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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora