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On Wednesday the much-loved Mtukudzi performed for around 15 minutes at the so-called million-man march organised by the Zanu-PF Youth League to show support for their 92-year-old leader who is battling to contain factionalism in his party over his successor.
About 50 000 party supporters attended the march. Other musicians who performed included Soul Jah Love and gospel artist Mathias Mhere. It is Mtukudzi’s performance however that has generated the most debate given his legendary status in Zimbabwe.
In an exclusive interview with Nehanda Radio on Thursday evening, the blunt talking Mapfumo said popular artists like Mtukudzi should be seen standing on the side of the “poor people of Zimbabwe” and not endorsing the same regime behind their suffering.
“Its always good over evil. These people they are eating with are evil. They have destroyed the careers of many musicians. They destroyed Simon Chimbetu’s career. They destroyed the career of my dear friend, the late Andy Brown. They are also destroying Jah Prayzah’s career. They are using him. Even Oliver (Mtukudzi) is being used by these people.”
“Lets be seen to be standing with the suffering masses. Did you see Beyonce, she has lots of money but that did not stop her from using her Super Bowl performance to support the Black Panther movement. To show that she is standing with the suffering masses.”
In the past Mtukudzi has performed at the wedding of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, something that his supporters say shows he is apolitical and will perform for any group that is willing to meet his performance fee.
Asked about this, Mapfumo was not buying the argument.
“Come on guys, have they been imported from another country? In the same country that you can see that people are suffering. Maybe if it was another artist from another country we could say maybe they did not know the political and economic situation. But these are musicians who know exactly the suffering that has been brought on by this regime.”
“To go and perform and effectively support people like this… zvakaoma (this is hard) and this is scary,” Mapfumo told Nehanda Radio from his base in the United States.
So why are these musicians performing at political gatherings?
“Inzara (they are hungry),” Mapfumo said.
“By accepting this money from this regime, these musicians forget that they have contributed to oppressing their own people. The same poor people we are supposed to be standing with and help fight the system. Its us the musicians who have a voice to be used in standing with the people. We should be pointing out whats right and whats wrong. They might have gone to sing for people but its really about who hired them,” Mapfumo added.
In the book “Tuku Back Stage” written by Shepherd Mutamba, the musician’s former publicist claims “In October 2010, Tuku accepted a gift of US$87 000-worth of state-of-the-art studio equipment directly from the President Robert Mugabe .
“He (Tuku) told me about the gift and showed me the equipment that he kept under lock and key, right in his office and not in the store room,” Mutamba claimed.
Its not the first time artists have been called out for performing for rogue individuals or regimes. American singer Mariah Carey found herself at the centre of a storm after performing at a New Year’s Eve concert for the family of Muammar Gaddafi.
Carey said she felt “horrible and embarrassed” about the incident despite pocketing $1m (£615,500) for the gig.
“I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from,” Carey said. “We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately, we as artists are to be held accountable.”
Other singers like Nelly Furtado and Beyoncé also found themselves in the eye of the storm after performing at private events for the Gaddafi family, earning massive pay cheques. Just like Carey, Beyoncé also claimed she had no idea who had hired her. by Lance Guma