Zimbabwe: Protest singer Viomak challenges Mugabe’s regime

MUSICIAN PROFILE

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Zimbabwe:
Protest singer challenges Mugabe’s regime

Exiled Zimbabwean singer Viomak challenges the Mugabe regime. By doing so she puts her life at risk, she says, and she sings under the pseudonum Viomak for fear of reprisals against her family in Zimbabwe.

“Die for a reason that will live”, Viomak writes as an opening line on her website, viomakcharitymusic.com, and continues: “I refuse to oppress my voice.”
She is very direct in her message. In one of her protest songs she sings: “Arise and fight!”
And she mentions the name of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, directly in her lyrics. This is something which – according to Viomak – no other musician has dared to do in Zimbabwe.

At a recent protest outside Zimbabwe’s embassy in London, Viomak and a chorus of young Zimbabwean women sang to the president of their country: “Robert Mugabe, leave now, the time is up!”

In an article written for the global news network Agence France-Presse, published by the Mail & Guardian, as well as on numerous websites around the world, on 29 October 2007, Lachlan Carmichael describes how Viomak’s protest songs are repressed in Zimbabwe:

“The air waves are state run, radio stations in exile are jammed, Internet cafes are monitored, shops are banned from selling her music, and borders are so tight it is hard to smuggle in large numbers of compact discs.”

As such, Zimbabweans can only listen to Viomak’s music furtively as they all fear the omnipresent secret police known as Central Intelligence Officers, the CIO.

Political asylum in UK
Two of Viomak’s albums were recorded while she lived four months on the outskirts of the Zimbabwean capital Harare. Travelling clandestinely, only in daylight and hiding behind sunglasses and a hat, she commuted into the capital to the recording studio. As soon as she had finished the work, she fleed permanently to England where she gained political asylum in November 2006.

Now based in Birmingham, she says she has sold approximately 7,000 copies of her albums ‘Happy 82nd Birthday President R.G. Mugabe’ and ‘Happy 83rd President R.G. Mugabe’. She doesn’t know how many albums have been sold in Zimbabwe – as the 41-year old Zimbabwean singer told AFP: “I didn’t even bother to check because I was risking my life.”

Zimbabwean journalist Itai Mushekwe of the weekly newspaper The Zimbabwe Independent is staying in Germany as he fears reprisals back home. He told AFP that he believes Viomak together with chimurenga singer Thomas Mapfumo – who now lives in exile in USA – are probably Zimbabwe’s two leading protest artists at the time being.

“Protest music is increasingly becoming the only weapon to confront the Mugabe regime’s abuse of power,” he said.

Viomak told Freemuse in an e-mail:
“My situation is so bad that I get frustrated day and night. I’m tired of crying. It pains me greatly. If only Mugabe knew how much he’s hurting me. My fans are also very frustrated and angry. So they tell me in their daily emails to me. I don’t know what to do. I can write a book. However the internet is doing wonders for me. The only problem is that many of the intended audience in Zimbabwe have no access to internet, but still the music is getting there.”

About the artist
Viomak is a pseudonym forged from her first name Violah and part of her surname. In May 2007 Viomak set up ‘The Servants Of Truth Band’ in Britain, comprising of seven musicians. She calls her style of music ‘political gospel’. On her website she writes that she is hoping to defend her doctorate thesis in educational psychology in the near future.

Viomak will be releasing her third album on Mugabe’s birthday, 21 February 2008.




Viomak



The CD ‘Happy 83rd President R.G. Mugabe’


Click to read more about music censorship in Zimbabwe

Related reading on the internet

Viomak’s official website:
www.viomakcharitymusic.com

Agence France-Presse, AFP – 29 October 2007:

‘Zimbabwean singer packs protest punch with velvet vocals’

Video interview

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

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