Zimbabwe: Urban grooves blacklisted by state radio



Urban grooves blacklisted by state radio

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, ZBC, has issued a directive to producers to ‘drastically’ reduce the number of urban grooves musicians on air. They were promoted by the former minister, but now they are suddenly “no longer relevant to the government”.

By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri, reporting for Freemuse from Harare

Most urban grooves musicians who became a hit on Zimbabwe’s state owned radio and television stations under the era of Jonathan Moyo as the country’s information minister have now been taken off air.

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s four state-owned radio stations have since last month taken off air six albums on the pretext that they are ‘abusive’ and ‘look down upon women.’
An executive at the ZBC told Freemuse that the broadcaster had issued a directive to producers to ‘drastically’ reduce the number of urban grooves musicians.
He did, however, not wish to be quoted in public for this.

Six urban groove albums off air
“All the radio stations no longer give air play to urban groovers since they were promoted by the former minister,” he said. “It seems they are no longer relevant to the government. We were told to make an official notice which is relevant to the producers (that they demean women).”
Another source at ZBC revealed that a meeting was held last month at which the issue of the ‘abusive music’ was discussed. The source said a list of singers were put in the category of songs to be taken off air.
“We have six albums that are no longer played, despite some of them still being popular with listeners,” said the source. “The directive came from the Ministry of Information in the end of August.”

Minister denied allegations
When reached for comment, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, denied the allegations, saying the government was a ‘mere shareholder of ZBC’ and did not determine the contents of the programmes.
“I do not know where such blatant lies are coming from,” said Ndlovu. “The government does not interfere in the day-to-day running of the ZBC. We have a ZBC board of governors we appoint to set the tone and that are where we end. As to which song is played is for listeners and DJs to determine.“

The list
Since last month, this reporter has been working with other people to check on the alleged taking off air of some urban grooves musicians. The observation confirmed what the executive at ZBC said. The following songs appear to have been taken off air:
‘Jatropha’ by Dino Mudondo,
Extra Large‘s hit songs ‘Small House’ and ‘House Girl’,
Maskiri‘s ‘Madam Mombeshora’, ‘Miscarriage’ and ‘Zimhamha’,
Decibel‘s ‘Madhara’ and
Nasty Trix‘s ‘Chimoko Chidanger’, among others.

The head of ZBC’s radio services Allan Chiweshe, refused to comment on the taking off air of ‘abusive songs’ when approached by Freemuse. But he was quoted in a state owned newspaper recently confirming that the ZBC had taken off air some urban grooves songs:
“If you listen to the radio now you can hear that we no longer give air play to songs that reduce women to nothing or idolise them as mere sexual objects. Some of these songs contain obscene and sexist lyrics. If you listen carefully to that song ‘Jatropha’ by Dino Mudondo it implies that all women want in a marriage is sex,” Chiweshe told The Herald.
Artists from some of the one of the affected singers were quoted in the same newspaper accusing the ZBC as being ‘misdirected’ saying their music had no negative effect on the society.

Stunnner (left) and ExQ

Artist: ‘We tell the truth’
“These people (at ZBC) do not understand us; we educate people on these crucial aspects like hygiene and faithfulness in a comical way. Women should understand that our song ‘Small House’ was never written to insult or degrade them. In spite of that people are not comfortable with our songs, I believe what we are singing is based on reality and sometimes people hate to be told the truth,” Jimmy from the group Extra Large was quoted by The Herald.
ExQ, another artist, was quoted in the same article saying there was nothing immoral or distasteful about the songs that had been blacklisted.

‘They are killing our music’
Another urban grooves artiste Stunner accused ZBC of trying to extinguish urban grooves by rejecting “perfectly good” music airplay on national radio and television.
“I don’t understand what these people want us to do. These songs that they are denying airplay are really good compositions. As for obscene and sexually suggestive lyrics it boils down to individual interpretation but personally I do not see anything derogatory about them.”
“ZBC should come clean and tell us what they really want because they are killing our music. It is very sad because we are going nowhere with this. Everywhere you go; women have always been regarded as sex idols,” Stunner told The Herald.

‘Vengeance at the ZBC’
While one might concur that these songs regard women as sex objects, what boggles the mind is why the decision was made now.
“Some of these songs have been enjoying air-play for sometime now and the words were the same, what is new now,” said one DJ at the ZBC. “I am not saying whether the songs pour scorn on women or not. All this shows that there is vengeance at the ZBC. Even the album by Moyo was taken off air the moment he was expelled from the government.”

Click to read more about music censorship in Zimbabwe

Related reading on the internet

The Herald / Zimvibes.com – 17 October 2007:
‘The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings has banned urban grooves’

Video interview

Click to see interview with Chiwoniso Maraire, Chirikure Chirikure and Paul Brickhill
‘Music is an unstoppable force’

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