“Singing the nation!” – By Brain Garusa

Zimbabwe, as seen in the eyes of Zimbabwean gospel music.

In recent times local gospel artists have grown a certain fondness about the motherland that attracted my interest. As a result I chose a few songs from some big names that graced the local gospel scene.

It’s not a new phenomenon that poets, novelists, musicians among other art producers have something to say about their lives, families, countries and continents. It is in the interest of this notion that I want to explore what our gospel musicians say about the nation Zimbabwe. Artists across genres have sung about Zimbabwe across decades. For example Taso, Mapfumo, Chimbetu and others have tracks on Zimbabwe and Africa in general.

Authors and commentators agree that Zimbabwe as a nation passed through a period they referred to as the ‘decade of crisis’ (Raftopolous 2009). It’s interesting to note that the songs under scrutiny were released in such a period or even soon after the crisis (that is if the nation is even out of the crisis). As a result, it’s also interesting that the paper try to scrutinize what the artists are saying in a period like that. Thus gospel music becomes an arena of its own where ways of thinking and communication are conveyed.  Gospel music ‘intervenes in and exerts an influence on discussions taking place in other sectors.” (Thorsen 2004:9) It is also time to reflect into the thoughts of the Christian community as they pass through a period of political and economic crisis.

In the track Kwedu kuZimbabwe, Fungisai commenced by welcome remarks to the ‘jewel of Africa’. Hers is a song of praise of what she calls the “heart” of Africa as well as the Africa that possesses that “heart”. She uses idioms that are common to the traditional African life such as “kunorira huku” (where the crow crows), “kunotamba pwere” (where the children play) and where the drum beats. This presents us a Zimbabwe full of joy and happiness. Looking into the time and space of the album’s release, one wonders where the joy emanates from. In this case I am trapped into the context-authorship debate in as far as art is concerned. It is probably a period when the country experienced unprecedented levels of inflation, high costs of living and lack of basic commodities, just to mention a few.

However, in the midst of all the misery Fungisai is not seeing this gloomy picture of the nation. As a result she looks into the natural landscape of the country and comfort is found. It is the nation that possesses Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, Chinhoyi caves, flowing rivers, marvellous mountains among other things. Besides that, the country has God fearing, loving people. That makes the country an even more favourable destination for tourists and visitors. She argues that “You may take me out of Zimbabwe, You can take me out of Africa but you cannot take it out of me” This is an indication of how Zimbabweans and Africans are rooted in their motherland. She ventured in one of the themes literature address, which is exile. She admits that though one maybe uprooted from Africa and Zimbabwe in particular, Zimbabwe will always be in the mind, heart and soul of the exiled man.  

Like Fungisai, Mhere sings about the natural pride of the nation. ‘Ndinoda udade Zimbabwe une chiso chinodadisa’ (Be proud Zimbabwe for you have a beautiful face). The country is personified to a beautiful looking face. It is of great interest to know what beautifies the face referred to. As portrayed in the song it is the wonderful flora and fauna, wonderful rivers, caves, mountains the nation boasts of. It’s a public secret that the nation has wonders that make the world envious of it. These include the famous Victoria Falls, Nyangani Mountains, Chinhoyi caves just to mention but a few.

Mhere makes it clear that these natural and manmade features are a source of tourist attraction. Thus he argues ‘Vamwe vanoshanya kwauri vachibva kure kure’ (they came from faraway lands to see you). As a result of all these facts the artist insists that there is no need to worry about a nation in possession of such tremendous beauty. The artist encourages Zimbabwe to be calm and find a reason to praise the Lord. It’s true the nation should not be hopeless in the midst of such wealth of natural resources.

However the question remaining is, does that beauty the nation possesses as preached by Mhara and Fungisai give the necessary prerequisite to be comfortable? Such question draws our attention to what Takesure Zama and the famed Pastor Charamba say about Zimbabwe. Minerals, game parks, rivers, mountains, hot springs are not enough to bring food, happiness and satisfaction to the citizenry. As a result Charamba and Zama try to offer alternatives so that the nation realises its full potential.

For Zama it is the spiritual aspect that matters. Zama’s track is a powerful call to the Lord, who is able to do wonders in covering up our shortfalls as natural beings. His is a lamentation that acknowledges Zimbabweans’ attempt to make their way out of the predicament they found themselves especially at the peak of the crisis.

Thus he says ‘Nyangwe zvikaoma zvikasvikepi, vakadzidza vakazvitadza, nyika dzimwe dzikatiseka, Hatingaperehwi netariro.’(No matter how difficult it may become, where the intellectuals fail to find remedy while we become a laughing stock of other nations we will never lose hope). Such a strong will only makes one eager to know the solution the artist offers. As is the norm in the Christian community, Zama is convinced that God loves the nation, since they are his children. Hence there is no need to panic.

Zama is of the view that the all knowing good is capable of spearheading a turnaround to the nation’s fortunes. As such when everything else fails, they will just call their loving God. Zama concludes the track with a call that Zimbabwe may be lifted above all other nations and he calls on the Almighty to hear the cry of his people. However, as it is in Mhere and Fungisai’s cases, there are still questions in the alternative(s) Zama offer(s) on whether they are viable. The role of culture in modern Africa becomes complicated and unpredictable. It seems Zama has relegated the intellectual and international community’s capacity to help in the realisation of national dreams. So if it’s so what will be God’s agency in helping the nation?

The question draws us to Pastor Charamba’s view in his track Nyika yeZimbabwe. Charamba first took a romantic stance in his appreciation of the natural richness of the country. Like Fungisai and Mhere, he is convinced that the nation is blessed with precious minerals, eye catching flora and fauna, rivers among other needed resources. One of the fundamental instruments he acknowledges is the vast human resource base the nation has that has the abilities and capabilities of performing wonders. Thus he says, ‘makatipa chipo chekusevenza isu maZimbabwe tinotenda’ (thank you for giving us the will and zeal to work).

Charamba went a step forward in acknowledging that there are leaders here on earth who need divine wisdom in executing their duties. As a result, Charamba embarked on an intercessory call for parliamentarians, traditional leaders, security personnel, spiritual leaders and most of  the Zimbabwean community around the globe.

What differentiates Charamba’s view from that of Zama is that he doesn’t want them to fail the nation. As a result he prays for the protection of academics in foreign lands. Like the old man in Arrow of God, he wishes that those outside should learn how they do things there and bring the knowledge home. Therefore any academic, intellectual and scientific achievements should bring forth solutions to the nation’s woes. Thus he argues that ‘fundo yatawana kukunda dzimwe nyika ngaitipundutse’ (new educational discovery should help us). It seems Charamba is not satisfied with the tag that the nation boasts one of the highest literacy rates yet still stuck in various political, economic and social problems.

Apart from those on academic and diplomatic missions outside the country, Charamba did not forget economic pilgrims in the Diaspora. It seems he is aware of the strong wave of Zimbabwean population that flocked out of the country as the crisis escalates. Authors and critics are of the same view that this section is of paramount importance to the sustenance of living to a lot of Zimbabweans. The Diaspora community have remitted back home which helped those left home to survive.

One of the artist’s achievements lies in his call for peace in the country. He argues that ‘nguva dzatingapesana maonero Mwari baba mutiyananise’ (make us find peace when we conflict each other). In this instance he took a realistic stance in acknowledging that we are not always at peace with each other. Hence, he wants Zimbabweans to agree to disagree than allowing disagreements to lead them into chaos. This peaceful existence should spill in the entertainment and religious arenas. Not forgetting that the nation is angered on agriculture, Charamba intercedes for rains so that the nation may be successful.

When all is warm home, Charamba calls for better friends internationally. The nation cannot survive in isolation yet it needs to join international organisations that can make it realise its dreams. This is a wise call especially when the big powers are in fierce wars for control and influence in these neo-colonial times.  

Apart from the loaded lyrics from the artists, they all have shown an illustrious mastery of coordination of their instruments and other techniques in conveying their messages. For example Fungisai and Mhere use personification in their depiction of Zimbabwe. Zama and Charamba use intercessions in ode form which reveals how they feel about their nation. Charamba stands out above by using various languages i.e. Shona, Ndebele and English in his track. This helps him to cater and appeal to a large audience in and outside the country.

Zimbabwean gospel music as a subgenre in the nation shows that it has something to say to the nation about the state of the nation. They refused to be silent on what they perceive regarding the motherland. As Chitando argues, Fungisai took a nationalistic view on Zimbabwe. Mhere followed suit and they seem to agree that Africa and Zimbabwe in particular, have a reason to celebrate because of the wealth they have. This is depicted in their romantic celebration of such wealth. Charamba and Zama still need spiritual guidance so that such natural resources Zimbabwe have will live to its potential. They don’t want to see the nation hooked in the ‘paradox of plenty’. They don’t want to see these resources turned into curses. Charamba seems to be aware that the nation needs a peaceful coexistence from within and without for it to realise its full potential. There is also need for complementary relationship between the spiritual and the physical. Through their music the artists under discussion join some of the most important political and economic discourses that can be used in development and policy making.

 

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