Banned singer released her third protest album
On 21 February 2008, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Matibili Mugabe celebrated his 84th birthday in the southern border town of Beitbridge, whilst exiled singer Viomak officially released her third protest music album entitled ‘Happy 84th birthday President R.G Matibili (Great Son of Malawi)’.
By Harriet, Viomak’s publicity officer
The album title was inspired by stories in Zimbabwe’s media that said Mugabe is a Malawian whose ancestral surname is Matibili. It was mixed and mastered in Zimbabwe, at the same secret studio that produced Viomak’s two previous albums. She won’t tell anyone the location of the studio. Voices were recorded in Britain where Viomak is presently ‘hiding’.
As on her previous albums all lyrics on the album are sung by her alone, and her message is very clear and direct – which is why her music is heavily censored and has never been played on state radio in Zimbabwe. Viomak says that right now her music is ”seeing the darkness of night but there will come a time when it will see the light of day”.
Censored artists on new internet radio
Viomak and her manager are also initiating the setting up of an award winning programme, Zimbabwe Protest Arts Awards (ZIPAA) that will recognise protest artists for their work.
“This will encourage Zimbabweans to speak out against bad governance and abuses of different forms. Society needs to appreciate that protest artists’ work is of paramount importance. They are sacrificing and risking a lot to be voices of the voiceless and for these reasons they should be honored, thanked and respected,” said her manager.
He hopes the programme will reach many parts of Africa. Plans are underway to hold the first Awards Ceremony on 18 April 2009 or 2010, and then on 18 April of every following year. Presently, the annual Zimbabwe Music Awards do not recognise protest musicians. What is recognised is only what is played on the state radio – which Viomak labels as ‘ZanuPF Broadcasting Corporation’.
About the lyrics on the album
The second song, ‘Zimbabwe yochema’ (‘Zimbabwe is crying’), is a message from God that He has heard the crying of the suffering masses in Zimbabwe. The chorus of the song repeats how Zimbabweans are perishing due to AIDS and hunger because of Matibili’s misrule.
The third song, ‘Kutonga kwaMatibili’ (‘Matibili’s leadership’) which is Viomak’s favourite track, shows her selflessness when she narrates and acknowledges how Mugabe’s critics have suffered torture and beatings in the hands of Zanu PF CIO’s (secret agents), police and soldiers. She also mentions how Mugabe’s misrule has destroyed Zimbabwe due to corruption, theft and bad beliefs.
The last five songs on the album are also loaded with rich spiritual politically laced lyrics typical of her music, accompanied by a variety of Zimbabwean beats. Viomak’s lyrics are both humorous and sorrowful. In the same song she sings about how Mugabe is well known for being a foul mouthed president who said Chibebe (ZCTU’s secretary general)‘s big tummy is full of air, Tsvangirai (President of MDC opposition party) has an oversized heard, and also when he said the South African archbishop Desmond Tutu is a little ‘Bishop’.
Viomak sings that bad leaders will not go to heaven, but only good leaders will. She warns Mugabe who she refers to as Matibili that when his day of reckoning comes Jesus will take him without a smile on His (Jesus’) face.
Another comment said, “Dogs may bark but the train moves on”, meaning Viomak the dog can bark/sing but Zanu PF moves on.
In July 2006, an official of the Zimbabwe Union of Musicians compared Viomak to Satan when he wrote in the State owned newspaper, the Herald that, “the union was appalled that some Zimbabwean musicians could be so immoral, unethical and lose their sense of humanity and principles and … a musician cannot be so satanic and abuse her privileged position as to churn out albums attacking the person of a democratically, popularly and legitimately elected leader.”
Such an attack can send chills in the spine.
It didn’t scare Viomak, though. In 2007 she sneaked into Zimbabwe where she re-recorded her first album, ‘Happy 82nd birthday President R.G Mugabe (Emotions of the emotionless)’, and also recorded her second album ‘Happy 83rd birthday president R.G Mugabe (Bones of a 30 year old)’. She managed to miraculously roam the streets of Zimbabwe for at least three months before she fled.
This is exactly what Viomak is singing about. Calling upon God to avail himself in Zimbabwe, so that he resolves the economic, social and political crisis and heals this land in deep crisis. In her latest album, the song ‘Mune basa muZimbabwe’ (‘You have a task in Zimbabwe’) is a thought-provoking track that I believe will make Mugabe repent if he listens to it. In the song, Viomak tells God that He has a big task in Zimbabwe, and kindly asks Him to come down and deliver Zimbabweans from ZanuPF. In her usual soft voice Viomak assures God that Zimbabweans are patiently waiting for His arrival.
Another comment in the guestbook said: “Viomak I’ve talked with you, I’ve worked with you, we have shared thoughts and ideas, but after looking and reading this web site, I understand a little more of your struggle. There is one thing I promise I know for sure that the love for mankind and the love of your fellow man is a mission that is only sanctioned by God. May the Good Lord bless you and keep you in the palm of His hand. May He always be your guide – God bless.
And Esther wrote, ”Never in my life have I heard such emotional singing! All for the love of a lost country. Well done. That sounds like coming from deep down your heart…. Isn’t it sad? God bless you.”
I came across a blog on the internet by a Zimbabwean writer, Masimba Musodza. Masimba Musodza is a published author of an English book of short stories called ‘The Man who turned into a Rastafarian’. On his blog he lists 43 Zimbabwean heroes and according to him Viomak is one of them. All such numerous comments touched my heart Inspired, I got in touch with Viomak and asked if I can be part of her project. Today I stand as her publicity officer.
Viomak is convinced that life in Rhodesia under Smith was far much better than life in Zimbabwe today. In my opinion she is one of the most meaningful, focused and courageous musicians of today’s Zimbabwe. Her music will definitely leave a mark in the history of Zimbabwe’s music and political industry. She is also arguably the first Zimbabwean musician to solely sing for charity apart from being the only Zimbabwean woman protest musician.
One of her long time fans, Josiah Taundi has assured her that, “The message and courage is what is more than the sales. Sales can jump anytime, sometimes not in the now especially for this your kind of project, trust me.”
Even though her music is censored and banned, Viomak’s voice is not censored.
|Related reading on the internet
Viomak’s official website:
Agence France-Presse, AFP – 29 October 2007:
‘Zimbabwean singer packs protest punch with velvet vocals’
‘Music is an unstoppable force’
|Related reading on freemuse.org|
WOMEX 2003 (October, Seville, Spain)
The WOMEX award