In the Groove: Can music influence politics?

Music and these artistes have made a way for new generations to become involved in politics in a way that is understandable for them.

Music has sparked revolutions.

Just like presidential debates, music is a form of communication that addresses a point.

Artistes, like Thomas Mapfumo in the 1970s, have used their talents by making music, called protest songs, that intrigue audiences to address social issues such as injustice, race, war, and poverty.

This revolution in music and politics didn’t end with Mapfumo but became the norm in music as well-renowned artistes took the stage and became the figures of their time.

Like Mapfumo, other artistes such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Comrade Chinx, Simon Chimbetu, Andy Brown, Hosiah Chipanga and Energy Mutodi have become symbols for social change using their lyrics to get relatable messages across to their fans.

 Although it’s tough to predict how an audience will respond to political music, artistes followed the tradition of using music and their following as a medium to express their opinions.

They also shared the opinions of others that they deemed necessary. 

In the age of digital media, the 2000s have taken artistes to new extremes in which political views weren't only put into the lyrics of their songs but carried out through the use of social media.

Now, artistes could use outlets like Facebook, You Tube, Twitter (now called X), Instagram, Snapchat, etc., to persuade their followers to share not only a taste in music but also in political opinion.

We know how much social media has taken over people’s lives.

It’s also clear that a large source of our information about politics comes from these platforms.

With this in mind, artistes, like Jah Prayzah that have  over a million followers on their Facebook page alone, can influence voters in a matter of seconds with just one picture.

Although we cannot tell how many of these people that liked and commented on these photos went out to vote, we do know potentially a million people could react to this photo giving his voice and therefore the political candidates voice more attention.

Furthermore, artistes getting involved in political campaigns are successful because although many people disassociate themselves with politics, not many people disassociate themselves with music.

Music and these artistes have made a way for new generations to become involved in politics in a way that is understandable for them.

An 18-year-old might not open up ZBC News on the weekend, but will certainly open up Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets, and could result in a vote based off a singular post from their favourite artist.

Evidently, artistes are continuously linking music and politics and have become even more influential in today’s society.

With the use of digital journalism, social media has grown to become a platform for musicians to not only share music but to share and gain support in other areas of life. Music is the universal language and today’s artistes are certainly fluent.

 However, this attention could also backfire if artistes choose to use their platforms as a way to go against certain politicians and political views.

I was going to engage myself in the debate regarding music-cum-political entrants such as Enzo Ishall, Holy Ten, Jah Prayzah, Ricky Fire, Winky D, Poptain, D.J. Levels, Sandra Ndebele, Mambo Dhuterere  and Mbare Chimurenga Choir,  who use their music to deliver  messages which are deemed to be political, but Marshall Shonhai  who is well-known in social circles, an event planner, speaker and author of several books has beaten me to it.

He comments about three artistes who recently attended a Zanu PF party wearing Zanu PF regalia. He puts it succinctly as follows, and I quote him verbatim:

Open letter to Holy Ten, Enzo Ishall and Poptain.

Boys dzangu, I hope I find you well. I thought I would write to you as your older brother but I thought I would do this publicly since you all have also made a public statement not with words but in action.

Many Zimbabweans are mad and furious that you gentlemen rocked up at a party hosted by the president's children in Zanu PF regalia. It was the three of you amongst others whose relevance is insignificant really. This anger has had even a America-based promoter cancel some shows involving some of you guys. How unfortunate.

A few years ago I would have been part of the furious crowd and I would have "called you out" by now like most people are doing. I love you boys and you know it, I have had the privilege of working with you particularly Ten and Enzo, I only met Poptain recently and we have exchanged DMs. As for Ten and Enzo, you are my boys, I love you and I love your music this you know fully well.

Am I disappointed in your showing up in party regalia or in you taking a political stance? No, not at all. I actually laughed when I saw the pictures. I knew it was going to be a night of long knives for you all online. I knew Zimbabweans were going to have you for breakfast, lunch and supper, including a midnight snack 

This is an all too familiar script, we have watched this movie before and we know how it ends. The reason for this open letter is twofold, one is to tell you boys that you have rights and these rights are enshrined in the national constitution. The second reason for the letter is to tell you why some people are mad at you.

You have political rights gentlemen and the constitution says of these rights;

"Every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections and to make political choices freely, form, join and participate in the activities of a political party or organisation of their choice and campaign freely and peacefully for a political party or cause.

Every Zimbabwean citizen above 18 years has the right to vote secretly in elections and referendums and stand for public office and, if elected, to hold such office."

Before you gentlemen, musicians like Andy Brown, Tambaoga, Cde Chinx, Sandra Ndebele, Simon Chimbetu, Allan Chimbetu, Suluman Chimbetu, Jah Prayzah, Soul Jah Love, Thomas Mapfumo and the Mbare Chimurenga Choir to mention the prominent ones have all exercised this right before.

Sounds normal right?

Yes it does, but only if we were in a normal country. Unfortunately, ours is not a normal country guys.

Whilst the Zimbabwe constitution's Bill of Rights enshrines a number of rights including the rights of freedom of expression, rights of peaceful assembly as well as political participation. Sadly, due to restrictive legislation and downright dictatorship, most of these rights are not always respected and protected.

Your rights my boys are protected only because you have come out in support of Zanu PF the ruling party, had you come out in support of CCC, your music would have by now been silenced from the airwaves. Currently the music of living legend Thomas Mapfumo and that of superstar Winky D whom the three of you collaborated with on his latest album is muted on national radio because the two are considered anti establishment, they are considered "opposition" artists.

Before independence and some years after, Dr. Thomas Mapfumo openly sang for Zanu PF, things changed for him when he started singing and speaking for the people.

But did we not just read that every citizen of Zimbabwe has a right to "make political choices freely, form, join and participate in the activities of a political party or organisation of their choice and campaign freely and peacefully for a political party or cause."?

Yes we did, but then ours an animal farm where some animals are more equal than others.

Another example, let us pretend for a minute that Winky D does sing for the opposition, (whatever that means). We are pretending yet we all know that he simply sings social issues and advocates for the poor.

Let us say he does indeed sing for CCC, does he not have a right to do so the same way with you guys?

On paper yes, he does but in reality he does not.

This right only exists if you sing for or support Zanu PF like you my boys.

This is the real reason people are up in arms with you. I hope you guys get it. I hope you boys dzangu understand that people are mad at you for supporting a political party that has denied your fellow artists the right to do exactly what you are doing.

I hope you my boys understand that your party of choice has run down this nation. Yes, boys dzangu, you can be wined and dined but you should know that for the majority, the economy has failed.

The public and education systems have totally collapsed. I hope you my guys understand that the party you are supporting has presided over corruption, injustice and human rights abuse.

This boys dzangu is why people are mad at you, this is why many are going to cancel you and mute your music. This is why some promoters will stop giving you shows.

I on the other hand as your big brother, I will continue loving you and enjoying your music and will I also be here to tell you the truth once the chickens start coming home to roost.

For now, enjoy your rights, please exercise them fully but please just understand the reason why people are mad at you.

See you at the next gig!

Your loving big bro.






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