Being An Artist In The '2nd Republic'



Apart from being a great source of entertainment, music has over the centuries been used as a tool of protest as well, and an effective one at that!

Musicians, the world over, have used their talent and influence to fight on behalf of the common man and woman on the street, and through their songs combatted discrimination, poverty, abuse and more significantly, advocated for basic human rights for everyone across the world.

Globally, names like the late Tupac Shakur and Immortal Technique quickly come to mind for many hiphop-heads out there. These two artists, among others, took the fight to the sitting governments of their day through song to speak up against any injustices that they saw in their respective communities. It has been the same across the world and artists continue to use their influence and platforms to bring to the fore issues that affect their communities.

The late King Of Pop, Michael Jackson and late Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley were known for championing the rights of oppressed people everywhere and as such, they left an indelible mark on the music map and inspired a generation of musicians who were more than glad to carry the torch  after their passing.

Names like South Africa’s own reggae giant Lucky Dube, incarcerated Jamaican dancehall legend Vybes Kartel, to mention but a few, were inspirational, to say the least.

Locally, it has however not always been the case as many artists that choose to stand up for the masses are stifled by whatever means the system deems necessary.
Cases like that of Leonard Zhakata easily come to mind. The ‘zora’ music exponent was blacklisted by the government for well over a decade for what the regime perceived as a blow below the belt when he put out his all-time hit ‘Mugove’ whose chorus underpinned the struggle of the majority of people that belonged to this era.

In recent times local dancehall icon Winky D, seems to have rubbed ‘the powers that be’ the wrong way when he unleashed his track ‘KaSong keJecha’ onto the market. Ever since the song hit the streets, the ‘gaffa’, as he is affectionately known has not only lost shows but has had his safety and that of his immediate family threatened – showing just how far the system is willing to go to silence any dissenting voices.

Tocky Vibes, another dancehall force to reckon with, has suffered both emotional and physical abuse over these past few weeks for daring to stand up to the system and perpetrators of the recent spate of violent acts against the innocent masses.

It is sad that in a ‘democracy’ such as ours that local artists have to practise self-censorship especially when it comes to issues affecting their own communities.
If these artists cannot use their influence and various podiums they have at their disposal then what use are they to the communities that they belong to.

Winky D and Tocky Vibes’ cases show us that as artists we cannot keep turning a blind eye to the struggle that our people are facing and as a nation we need to get behind the efforts of said individuals and support them however we can as they defend our rights. They have surely paved the way for so many other artists out there willing to stand up for their people!

It seems that only the likes of the regime’s ‘poster boy’ Jah Prayzah and Soul Jah Luv are embraced because they are more than happy to continue ‘singing for their supper’ and playing ‘court jester’ at the opulent parties and ceremonies of those in power --- all this while the rest of the nation fights for scraps!

For how long can the likes of Jah Prayzah continue wearing army fatigues and associating with the same system and individuals that are perpetrating violence against their own people and expect the same folks to buy their music?

For how long can the rest of the artists keep on playing ‘good boy/girl’ while everything around them is up in flames and the same masses they expect to come to their shows are suffering?

As Zimbabweans, we await the day when our artists are able to freely express themselves without any fear of intimidation tactics or reprisals from those that are said to have been ‘elected’ (or is it ‘erected’ into power.

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