Protest musician overcomes obstacles
Zimbabwean musician Raymond Majongwe could not find anyone who would print or publish his music within the country. Like other protest musicians, he had to resort to foreign lands for recording his new album.
By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri reporting for Freemuse from Harare
In Zimbabwe – a place where the dissenting voice is an endangered species – musicians face trouble recording their work because record companies fear to be blacklisted by the regime.
Singer and musician Raymond Majongwe had to record his 14th album ‘Dhiziri kuChinhoyi’ (‘Diesel at Chinhoyi’) in South Africa after the recording companies in Zimbabwe refused to do the job, fearing reprisals from the Robert Mugabe-led government.
“All the recording studios I approached refused because they did not want to risk being put in trouble. I decided to go and record in South Africa because I did not want to use the computers as what other (protest) musicians now do (because their music is refused to be recorded in professional music studios in Zimbabwe). I wanted to use live instrument like other (prominent) musicians do,” said Majongwe in an interview after the launch of his album on 13 March 2008.
“Fear of reprisals is not only in recording industry. If I take this album to any music outlets, they are going to reject it,” Majongwe told Freemuse.
“I equate myself to a boxer who believes he can fight. He gets knocked in the first round but continues coming back, fighting until he wins…” said Majongwe.
“I have 14 albums under my belt and none of them have ever been played on ZBC. I am not worried, though, because I play live music, including in Nigeria and South Africa. People say they enjoy my music, and they hear it from other quarters. What is important to me is that it reaches people.”
Raymond Majongwe’s music – like other Zimbabwean protest artists’ music – is distributed through informal channels and is popular in nightclubs, public gatherings and in the public transport.
Kingstons Stores: ‘Wayward music’
As if Majongwe had predicted that kind of answer, at his reception earlier the same week he had told his guests that he believed his music was proper but that “the environment was not right”:
“They (shops as well as ZBC) refuse my music not because it is bad but because it is critical. If we were in a free environment this would be the album of the year, not only because of the contents of the lyrics, but also in terms of the musical arrangement,” said Raymond Majongwe.
ZBC: Music must be ‘constructive’
Henry Muradzikwa, the ZBC boss, refused to comment on the allegations by Majongwe but conceded to censoring music:
Song about arbitrary arrests
In the lyrics of the album, Raymond Majongwe also demands equitable distribution of wealth instead of the situation now in which it is mainly in the hands of the ruling party while others suffer.
Another song: ‘Mbwende’ (‘Cowards’) calls on Zimbabweans to desist from being cowards and rise against oppression.
‘Vanosungirwei’ (‘Why are they being arrested?’) complains of the arbitrary arrests of dissenting voices by the brutal police and secret agents.
‘Nhasi tiripi’ poses a question: “Where are we heading (as a nation)?” given the deteriorating situation in the country.
Inspired by Mapfumo
He said he was inspired into performing music by the chimurenga music guru Thomas Mapfumo who is now in exile in the United States. Mapfumo’s music was popular from the liberation war up to late 1990s. It went off air on ZBC stations after he sang ‘Corruption in the society’ and ‘Mabvebve’ (‘The country is now in tatters’).
Photos by the author
|Related reading on the internet
Agence France Presse – 25 March 2008:
‘Zimbabwe suffering inspires protest art’
|Related reading on freemuse.org|