I welcomed Zimbabwean’s award winning music legend Dr Thomas Mapfumo, popularly known as “The Lion Of Zimbabwe” or “Mukanya” on Just Jean Blog for an exclusive interview about his music, the Zimbabwe music industry, his life in United States Of America, the Political situation of Zimbabwe and of course his involvement in the New York demonstrations against Robert Mugabe in September. It was truly an honor to interview him and he was a delight to talk to. After the Interview I felt very enlightened and educated especially about the struggles in the music industry of Zimbabwe today. I hope my readers will find this interview as educational as I did.
Jean: Welcome to JUST JEAN Blog Dr Mapfumo, it is an honor to have you here on this platform. I have a lot of passion for Zimbabwe, especially the political situation and the entertainment Industry. I know you are also passionate about both of these aspects and how the Zimbabwe music industry has been shaped by the political crises. So I am very excited to hear what you have to say about it all.
Thomas Mapfumo: Thank you Jean I am happy to be here on your platform.
Jean: I understand that you are no longer based in Zimbabwe and you are now living in the USA. Why did you leave Zimbabwe and how has it affected your music positively or negatively?
Thomas Mapfumo: I left Zimbabwe to come here mainly because of my music. I wanted to expand my music to a bigger audience, and here in America that is where the music game is. It has affected me positively relocating here because I now collaborate with other African artists who are here and my music is greatly appreciated by Africans in the diaspora, which is a big community. I am still in the studio. I am still making music. I still do shows and last year I released my double album which features prolific songs like Danger Zone, which I bemoan the looming threat to world peace through acts of violence, terrorism and cruel dictatorships. My music is very relevant today and always carries deep messages in which a wider audience can relate to. So me moving here to America was very positive for my career.
Jean: Very interesting Dr Mapfumo. I was always under the impression that you sought political asylum in the USA because of the stories I have read in the media over the years. So are you saying your relocating to USA was not because of the Zimbabwe political situation and you are not an asylum seeker?
Thomas Mapfumo: No. I never sought any form of asylum in the USA. I am not an asylum seeker. I came to live here also because of my family. I am a family man and I have two brothers here and my children. I am here because of my family not because I was running away from Zimbabwe.
Jean: Since you say you are doing well in America and it was good for your music career, which I am sure upcoming musicians back home will admire. Would you advise young Zimbabwean artists who are struggling to follow what you did and leave Zimbabwe for a wider audience?
Thomas Mapfumo: No I would never advise them to leave Zimbabwe. They need to stay and flourish in Zimbabwe. Many artists are doing well in Africa. The answer is not always in leaving Zimbabwe but it is with the individual.
Jean: Why is it that Zimbabwean artists are not widely recognized on an international level like for example musicians from Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and other African Countries.
Thomas Mapfumo: The music industry in Zimbabwe has been destroyed completely. It doesn’t thrive anymore because the government has destroyed it. There is lack of promotion for the artists within the country. The minister of Arts and Culture Lazarus Dokora is hugely to blame because what he is doing is not right. For instance, my music has been banned in Zimbabwe because of my political stance, it can not be played on radio or television. Unfortunately, my music can no longer be aired in my own country because of my political stance. It’s very awful what they have done to me. Its not only my music that is not being promoted in Zimbabwe, a lot of artists lack that support on media platforms. If music is not promoted, it will not be listened to. The people of Zimbabwe need to promote their own musicians and listen to Zimbabwe music. We have lost our culture and we do not listen to our own music anymore. There’s no proper system to support the entertainment industry.
I come to places like the UK for shows and my audience is now the Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Years ago, I used to come to the UK and my audience for shows would be the English people. But I have now lost the English audience as I focus on the black African people in the Diaspora. They are now the people who fill my shows in the diaspora. Our people need to revisit our culture and appreciate our own music. No wonder why we cant be known for our music internationally but I can tell you that there are lot of great talents Zimbabwe can produce. Nigerian music for example, is highly patronized and appreciated because the structure of their music industry, laws and the people.
Jean: Another problem facing the Zimbabwean musicians is that they struggle to make a living through their music because of the political and economical situation. What should the musicians themselves do in order to make a living in Zimbabwe. What is their part to play.
Thomas Mapfumo: Yes the situation is very bad and its real. Musicians in Zimbabwe can not make money from their music because of the corrupt government. The problem is piracy and it is the Zimbabwean government behind the piracy. They even sponsor a company to pirate music. There is nothing the musicians can do because it is not their fault.It is the government behind it all. Which is very unfortunate. The government’s main problem is corruption and lawlessness. Until there is a positive change in governance, musicians would have to find ways to survive and not relying on the music as the source of living.
Jean: Talking about the Government of Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe, you have made your stance very clear publicly about where you stand. Recently you have been a very active member of the #ThisFlag movement started by Evan Mawarire. You participated in the New York Demonstrations against Robert Mugabe at the UN headquarters in September. The turn out for the demonstrations was very disappointing. People did not come out to support the movement when they were needed the most. What do you think was achieved by the New York Demonstrations against Mugabe despite the low turn out?
Thomas Mapfumo: Actually what really happened is, on the first day of the demonstrations, a lot of people turned up as planned. They were expecting to see Robert Mugabe arriving and shame him but Mugabe never turned up. He had heard about the demonstrations and chose not to come on the first day so the people got tired of waiting and left. The people did not show up the days afterwards. Mugabe showed up a few days later and that was his strategy hence the low turnout. We managed to achieve a lot despite the low turn out. We also got a lot of International support and granted interviews with lot of international media houses. I also gave a number of Interviews myself. Our voices where heard by a larger audience.
Jean: Talking of International Support for Zimbabwe, the question that always arise is what happens after we get the International Support and tell the world our story? What is the world going to do about it? How will they help Zimbabwe? They are not able to change Zimbabwe are they?
Thomas Mapfumo: Well yes its difficult because as much as we share our voices, there is only so much that can be done. We as a people lack unity and to achieve change, we have to unite. One thing the government has achieved is causing division among the people. Zimbabwe is very divided.
As for International support, it’s sad that the world leaders are silent about the Zimbabwe situation. Barack Obama remains silent on the Zimbabwe situation. The one who has been very outspoken about Zimbabwe is Donald Trump. He is the only person who has spoken out saying if he wins the presidential election he will remove Mugabe from power.
Jean: I have to say I like Donald Trump.To me he is way better than Hillary Clinton. I think his polices are better. I fear what will happen to the world if Clinton wins.
Thomas Mapfumo: You like Donald Trump? Why?
Jean: Well I am pro life. I can not stand anyone who supports the murder of babies. That is the first thing I look for in a good leader. Donald trump may not be the best candidate but his stance on moral and spiritual issues is very sound.
Thomas Mapfumo: Yes he is not a bad guy. He is okay but the biggest problem with him is that, he is a racist and he will not be good for our people. He wants America to be for whites only you know.
Jean: It is a very difficult one. We will watch how the elections play out. Dr Mapfumo it has been a pleasure talking to you and thank you for giving me your time. This has been a very enlightening experience for me. I feel I have gained an ounce of wisdom or two and I am sure my readers will feel the same. I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for all your contributions musically and as an activist, not only to Zimbabwe but to the world. Keep on doing what you are doing, you are an inspiration to many of us, Lion Of Zimbabwe. Thank you.
Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited: Danger Zone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGijmOHWZrU
You can visit Dr Mapfumo’s website on http://www.thomas-mapfumo.com/
After listening to Dr Mapfumo, I had to look at myself in the mirror and admit that I have been part of the Zimbabwean problem especially in the music industry. As a woman living abroad, I have developed a knew taste of music. Dr Mapfumo said we need to go back to our roots and culture when it comes to music. If we can’t support our own artists, how can we expect other nations to respect them. Though I listen to Zimbabwe music regularly, I am not doing my part to promote our struggling Zimbabwean artist. They need our International support as well. I will now use my platform on this blog to positively impact the Zimbabwean music industry and will do my bit to promote my fellow brothers and sisters. I hope all the Zimbabweans, whether abroad or in Zimbabwe will do same. Lets all unite and help our musicians get the recognition they deserve. Please let us stop supporting piracy. These musicians are working very hard to entertain us as well as supporting themselves. Lets do the honorable thing as a people and stop supporting the illegal activity of pirated music. Dr Mapfumo mentioned that local music is not promoted enough in Zimbabwe, but we can use social media as the best tool to promote Zimbabwe music to the next level.
Disclaimer: This is an exclusive Interview copyrighted to Jean Gasho’s Blog.