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Grammy Award for Mapfumo?

Standard Style
Thomas Mapfumo, popularly known as Mukanya

THOMAS Mapfumo, popularly known as Mukanya, might finally get a chance to win a Grammy Award following the addition of three new categories for the 2024 edition of these awards regarded by many as the most prestigious and significant accolades in the music industry worldwide.

Grammy Awards, which are powered by the Recording Academy, added three new categories namely Best African Music Performance, Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording which will be officially introduced at the 66th Grammy Awards.

The best African Music Performance category includes the Afrobeat, Afro-fusion, Afro Pop, Alte, Amapiano, Bongo Flava, Genge, Kizomba, Chimurenga, High Life, Fuji, Kwassa, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian Drill, Afro-House, South African Hip-Hop, and Ethio Jazz genres.

Chimurenga music is a Zimbabwean popular music genre coined and popularised by the United States exiled Mapfumo, which features the mbira instrument.

Chimurenga is a Shona word for liberation struggle, which entered common usage during the wars against colonialism in Zimbabwe.

Commenting on this new development, an arts critic, who is also a Zimbabwean musician, academic and author Fred Zindi said the addition of African genres, including Chimurenga music on the Grammys’long list was long awaited and welcome gesture.

“Local music has been recognised internationally from way back in the 1980s when Chimurenga guru Thomas Mapfumo performed in Europe and the United States, The Bhundu Boys sold Jit-Jive to the world and John Chibadura and Devera Ngwena were also on the international stage,” said Zindi.

 “Addition of more African categories to the Grammys is a welcome gesture.

“Africans such as Burna Boy, Davido, P Square, have already climbed international dizzy heights.

“Organisers of Grammy Awards cannot afford to ignore this, hence the inclusion.”

Zindi said Zimbabwean musicians need to appeal to more international audiences in order to get the recognition too.

“Chimurenga is already one of the African categories recognised by Grammys,” he said.

“We just need to show the world what it is in order to get that recognition.”

Zindi said the reason why international record labels and other regional and international arts and entertainment players were not eager to find out what is or who is new in the Zimbabwean music scene was because most local entertainment players are diluted by foreign influences.

“Entertainment players are always on the lookout for what is trending elsewhere, especially if it gives them money, but as I said before, charity begins at home,” he said.

“If Zimbabweans cannot promote themselves like the Nigerians do with Afro-Beat, then they are not going anywhere,” he said.

Efforts to contact Mapfumo were fruitless.

He had asked to have questions sent on his WhatsApp, but had not responded by the time of going to print.

This is not the first time a Zimbabwean got close to a Grammy award.

Music producer Brian Soko was nominated for the prestigious award twice for producing Beyoncé’s ‘Drunki ‘n Love’ and three tracks for Nicki Minaji’s ‘PinkPrint’ album.

Another Zimbabwean Isaac Gabriel Kalumbu was nominated for the Best Album category in 2010 when he collaborated with Gregory Isaacs on the track titled Isaacs Meets Isaac.  

The new move by the Grammys to add African categories provides new hope for local artistes to perfect their act and come up with an undiluted sound that does not distance them with the sounds of home.

However, as much as there is hope, Grammy Awards have been accused of racial bias over the years in the way they dish out their awards.

Only a handful of African, African American and Latin Americans artists have laid their hands on the Grammys.

South Africa's Lady Smith Black Mambazo have won six Grammy awards over the years.

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