There he is the old lion surrounded by fellow musicians Oliver Mtukudzi, Andy Muridzo, Gary Tight and Tuku manager Walter Wanyanya at a presser concerning his upcoming show. Tomorrow legendary Chimurenga musician Thomas Mapfumo will stage a homecoming show at Glamis stadium in Harare. His publicist Blessing Vava had indicated that he would speak about the much touted music show. The artist freedom fighter spoke to issues of national importance instead.
As an elder statesman of the Zimbabwean cultural sector, he really was not out of his depth. After all, it is the same Mukanya who sang songs that became a sound track of our freedom struggle and the post colonial Zanu PF regime’s heady early days before falling out of their favour. Mukanya decried the country’s descent into the mediocrity of corruption and rent seeking kleptocrats through his songs till the situation became.
That is the popular narrative. The other less popular one you will have to do your own search. The following are excerpts from his press conference on which he spoke on a number of issues.
On his exile
“We thank you for gathering to see us. As you can see, wespent a long time overseas… 14 years is not a joke.
Where we went no one knew us; we were only known as people who sing. Never the less, we thank God and the ancestors We never thought we would come back again… The problem is the way things are done, the system of government. When we left the country was in a better condition we could drive on our roads, but now the roads resemble potato fields. Yes you have nice cars.”
On the youth
“But what we are asking is that as young people the legacy is yours and as such you must raise your heads. You must not be afraid of speaking out if you see something going wrong because you want to please someone, you must speak truth to power.If its good you must say it as well.” On religion, political parties and African unity
“I also believe that some of us go to church but we dont quite know what we are doing you are the bible…you are the bible…Don’t mind the preacher…You are the Bible, are you doing good…don’t you steal from people which is one of the reasons the country is down…people are hiding money in their houses…I am asking the young peopleto uplift their country…to love each other…we hear on socialmedia people insulting one another…don’t be separated by political parties…Africa is not united…Africa must not have borders..Africa is one so let’s be one…you young must people unite Africa…corruption will not end as long as Africa is not one.”
I will have left out some tid bits from Mapfumo’s presentation but the arc of his statement touched on pertinent issues. For a moment he sounded like a preacher or sage who has come round to the realisation of the futility of selfsh ambition and individualism. I mean here was Mapfumo who once had a much publicised rivalry with erstwhile music industry fellow Mtukudzi. There was a time indeed when music fans were split between the two legends. But clearly Mapfumo has turned a corner or maybe he never was a rival of Tuku. There is indeed a time in the past when the two worked together. I have seen an old picture of the two of them complete with bell bottoms almost the same height and looking very much like the colleagues they are.
Maybe it is us the media who love a gold ole rivalry between two prosperous music icons.
But it is only with passage of time that we can explain certain things. When we are young and testorone flows freely within our veins, judgement gets clouded. Zimbabwean fans will remember the more overt and long standing duel between the late musician Tongai Moyo and Alick Macheso.
The two strove to outdo one another with album releases that were laced with subliminal shots aimed at each other. With the death of Moyo, fan fascination with the conjured rivalry naturally dissipated.
Macheso seems listless nowadays though he is still dangerous on stage. Fickle fans have other musicians to fawn upon. Importantly tomorrow, the fans will see what they were long starved of: a stand off between two actual music titans with formidable music catalogues and international profiles. Competition is not a dirty word necessarily by the way. The fan or consumer always stands to benefit. Have the fans similarly moved on from Mapfumo and Tuku or will they throng?
Pamenus Tuso and Kamangeni Phiri will swear that there will be a bumper harvest at the Mapfumo gig. I believe they may be right. My reason is down to nostalgia and curiosity. I believe that fans are coming tomorrow night to see and hear a lion roar the night away again. I said last time that the lion has long been ensconced in a zoo in foreign lands. Tuso and Phiri raged at me and I know Vava was not amused with me.
Phiri was especially critical of me and they forgot that it is I who is their colleague not Mapfumo. But I have always enjoyed the lion’s music and I was not happy when he fled the country that many years ago because he was my Bob Marley of sorts. Every revolution needs its heroes. I suppose that it is easy for me to have felt that way whilst sitting in my comfortable armchair without any goons shadowing my fragile soul.
Mukanya has always been an enigma to me. Mapfumo’s self assuredness has always bordered on arrogance. No, the word is nonchalance. But all maestros are known for their ego. Ask those who have been trying to bring back another legend Lovemore Majaivana from the United States.
Mapfumo always knew how to milk an audience for all that it was worth making them wait for long intervals before delivering them from their fevered anticipation of his performances. I wonder how it shall be tomorrow.
Tuku will most definitely be eager to show he is not dead. Young Andy Muridzo will probably not believe his luck.
I hope he delivers. Gary Tight will do his thing as well. The promoters will hopefully count a lot of zeros aftewards. On the other side of the country, Jah Prayzer will be in Bulawayo trying to steal on the Trade Fair thunder.
Will the magic brew again at Mapfumo’s show? Will Mapfumo stage one of this year’s biggest showbiz comebacks? To die hard fans like Tuso, Mapfumo never really left. His music blared from their car radios incessantly even as other fans switched allegiances to newer artists such as Jah Prayzer and Winky D. Whilst the now fallen dictator ruled supreme and threatened a worthy son of the stone, Mapfumo’s Chimurenga music played in their bossoms. The musician remained defiant even from a distance and continued to offer his ideas about our country’spresent anfd future.
Music and politics
Judging from his presser, nothing has really changed about the lionised one. He remains our griot and keeper of our traditions, legends and myths. It is a good thing tomorrow night he will once again convene another bira for his believers, but I will be also watching closely to see whether or not the fire still burns.