MUSIC since time immemorial has often been used to push social causes. It is a proven and effective tool in sending messages across.
Alphonse de Lamartine put it simply: “Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where the speech ends.”
And this is what many renowned musicians have done with courage and boldness, like what Zimbabwean superstar Winky D is doing on his latest body of work called Eureka Eureka!
The 39-yer-old dancehall wizard mainly sings about social issues and his surroundings, although he has not gone into hard politics.
And it is all the more surprising that some people, in their knowledge or lack thereof, have desperately tried in vain to pigeonhole his music.
For all we know, Winky D has not come out in the open aligning himself with any political party in his country.
He thrives on using poetic licence in putting across his messages.
Whether abstract or realism, it is open to different interpretations, like the Bible verses whose interpretations vary from one preacher to the other.
Politicians, being who they are, have a tendency of taking the messages that suit them to their advantage.
So, in taking a deeper analysis, the debate about Winky D’s album Eureka Eureka should not be taken in the context of Zanu PF or CCC politics.
Rather it should be taken in the context of what the man sings about.
On Dzimba Dzemabwe, featuring soulful Shingai, the artistes cry out for what Zimbabwe, the motherland, has become: poverty, corruption and poor social service delivery system.
Shingai on the chorus sings: “is this the land we cried for, we died for, musadaro (please don’t do that).”
In the hit, the artistes bemoan the deteriorating social services delivery, hunger and youth unemployment.
Are these not the social ills confronting our beloved Zimbabwe, a country once named the breadbasket of the continent? Of course they are!
And they not only affect supporters of a particular political group, but indeed the generality of Zimbabweans.
Winky D continues with the same theme on Ibotso, which features rapper Holy Ten.
Ibotso which loosely translates to a struggle, talks to the political elites — the haves and the have nots.
Zimbabwe ranks highly as one of the most corrupt countries.
The song opens with a disclaimer, with Winky D stating that he is only a musician and nothing else.
In that track, he talks about the political elites who abuse taxpayers’ money and spend it on miserable “ghetto youths” to their advantage.
And it is the same message on Chauruka, featuring Tocky Vibes, where he takes a dig at praise singers.
“Pride goes before a fall,” he sings.
Many a time people forget that they should not look down on those they encounter on their way up because they will surely meet the same faces during their downfall.
What is all the more remarkable is that Eureka Eureka is a collaborative effort. Winky D expertly reached out to some of the talented musicians in the country at the moment. They range from ExQ, Saintfloew, Tocky Vibes, Herman to Bazooka, Enzo Ishall and Poptain.
But the manner in which the songs aptly portray the Zimbabwe of today is what has made his latest offering an instant hit with his legion of loyal fans, and even those who do not necessarily follow him with keen interest.
Since he burst onto the scene, Winky D has stayed relevant because his music resonates with his fans and critics alike.
Songs like Green Like Mi Garden inspire youths to do good and hope for a better life while on Mafira Kureva he condemns alcohol and substance abuse.
And the song 25 off his Extraterrestrial series, Winky D speaks against oppression, often suffered by the people of Zimbabwe at the hands of their rulers.
In all his interviews, Winky D maintains that he is “poor people’s devotee”.
That said, it is futile for any government or political party to silence a musician who is singing about social issues affecting people whilst not addressing the same problems.
Throughout social media, there has been a polarised context and interpretation of Winky’s latest offering. But reality is that musicians have always used music as channel through which people express themselves and it is their right to do so.
However, Winky D should be careful not to entangle himself in the polarised national politics of Zimbabwe.
And sadly, that debate has already landed him there, if social media is anything to go by and Winky D will be classified.
What Winky D now needs is an intelligent public relations person who will spark informed debate and deal effectively with the polarisation.
Yet music is about big causes.
Miriam Makeba, who was nicknamed Mama Africa for her role in anti-apartheid activism in South Africa – was a singer, songwriter, actress, and civil rights champion.
She was an advocate against the evils of apartheid.
Throughout her career, Makeba insisted that her music was not consciously political. In an interview with The Times of Britain, she said: “I’m not a political singer, I don’t know what the word means. People think I consciously decided to tell the world what was happening in South Africa. No! I was singing about my life, and in South Africa we always sang about what was happening to us — especially the things that hurt us.”
Also in South Africa, Hugh Masekela once performed a song called Change, which was against authoritanism in Africa. He sang:
Hey Robert Mugabe don’t you think it’s time to say goodbye
Hey Robert Mugabe don’t you think it’s time to say goodbye
Hey . . .
The Zimbabwean government was rattled by the verse which referenced former president Mugabe. And at some point Masekela could not perform in Zimbabwe following the release of the song.
Masekela was deeply affected by his life experiences, and therefore made music that reflected his encounter with the harsh political climate of South Africa during the 1950s and 1960s.
Masekela’s music therefore portrays the struggles and joys of living in South Africa, and voiced protest against slavery and discrimination.
His 1987 hit Bring Him Back Home became the anthem for Nelson Mandela’s world tour, following his release from prison in 1992.
Slain reggae musician Lucky Dube also sang about equality, crime rate, social injustices and homelessness in South Africa.
His songs relate to many Zimbabweans too.
The Zimbabwean legend Oliver Mtukudzi did the same, albeit in a subtle way.
His 2005 Bvuma/Tolerance album stands out as it speaks about tolerance, humility, peace and human rights.
The track Wasakara (you’re too old) came at a time when there was dissent over President Mugabe’s long rule.
While critics were quick to say Wasakara was targeted at president Mugabe, Mtukudzi said it was not the case.
He remarked that he was in fact referring to himself after he started seeing his children growing up.
He followed Wasakara with yet another hit Murimi Munhu in which he criticised the manner in which the land reform programme was executed and also on Hatidi Hondo where he condemned violence.
The song was inspired by the often chaotic land and agrarian reforms in which some commercial farmers were killed.
Tuku’s messages were subtle, but he made it easy to read between the lines. And his ability to stay above party politics made him the superstar that he was.
Another Zimbabwean heavy hitter Thomas Mapfumo has been consistently singing for the downtrodden masses.
In pre-Independent Zimbabwe, Mapfumo spoke against the white minority rule led by Ian Smith.
And at Independence in 1980, Mapfumo – who now lives in self-imposed exile in the United States – continued singing against the oppressive and corrupt black rule.
Mapfumo stubbornly and openly criticised the powers that be through his Chimurenga music, a genre he birthed and mastered.
One of the songs in which Mapfumo opened criticised president Mugabe’s rule was Pasi Inhaka. On Chimurenga Exile there are two songs Chirwere and Taitadza Zimbabwe which speak about the deteriorating Zimbabwean situation.
He came out strongly against corruption following the uncovering of the Willowgate Scandal.
Other artistes, the likes of Solomon Skuza, also sang against corruption in Love and Scandal.
The likes of Leonard Karikoga Zhakata used lyrical prowess to put across his messages, criticising the status quo. His song Mubikira addresses selective application of law by those in power.
One of the most prominent rappers of all time, Tupac Shakur, was known for his social activism against police brutality, inequality and oppression.
2Pac is widely considered one of the most influential rappers of all time and among the best-selling music artistes, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide.
Much of Shakur’s music has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of activism against inequality. If you listen to Whie Man’s World, Brenda’s Got a Baby which addresses women’s empowerment and changes, you appreciate how 2Pac was well versed with his surroundings.
Last but not least, the iconic Jamaican Bob Marley was simply revolutionary.
Marley inspired struggles across the world and the song Get Up Stand Up, One Love and even Zimbabwe, a track he performed at Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980, was well thought out.
Marley’s contributions to music increased the visibility of Jamaican music worldwide, and made him a global figure in popular culture to this day. Over the course of his career, Marley became known as a Rastafari icon, and he infused his music with a sense of spirituality.
He is also considered a global symbol of Jamaican music, culture and identity, and was controversial in his outspoken support for democratic social reforms.
He also supported the legalisation of marijuana and advocated Pan-Africanism.