News / Africa

Music Freedom Day a Challenge in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean pop star Thomas Mapfumo, a hero of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, performs in Chitungwiza, south of Harare, Zimbabwe. (File Photo)
Zimbabwean pop star Thomas Mapfumo, a hero of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, performs in Chitungwiza, south of Harare, Zimbabwe. (File Photo)

This week, Zimbabwean musicians join their colleagues from around the globe in celebrating Music Freedom Day. But Zimbabwe still applies old laws to censor artists and composers.

Praising Mugabe

Listening to Zimbabwe’s state-owned radio stations, one could get the mistaken impression that all is well in this impoverished country. This song praises President Robert Mugabe crediting him with being a liberator, a visionary and a statesman.

Traditionally, music has been an artistic avenue to express - among other things - political dissent rather than approval of mainstream politics.

Artists here say there is plenty of music in Zimbabwe questioning the government and the order of things. But they say they are being silenced because the only broadcasters, which are state-owned, refuse to air music that is critical of the government, of Mugabe or his ZANU-PF party.

Broadcasting

One of them is Raymond Majongwe who has published 20 albums. But, despite his music being popular in nightclubs, it is rarely featured on local radio stations.

“Nothing much has been played from my stable. Many a time I have tried to have shows, I have been frustrated," said Majongwe. "My posters have been pulled out. People who are predominantly [ZANU-PF] they are not happy with me performing because my music is deemed anti-ZANU-PF. I have critiqued the tribulations people of this country have gone through. That has not gone well with [ZANU-PF].”

Majongwe is not alone. His mentor Thomas Mapfumo got frustrated and left the country in the late 1990s. Mapfumo created and popularized radical struggle music, which he called Chimurenga, and in which he called for the overthrow of the minority white government led by Ian Smith. But today his music is not aired in Zimbabwe.

Old laws

This is one of his popular songs denouncing corruption by senior government officials in Zimbabwe and is typical of the music he wrote in the early 1990s. Singer Majongwe says draconian laws enacted by the Ian Smith government to restrict dissent are the same ones being used against dissidents by ZANU-PF officials today.

“It is quite sad that we are still using the products of white supremacists on blacks by people who claim to have brought independence unto us," said Majongwe. "These are necessary contradictions of our times. When liberators start using the laws promulgated by the people who were oppressing them… It is quiet sad …”

Board of Censors

Majongwe is referring to the 1967 Censorship and Entertainment Control Act. It established the Zimbabwe Board of Censors to which musicians and artists must apply for certification.  Without this they cannot perform or publish their work.

Solomon Chitsunga, an inspector from the Board of Censors, says the law is in the public interest.

“Musicians are supposed to get [a] certificate that allows them to provide entertainment to the public," said Chitsunga. "So any musician who wants to entertain the public must have that certificate which will guide him - the dos and don’ts - especially on the moral, decent aspects, since that is the other function of the board. Recording companies must check if the art they are recording is coming is from a registered member with the censorship board. There might be chances that the music might be banned.”

Chitsunga says there are many valid reasons why certain music might be banned, but when pressed to explain he would only say some music might cause a public outcry.

Because of the censorship, many musicians have resorted to praising Mr.
Mugabe and his policies. Such music enjoys unlimited airplay.

This song which applauds Mugabe’s policy of requiring that all foreign foreign-owned firms give a majority stake to Zimbabweans, has enjoyed lots of play on all Zimbabwe’s state-owned stations.

But as Music Freedom Day approaches, protest musicians like Majongwe hope for political change that will bring them the creative freedom for which they yearn.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid