Brenda celebrated, local artistes shunned


LAST week was the 10th anniversary since South African songbird Brenda Fassie passed on. Many local papers dedicated space and reportage to her legacy.

She was celebrated and remembered on television and her music was played all week on radio stations. I write here of Zimbabwean stations and publications too. Phone-in programmes had people abuzz sending messages that celebrated her life and illustrious career. On social sites people temporarily changed their profile pictures for her images.

Some loaded links to her songs and videos and posted pictures of her on their timelines. No doubt about that, “maBree” was and will always be a legend and her music is timeless. She deserved all this praise and honour. My question at the end of it all does not begrudge Fassie and what the people did to celebrate her life after 10 years, but rather is a patriotic claim and observation to say the least.

I wish to ask all Zimbabweans and sundry if we cannot do the same for our local music heroes who have since passed on?

What stops us from celebrating the lives of musicians like Paul Matavire, Solomon S’kuza, Sam Banda, Chiwoniso Maraire, Fanyana Dube, Beater Mangethe, Ndux Malax, Andy Brown, Simon Chimbetu, Tongai Moyo, Lameck ‘Chikwari’ Moyo, Sizanani Moyo, Mxhe Kento Nkomo, Leornard Dembo, System Tazvida, Abson Ndebele and many others in the same way we celebrate those from Mzansi and asunder?

How many people in our country still remember exactly when these superstars left us and for how long they have been without us? Does it mean that they did not through their music touch our lives and souls the same way the likes of Fassie did? Did they not reach the legendary status in our country at least?

Would I be out of order if I noted that we as Zimbabweans seem to suffer from a serious inferiority complex at times when it comes to celebrating our own talent? Mzwakhe Mbuli once recited a poem about a nation in denial. Are we a nation in denial? When will it be cool to play Jeys Marabini music in a Mercedes-Benz? When will we sing our own songs proudly and hold our own artistes with high esteem?

I do not think this has anything to do with creativity at all. It is not that our people do not like local music, for Zimbo’s sake that is music sung in our own mother languages! Why then must it be inferior? The inferiority is assumed by a culture of classifying most foreign music and artistes as more classy and as high status compared to listening and dancing to local music.

It’s “cool” and “classy” to be tweeting, face booking and blogging about the Beyoncé, Solange and Jay-Z saga than it is to do the same about Ndolwane Super Sounds. Just imagine these stars were involved in a push, kick and shove in a lift last week and the incident went viral at the expense of 200 innocent girls kidnapped in Nigeria. That is how “plastic” our world has become. It’s all about “Keeping up with the Joneses” and Zimbabweans have not been left out.

I see no reason why it should be difficult to honour our late stars. If we cannot dedicate a day to each one of them then at least a week to all of them in a year should suffice. When we suggest festivals, a hall of fame, exhibitions the defence draw card is always lack of funds to do it.

Fair enough then, we could gazette a week in a year that is officially set aside to celebrate our yester-year greats. In that week we could do the same we have done for Fassie and Bob Marley. Television could show their biographies, their music could be played on radio stations throughout that week and local papers could publish articles dedicated to their lives and careers.

That costs us almost nothing as Zimbabweans, but just our conscience and appreciation. It may be farfetched to ask for, but how I long one day to see our children in schools read about the illustrious careers of former Zimbabwean musicians and actors and what they did for the country.

I hope one day they will crack their heads in exams trying to remember which song belonged to what artiste and try their best to remember when a particular artist passed on. I even hope they will do a practical criticism of their songs the same way we parroted who was minister of what when we went to school and the same way we dissected William Shakespeare’s work in our times at school.

I believe nobody will honour our own if we do not do it first. Keep walking.

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