|Thomas Mapfumo: A rebel who has lost the cause|
|Thursday, 02 August 2012 21:31|
As the dreadlocks fly in all directions, the man starts singing in a trance-like stunt, his deep bellowing voice blending with the twing-twang of the sacred mbira, a shifting tapestry of percussion, plunking guitars and a heartthrob of pounding drums. The cross-rhythm from the African drum seals the music magic.
The female backing vocals add the final spice as systematically, song after song moves on with revolutionary lyrics and melodies.
“Wakadiiko yahwee? Ndakuo-o-o-na!” intermittently comes the personalised greetings in affable Korekore dialect synonymous with the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve.
That was then, the genius in Zimbabwe’s Chimu-renga music icon Thomas Tafirenyika Mapfumo, who earned himself a buffet of sobriquets as arguably one of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated international musicians.
Some among his legion of fans the world over named him Mukanya after his totem, the baboon, whose staggering gait, he imitates in his half-trance stance when singing.
Others named him “The Lion of Zimbabwe” after his brave lyrics, naturally deep voice and dreadlocks that look like the mane of a male lion.
At the end Mukanya looked like a male lion and its huge mane.
Many of his fans in the United States called him Hurricane Hugo, after that storm that brought down buildings and left many people stranded, the same year he held his first show there.
The nickname came after the way he arrived for his tours which left many fans trailing for more. Other fans called him Gandanga (rebel), Tafirenyika, Muchadura or simply Thomas. He had an Honorary Masters Degree bestowed upon him by the University of Zimbabwe in 1999, for his sterling music career.
That is one side of Thomas Mapfumo. There is a second side of him and for sure, when you talk to him it depends on which Thomas is there that day.
Here is the second side. Mapfumo, an iconic figure of the liberation struggle through his music, moved with the national mantra for the first decade or so, but the sobriquets seem to have gotten into his head and clouded his thinking.
This villager plays Mukanya’s music on a daily basis not because Mukanya comes from the village next door, but because there is a genius in him. But the truth of the matter is that there are two versions of Thomas Mapfumo. There is the Mapfumo who is a music genius and then there is a Mapfumo who is extremely arrogant, combative and confrontational. Reckless with words. The rebel who has lost his cause!
When Mapfumo, the music genius, goes on stage the music flows and the world around reverberates.
But when Mapfumo the rebel without cause, speaks, he is reckless about anything, his country included.
In the village, the idyll is that those with cotton tuft hair on their heads do not get that for free, but through years of wisdom, yet for Mapfumo, the cotton tuft hair seems to have been mere decorum.
It defies the universality of logic, but what with a world where common sense is no longer common?
But, what with a world where musicians sing for their supper? What with a world where selling out one’s country is more fashionable than defending it on principle?
Last weekend, Mapfumo finally played in London after a long time of bungling but thereafter, he granted an interview to journalists and hey, his vitriol, defied his age, assumed wisdom and experience.
“I live and perform in the United States to people who have their own means. A lot of people have been suggesting it will be better if I went back to Zimbabwe, but how do I ask people who are struggling to just get by to pay and watch me sing? I could not do it.
“The idea of driving around in a lovely car in a sea of poverty just doesn’t sit well with me. I look at people like Philip Chiyangwa who boast about their wealth, if he has such kind of money, why doesn’t he come to Hollywood?
“My hope is that those who have been voting Zanu-PF will remove those blinkers at the next election and change the course of the country,’’ said Mapfumo.
At the age of 67, one would expect Mapfumo to understand that being foul-mouthed about one’s country, without detail does not make one a hero.
It actually makes one look stupid and silly.
For starters, who does not know how Mapfumo left this country in the middle of a storm over an alleged vehicle scandal?
Mapfumo, who went into self-imposed exile, wants people to think that he is a victim of Zimbabwe’s politics, yet he ran away on his own accord and he is certainly not immune to the law.
Mapfumo first showed signs of being eccentric and obsessed with America when he released the song Big in America on his album, Manhungetunge.
In the song, Mapfumo says everything was big in America, music, people, roads, money and, everything. Poor Thomas! That is how he became brainwashed to the point of thinking that Zimbabweans are living in abject poverty.
Now, you see, Mapfumo, who lives in Oregon, claims Chiyangwa should go to Hollywood if he has plenty of money. And what about himself?
Surely, if Mapfumo was as great as he thinks he is, he should be in Hollywood himself not in Oregon? Is this not a case of the pot calling another black?
If Mapfumo was the father of Chimurenga music and a real liberator of the people as he claims, why did he abandon the people and run away from the country and not stand by the people of Zimbabwe in their trying time under sanctions? How can his heart be with the people when he is that far away and not stopped by anything from coming home, except himself?
Here is an unpatriotic musician who is singing for his supper and pretends to be the most patriotic Zimbabwean. In the village, the horizon does not disappear as you run towards it and Thomas Mapfumo must know that the people of Zimbabwe actually feel pity for him as a rebel who has lost the cause.
If Mapfumo was home, with the vast talent he had, and a good manager, he would be someone else but, lo and behold, the genius has lost the moral compass and focus. The village soothsayer, the autochthon of knowledge and wisdom, says Mapfumo, is the one living in abject poverty, but is ashamed to come back home with nothing to show for all the years he has lived in self-imposed exile.
“Why are you worried about a man who is cheating himself? He has nothing to show for all the years he has stayed in self-imposed exile!
“To laugh at other poor villagers in his own country is akin to a baboon laughing at each other’s buttocks, for they are all scarred,” says the soothsayer.
Whoever is feeding Mukanya with wrong information has actually done a disservice to him. Mapfumo should come back home and see for himself.
Why not come back and rejuvenate his music career than pour scorn on his own people?