Mukanya’s thrill, vibe still intact

Mapfumo-Thomas.jpg

African musician Thomas Mapfumo from Zimbabwe and his band The Blacks Unlimited perform Chimurenga music of Zimbabwean protest and struggle at Central Park SummerStage, New York, New York, Sunday, July 19, 1992. CREDIT: Photograph © 1992 Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

‘Mukanya delivers’

I would be remiss not to do this follow up story for informational purposes. No, I did not make it to Harare for the Thomas Mapfumo show as I had duties at Trade Fair to attend to. The caption above is therefore not an original caption of this paper. I did not make it to Harare and neither did my colleagues Tuso and Kamangeni deliver on their promise to take me to the show.

State of the Art with Admire Kudita

African musician Thomas Mapfumo from Zimbabwe and his band The Blacks Unlimited perform Chimurenga music of Zimbabwean protest and struggle at Central Park SummerStage, New York, New York, Sunday, July 19, 1992.
CREDIT: Photograph © 1992 Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Glamis Arena teemed

I hear that close to 10 000 fans thronged the Glamis Arena in Harare and that they were a kaleidoscope of people. It was a motley crowd, I am reliably informed.Young and old came to watch the lion roar the night away. I know most definitely that the Highfield, Mufakose, Mabvuku and Mbare massive “massed” Glamis. I am chuckling as I write because of pictures in my head . . . I know that it was a right feast for the ghetto youths, whom a colleague called “search masters”.

‘Search masters’

These are pick pockets with the deftest of touches. They pick locks and pockets. They relieve you of valuables with the speed of lightning. They used to love Mukanya shows back then and I imagine that on Saturday night they were blessing their gods for the buffet.

All this petty hustling takes place while the lush sound of mbira reverberates in the stadium. Do not sleep and do not blink because they are gone by the time you reach for your pocket. “Muriko here uko?” (Are you there?) That is a question you would typically hear from the maestro amidst the whistles.

The vibe in a Mukanya show always carried a certain potency and small wonder the fans were served with what some of us remember from yesterday.

Mukanya in his element is a master of song and the genre he helped pioneer alongside sidekicks such as the late guitarist Jonah Sithole who those in the know will tell you was among the first to emulate the mbira sound on electric guitar.

This sound became the signature of Mukanya’s sound.

Latterly, guitarists such as Manu Jera and Ashton “Sugar” Chiweshe would add their own distinct essence to Chimurenga music.

Legend things

But Mukanya is a legend. Now 72, he sits in a rarified place reserved for titans. His essence made his fans’ heart grow fond. Close to four hours of music by any measure, is a big “ask”. Zimbabwean music fans are spoilt generally.

Overseas, even big names such as the Rolling Stones will generally not exceed two hours. One hour per act is standard and the fans know it. In Zimbabwe it is another matter altogether. The fans bay for blood if you try to follow international best practice. Now, how do you stretch your set to four hours?

Simple. Have a huge catalogue of hit material! Not so simple!

But I kind of had an idea that the lion was sufficiently “provoked” to seek to show the critics that the thrill is not gone from him. Every one is happy about the show. If like me you did not attend the show or turned back because of the reported challenges at entry points, you will have to wait for next time. In the meantime let me extend my gratitude to Mukanya for gracing his fans with his musical presence and to Entertainment Republic for organising the historic homecoming show.

Black Twitter divides

Across the Atlantic, a serious cultural development is taking place. We do always have to cast a keen eye. Last week was rather eventful with Bill Cosby being convicted on three counts of rape. The victim is Andrea Constand, who at some point took a US$3,4 million out-of-court settlement to kill the sex abuse story. Karma does not forget to deliver the goods. Karma seems to have the longest memory. Thus, Cosby awaits sentencing as I write.

No ordinary artist

William Cosby at 80 is an iconic black entertainer. He changed the perception of blacks in mainstream media using the agency of television. Representation through motion picture imagery is very powerful. The Blaxploitation movies of the 1970s cast blacks in stereotypical roles of drug dealers, pimps and hustlers, further entrenching racist attitudes people of African Americans for instance.

Bill Cosby, an educated black brother, introduced the reality of an affluent black community the world had never seen through The Cosby Show sitcom in which he starred playing medical doctor Cliff Huxtable who was married to Phylicia Rashad’s lawyer.

It was a powerful and definitive moment for the world to watch a well spoken and cohesive black family unit against a backdrop of absentee fathers who generally are institutionalised. The problem of black male incarceration in America is endemic. There is a ravenous monster in America and it is called the prison industrial complex monster which requires constant feeding. The prisons are privatised and run by private corporations. It is as morbid a business as the funeral parlour business.

Role model tainted?

But Bill Cosby had been one of the exceptional black actors in Hollywood who had such influence that they could choose plum roles. As a comic Bill Cosby was known for his clean humour and obvious wit. I remember watching the Cosby Show together with cartoon series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. There was always that overt sense of responsible life affirming entertainment.

In recent times, Bill Cosby has been highly critical of young black men who sag their pants and act irresponsibly. He was of course criticised by some for picking on young black men’s behaviour. Ironically, the person who ignited public interest in Bill Cosby’s womanising ways is a young black comedian by the name of Hannibal Burress. Privately, it turns out that Mr Cosby may have sipped too liberally from Lady Fame’s seductive yet poisoned chalice. The #MeToo movement is yet to claim a white male offender, however.

Parting shot

Black Twitter, mainly in America, is divided at present with some expressing disgust at Bill Cosby’s antics and others smelling a conspiracy to bring down a notable black man. They ask, why is it happening now? There is also a sister who has just released a video in support of Bill Cosby on YouTube. She basically expresses her indifference to the number of white women Bill Cosby is alleged to have drugged and raped.

According to her, what matters is that Bill Cosby is a black man and black women have suffered rape for a long time in America and no white man ever got arrested. The lesson here perhaps is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Malcolm X did not really die and neither did the Ku Klux Klan.

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