne out of politics.

Music and the welfare of the people are one.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, or visit website: https://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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