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Are naive musicians used for political agendas?

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in the groove: with Fred Zindi
Integrity is a rare thing in the music industry, especially in these days without income due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many musicians have let money take precedence over their authenticity. Some of them end up selling their values ​​and beliefs for money.

There are two distinct forms of over-selling in terms of music. For example, there are those musicians who let their music be used by politicians for propaganda purposes at odds with their apparent values. Second, there are those musicians who sacrifice their musical integrity under pressure from politicians.

One incident I witnessed was that of the late Oliver Mtukudzi dying over an invitation from former President Robert Mugabe asking him to perform at the so-called March of a million men, which was to take place on the occasion of Africa Day in 2016.

He had a hard time refusing this invitation from the president because he feared the repercussions which he believed could ensue if he refused to occur during this event. He knew he had been invited because of his popularity in the country.

A few weeks before this invitation, he had also been invited to State House for lunch with his wife, Daisy. So how could he refuse? He spent the whole day compiling from his catalog of songs what he was to sing in the rally. He even asked several people, including me, for advice on this. His final selection cheekily included songs like Kusvikira Riini Uchinzvenga Mumvuri Wako, Tsika Dzedu Dzakaendepi and Bvuma Wasakara, which made Grace Mugabe, Ignatious Chombo, Savior Kasukuwere, Sydney Sekeramai, Jonathan Moyo and many other pillars of Zanu PF dance.

Tuku was not naive about what was going on. He knew he was being used by politicians for propaganda purposes even though he wanted to remain apolitical. He was in a dilemma. He knew this event risked dividing his fan base. He said: “I don’t want to find myself in the same situation that Simon Chimbetu or Andy Brown found themselves. “

Of course, his die-hard fans who believed it was his duty to perform anywhere and make money, saw nothing wrong with Tuku’s performance at a Zanu PF rally while that others criticized him for being associated with this event.

Bob Marley and the Wailers who had been singing Pan-Africanism for years, declared their love for the continent of their ancestors, calling for unity, also found themselves in a compromising political situation.

After being invited to play for dictator Omar Bongo in Gabon in 1980, the Wailers kept asking questions when they learned they would perform at Omar Bongo’s birthday parties – which they didn’t know if he was the “king” or president, and didn’t care. They received a royal welcome and their hosts were extremely attentive.

Over the days, the Wailers discovered a sadly unequal country, in which much of the population lived in abject poverty. They learned that the President had just been re-elected with 99.96% of the vote.

It later appeared to the Wailers that Omar Bongo was a dictator who oppressed his people.

“We didn’t know Omar Bongo was a dictator,” Marley guitarist Junior Marvin said bitterly. “We were innocent, so happy to be invited to Africa.”

This did not quite fit the ideals of a revolutionary Bob Marley, whom the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) considered at the time to be a “subversive” figure to be controlled.

However, Marley was able to resolve this dilemma by justifying why he went to Gabon. Bob Marley was led to believe that Omar Bongo offered asylum to Emperor Haile Selassie whom the Rastas called the great king of kings, lord of lords and the conquering lion of Judah after he was dethroned in Ethiopia .

As Marvin put it after the fact, “If we had had this information before the trip to Gabon, we certainly would not have left. But we were naive. We were just delighted to be visiting Africa for the first time in our lives. We should have asked ourselves questions about the country we were going to, who we were playing for and how people lived there before we embarked on this trip ”.

Without the support of government or corporate institutions, many artists jump through the hoops for every paycheck. When you are at the end of your rope, you have to tie a knot and hang on, but when you get to the end of your rope, you have to tie a knot and hang on if desperate times call for it.

There are musicians who find themselves naively associated with political agendas. The situation with Jah Prayzah’s recording of Mudhara Vachauya and Kutonga Kwaro seems to suggest a political agenda although his camp denies it. I’m not sure what the situation is with Rockford “Roki” Josphat, but there seemed to have been a political agenda behind his recording of Patati Patata with the Congolese musician Koffi Olomidé.

Unhappy musicians have found their ticket to fame, fortune and romance by joining political agendas. Remember Bryn Taurai Mteki (I wonder if he also received one of the Polad vehicles, which were distributed to candidates in the 2018 presidential elections). He rose to fame in Zimbabwe after singing Zimbabwe Ndeyeropa and Nora, a duet he made with the late Zanu PF political commissar Elliot Manyika.

In 1960, American jazz musician Louis Armstrong unwittingly took part in the United States’ secret Cold War maneuvers in Africa.

Armstrong, his wife and a diplomat from the American embassy were having dinner at a restaurant in Leopoldville, the capital of the newly independent Congo.

The trumpeter, singer and conductor, nicknamed “Satchmo” as a child, was on a tour of Africa, organized and sponsored by the State Department with the aim of improving the image of the United States in dozens of countries that had just freed from colonial regimes.

What Armstrong, the naive musician, did not know was that his host that night in November 1960 was not the political attaché as described, but the head of the CIA in Congo. He was also completely unaware of how his fame had enabled the spy making the conversation between the departing parties to gain crucial information that would facilitate some of the most controversial operations of the entire Cold War.

According to Susan Williams, who conducted research for the United Nations in London: “Armstrong was essentially a Trojan horse for the CIA. He was made to serve an interest that was completely contrary to his own sense of what was right or wrong. If he had known, he would have been horrified.

Documents found in the United Nations archives by Williams during five years of research strongly suggest that Armstrong’s host, CIA station chief Larry Devlin, and other U.S. intelligence operatives stationed at the Congo used the cover of the musicians’ visit to gain access to the important and very wealthy province of Katanga, which had recently seceded. The United States, while sympathetic to the provincial leader’s program, had not formally recognized the self-proclaimed government there.

The CIA has generated a lot of interest in Katanga, ranging from senior officials it might not otherwise meet to critical mining infrastructure, with 1,500 tonnes of uranium and vast potential to purchase more. Armstrong’s tour of Katanga was the perfect opportunity, so Devlin and others descended from the capital with the musician and his famous band.

“They needed a blanket, and that gave them one,” Williams said.

The CIA in Congo, led by Devlin, was trying to kill Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, 35, fearing he would lead the country into the Soviet camp.

About a mile from where Armstrong and Devlin had dined, the charismatic Lumumba was being held prisoner in his official residence by soldiers loyal to Joseph Désiré Mobutu, the young military leader with a close working relationship with the CIA, who had effectively taken the power. a few weeks earlier.

Less than two months after Armstrong’s tour, Lumumba was assassinated in Katanga by officials from the separatist province and Belgian police. Mobutu would later consolidate its hold on the Congo and become a loyal American customer.

Realizing this afterward, Armstrong had this to say, “Although I represent government, government does not represent certain policies that I am for.

He was horrified.

In 1962, advice from a CIA spy to officials of the racist and repressive apartheid regime in South Africa may have led to the arrest of Nelson Mandela, earning him 27 years in prison. The agency was also blamed for the overthrow of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, in a military coup in 1966.

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