The big story on the Zimbabwe entertainment scene is the Thomas ‘Mukanya’ Mapfumo comment on dancehall sensation Winky D.
The outspoken legendary Chimurenga Music maestro was quoted in the Zimbabwean daily Newsday as saying:
I listen a lot to what the likes of Winky D are singing and my heart bleeds. People like Winky D are destroying Zimbabwean music. What he sings is not our music. He can enjoy the success now, but that kind of music does not last.
Tuku and myself would not have made it musically if we had done stuff like that. Only Winky D’s friends and relatives will buy that kind of music. He must be original to survive in music.
Of course this has caused an uproar among Winky D’s fans who just simply called the old guy a hater. Now I can see where they are come from because Winky D is one of the most sort after artists around.
Winky D is a talented performer who has the world at his feet right now and with his work ethic he deserves every bit of success he is enjoying.
However one needs to step back and think of what Mukanya is actually saying here. If you go and listen to music from other countries it is merely the updating the sound of the culture that country. One can borrow from other cultures but in essence the sound must be faithful to that of the artist’s own country. Think of the difference between South African House and Nordic House. While they may borrow from the same source they retain the core of the sound of their countries.
With a lot of Zimbabwean artists it seems as if the idea is to erase the Zimbabwean culture and replace it with American or Jamaican culture. We are good at creating knock-offs. Very little of what we produce is original but it is all about the going-concern such that many artists don’t even know their sound. It is sheer laziness and an unwillingness to be creative.
Mukanya has seen other people go the same way and he knows what he is talking about.
Now that having been said one has to also realise that people like Mukanya are responsible for the status of music at the moment. I remember a time when anyone who made a sound that remotely sounded like his would be beaten up by his thugs. So a generation of musicians was forced to look elsewhere for inspiration. And this sort of attitude is not just in the arts. People just don’t network and when they have a bit of success they never let anyone in on the secret.
Also I think that a lot of credit has to be given to guys like Winky D who are trying even if for personal gain to keep Zimbabwean music on the map. Yes, I will agree that his sound will not compete with other music internationally but he is proudly Zimbabwean (he even sings in shona) and he represents a section of Zimbabwe whose heroes are often shunned. The dynamics have changed and the challenges of the world have changed with them. So the path to glory is now different.
However in terms of creativity and Zimbabwean music, that’s on life support.