In the groove: It's raining champagne confetti for some musicians

Spending wizard... Chivayo has gone on a spending spree gifting prominent figures with high-end vehicles

Many politicians throughout the world have realised the power of music to influence people’s thinking.  This is one reason they use musicians at their campaign rallies.

How does music elicit such a powerful effect on the mind?

Instinctually, intuitively, we know that music makes life better.

Examples include instances when we have used music to soothe our souls and comfort pain. Parents worldwide sing lullabies to the young and mark special occasions such as birthdays, graduations, and weddings with song. We rely on music to help us power through workouts and tackle tasks we’d rather ignore, and we manipulate our moods with melodies.

Music is so deeply woven into the fabric of our being, in fact, that it can help us connect with those who have suffered significant cognitive loss. Indeed, politically, musicians have the power to influence and woo people in political campaigns.

I will give you a few  examples of how music has been used for political campaign purposes below:

In 2008, American Democrat President, Barak Obama received the support of artistes such as Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day and Usher, to name just a few. It was a strategy that worked for Obama as he realised that musicians have the power to woo people, especially the youth to follow their political campaigns. John McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent, struggled to find support from musicians and as a result McCain lost the election.

In Zimbabwe, former CCC legislator, Advocate Fadzai Mahere recently wrote to Minister Kirsty Coventry asking her about the crisis in the arts: “Ask yourself – when was the last time a Zimbabwean artist won a Grammy? Why are our artistes having to pander to dodgy politics and dark characters in order to drive a decent car? Is their desperation not enough to break your heart?” She asked.

I am sure she was referring to the recent news of Sir Wicknell Chivayo’s car donations to some musicians  who support Zanu PF politics. I am not sure Minister Kirsty Coventry bothered to reply to Advocate Mahere’s letter.

Indeed, many a musician are so desperate to make a living out of their craft that they will go to any length to achieve this. Many have failed and have resorted to making politicians believe that they can woo citizens into supporting their parties. It does not matter whether or not they believe in the policies of the political party they are seen to support. What some of them are after are the benefits coming from that party.

As one musician who was recently given a car by Sir Wicknell Chivayo and is a father of 5 children confessed to me on condition of anonymity: “I will support any political party as long as I know that my family and I are going to eat three square meals a day”.

He lamented to me that since January, 2024, things had become miserable for him due to the current economic situation in the country. He has had no work since January. His last gig was at Christmas 2023. His performances are no longer booming and flourishing, so he will join the Zanu PF begging bowl for survival.

Fortunately, controversial businessman, Sir Wicknell Chivayo has abated the misery of some musicians through purchasing cars for them.

 As one of the beneficiaries of Sir Wicknell Chivayo’s car donations, the above-mentioned artist plans on selling the car he received and invest the money elsewhere as he says he won’t be able to afford the petrol.

“I got a call to go and pick up my car from a Victor Matienga of Exquisite Cars. Straight away, a myriad of emotions began to course through me; anxiety, excitement, apprehension and unsettling thoughts went through my mind.  I asked myself one question: “Do I really deserve this car?” How I wish I had been asked what my needs were. I would have told him that I prefer the cash as I have to pay school fees for my children, pay for their medical care, pay rent to my landlord and have enough food in my house.  I was happy to continue driving my sikorokoro. However, a beggar is not a chooser. I am grateful  to Sir Wicknell for what I have been given”, he said.

It is now a well-known fact that Sir Wicknell has been splashing money like confetti rewarding musicians inclined to the ruling party, Zanu PF with cars.

From the early 1980s, the list of musicians who supported Zanu PF includes the late Comrade Chinx, the late Simon Chimbetu, the late Elliot Manyika, Taurai Mteki and the late Andy Brown. Chinx received a house and Chimbetu a farm. It is a pity that these musicians have died as I am positive they would have all benefited from Sir Wicknell’s and Zanu PF’s generosity. 

More recently, Sulumani Chimbetu, Jah Prayzah and Sandra Ndebele and many dancehall artistes including Ba Troy, Seh Calaz, Fantan and Ricky Fire have been awarded motor vehicles for their  ‘support’ of Zanu PF.  The list of such artistes is endless. This includes Mathias Mhere and Andy Muridzo  who received C Class Mercedes Benz cars.

 Chivayo bought a flashy car for Jah Prayzah worth a staggering US$180, 000.

According to Chivayo, this was a reward for Jah Prayzah’s album Mudhara Achauya which had the song Kutonga Kwaro, the soundtrack in the rise of President Emmerson Mnangagwa through a military-assisted takeover.

One opportunistic event is that of Ricky Fire who went on stage last year with the then CCC president, Nelson Chamisa aka Jah Nero, campaigning for the CCC party through the song Kudya Yero, but later changed his mind when he realised that there was no money coming from CCC. Today, he, like Jah Prayzah, drives a flashy car, thanks to Zanu PF.

When criticised for jumping ship from CCC to Zanu PF,  this is what Ricky Fire had to say:

Ko iwe unonditukira kuti ndaenda kunodya lunch nevanhu vausingafarire saka ini ndovenga munhu nekuti iwewe wakamuvenga ? Saka kuita zvandinoda itori mhosva here ? Ko iwewe ndikaita zvaunoda iwewe zvangu zvandinoda ndichaita rinhi ?

Kana wafunga kundiudzira zvekuita tanga wauya kuzonditengera food wobhadhara ma bill wochengeta mhuri yangu .

Kana usingakwanise kuita izvozvo siyana neni uite zvako kumba kwako . Hapana akambouya kumba kwangu akaona kuti ndadyei , ndirikurarama sei, ndabhadhara here ma bills kana kuti vana vangu vadyei .  (Loosely and briefly translated as: “ Leave me to have dinner with those who pay my bills”.)

Chivayo has also splashed several cars to non-musicians including members of his Apostolic church who received brand new Toyota Aqua vehicles. Radio show hosts, Phatisani Sibanda, Tinashe Chikuse and Admire Sibanda plus many more also received cars.

Earning a decent living from their shows and record sales has been a great challenge for many musicians. Current trends as implied in the way that the ‘gig’ economy has been going have forced many musicians, even those principled ones to accept the precarious conditions of how to earn the extra buck outside their core-business. Our musicians maybe something of a barometer of current trends in the country’s economy.

Changing labour conditions in the creative industries intertwined with job insecurity will continue to force some well-meaning musicians to drop their principles in support of whoever brings food to their table.

Those are the vicissitudes of life that some musicians have to deal with on a daily basis.

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