As I sat with musician Thomas Mapfumo in Johannesburg South Africa, at the weekend I thought for some reason that he had softened on his confrontational style of criticism in so far as his view point on Zimbabwe’s socio-political landscape.
I was entirely wrong.
After we spoke about other niceties we settled to serious issues.
The Chimurenga music legend has not relented whatsoever on his hard-hitting approach to his commentary of daily life experiences in Zimbabwe.
“Politicians have destroyed Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai must stop the arrogance and posturing.
“They must stop fighting and unite the people. Our people are forced into wrong things . . . to kill. That must stop. Human rights must be upheld always,” Mapfumo said.
Mapfumo believes the answer to positive political change in Zimbabwe was not only through free and fair elections but also thorough civic society driven voter education enlightening people on the need to vote wisely.
“People require thorough voter education . . . they need to know what they are voting for
. . . what is the candidate offering and why and how? Our people must be sceptical of some of these manifestoes and avoid being hoodwinked. That is where civic society must come in with powerful voter education.”
Mapfumo who was in Johannesburg promoting his latest album Exile said the time when rulers intimidated people was now over judging by recent uprisings in North Africa.
“The time when people were intimidated is over. Look at North Africa.
“Zimbabweans can’t be intimidated forever and the authorities must know that. Our people are awakening. Politicians can’t kill or intimidate forever.”
Typical of his head-on approach to his music, Mapfumo said he had composed a song, yet to be recorded, titled Danger Zone that advises world dictators to embrace political reforms.
He said political events in North Africa had inspired the song and that he had written it with Zimbabwe in mind.
After close to a decade in the United States Mapfumo says he misses home dearly, but is not coming back any time soon. He is based in Eugene, Oregon.
“I think of home daily but I can’t come back as yet because the situation is not right for me. But I will be back.
“What I miss most about home are the people . . . the ordinary people inspire me. When I come back home the first thing that I will do is visit the ghettos. I always have the ghetto people in my heart.”
Mapfumo’s music has often been criticised as having lost the Chimurenga feel after he roped in a couple of American instrumentalists into his Blacks Unlimited band. But he dismisses such sentiments.
“My being in the United States has not changed my music. Chimurenga music is Chimurenga music wherever you go be it under the sea or at the moon. Having an Indian or Chinese or American playing in my band will not change my music.
“Chimurenga will always be Chimurenga because it’s me who directs the music and the instrumental arrangement.”
He has two pending albums that hopes to finalise soon as he also prepares for the summer tour of New Mexico, Canada, New York, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Throughout the interview Mapfumo sipped mineral water, turning down fizzy drinks. He said he was enjoying good health because he was looking after himself.
“My secret to survival is music itself. Music keeps me going and I look after myself in many respects of life according to the biblical 10 commandments.
“As pastime while home in the United States I go fishing. If it means daily I will fish daily whenever I have the time because I enjoy it.”
Mapfumo has always been critical of artistes who dominated their music with foreign influences and style and believed dancehall champion and multi award winner Winky D was on the wrong path musically.
“I listen a lot to what the likes of Winky D are singing and my heart bleeds. People like Winky D are destroying Zimbabwean music. What he sings is not our music. He can enjoy the success now but that kind of music does not last.
“Tuku and myself would not have made it musically if we had done stuff like that. Only Winky D’s friends and relatives will buy that kind of music. He must be original to survive in music.”
Shepherd Mutamba is a Harare based writer.