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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid