Of music, politics and fame

SOUNDTRACK: Freeman Makopa

SEVERAL local musicians have borne the brunt of being blacklisted from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s radio stations and television channel because the political messages on their songs are believed to be anti-establishment.

Recently, Winky D’s Kasong keJecha, which tears into the political status quo, caused a stir on the local music scene — especially in light of MDC president Nelson Chamisa and his party’s refrain of “tozvidira jecha”.

Music watchers believe that the new political trajectory could have been behind the absence of Winky D’s name on the list of top award contenders. The musician, however, has an impeccable track record of dominating the National Arts Merit Awards. But he was conspicuous by his absence during this year’s edition of the awards, which saw the People’s Choice Award going to the forgotten Respina Patai.

This torched a social media storm as Winky D’s fans accused the organisers of cheating as they felt Patai was nowhere near commanding a huge following as Winky D does. They felt cheated as the Murgaden singer failed to get a single award. Winky D, on the other hand, has been producing top quality music that has seen him dominate the Zimdancehall genre in particular and the music industry in general.

What has enabled Winky D to connect with many fans is his artistic ability to plumb the depths of emotions of especially the ghetto youths that spend time loitering in their neighbourhoods because of unemployment. Fellow upcoming dancehall chanters view him as an inspiration.

Winky D has been on top of the ladder, producing the Mugarden video that features Gremma Griffiths that has gained significant traction. After 48 hours of its release, the video outshone Jah Prayzah’s Dzamutsana in terms of views on YouTube. The song also continued to make waves around the world, clinching the top spot on Kiss TV’s Afro Beats Charts in Kenya, while Confirm by Patoranking and Davido were on number two, respectively. They also dominated the British Broadcasting Corporation charts in the United Kingdom.

Jah Prayzah, on the other hand, continues to dominate the mainstream airwaves as his music is viewed as sympathetic to the political status quo — with several songs among them Mudhara Vachauya, Kutonga Kwaro and Masoja, which have been interpreted to as soundtracks of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime, ruling the roost.

Since Independence in 1980, music has been used to speak to the contemporary political realities, with music produced soon after Independence betraying a marxist or communist thrust, bent on supporting the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s communist leanings.

Musicians, including Leonard Zhakata, Thomas Mapfumo as well as Hosiah Chipanga, also got the short end of the stick when their music, believed to be targeted at the system, disappeared from the public electronic media.

Some musicians, however, have refused to be intimidated, with Winky D saying he would continue to express himself without fear.

Speaking ahead of last year’s edition of the Harare International Festival of the Arts, Winky D said it was difficult for an artiste to explore human rights themes in Zimbabwe without being labelled political.

“This human rights programme that I am part of means a lot to me because as artistes, in terms of expressing our views, it is very difficult to mention things concerning human rights without being labelled political,” he said.

Other artistes even had to seek refuge in other countries as they feared for their lives after they freely expressed their artistic creativity.

Winky D’s song Mugarden is receiving more limelight on the international arena rather than the local and has been trending since the day it was released. Coming out tops in a foreign country means the product is of a much higher quality.

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