Zhakata, persecuted but still standing

HARARE – After years of persecution and blacklisting of his songs which were deemed politically incorrect by the public broadcaster, ZBC Holdings, Zora music star Leonard “Karikoga” Zhakata is still standing.

And it was not only the public broadcaster that shunned his politically-charged songs as the singer also received some bashing from the public media’s print sections which demonised him as a spent force.

Zhakata had startled the country’s music fraternity with the release of his 1994 hit song Mugove in which he deplored those in authority for neglecting the workforce while they amassed wealth.

He went on to release successive hit songs in Nzombe Huru, Upenyu Mutoro and Gomba Remarara among others.

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But his crime was of later joining the likes of self-exiled Chimurenga singer Thomas Mapfumo in the fight for political freedom through music.

In his 2002 song titled Sakunatsa, Zhakata deplored government’s unethical use of State apparatus questioning why government was not applying the law equally among all Zimbabwean citizens.

The year 2003, saw his songs from the album Hodho disappear from the airwaves, among them Warrior in which he seeks help from an uncle who had fled the country because of political violence while in Ngoma Yenharo he urges Zimbabweans to unite if they were to conquer.

In the song Segwayana, Zhakata sings about dying without “crying like a sheep”.  Loosely translated, the lyrics on the song are: “People are killed, beaten and even children are being raped in the country. They have nowhere to turn to, they are helpless.”

Since the release of these songs and more he was viewed in some quarters as anti-government and he reported suspicious people trailing him wherever he performed live with some demanding he strikes off certain songs from his playlist.

Once a favourite performer at President Robert Mugabe’s 21st February Movement celebrations, the musician was later snubbed and so was he banished from performing at State-sponsored galas.

As a result of this demonising and blacklisting from television and radio — both controlled by the State — Zhakata found comfort in the church by joining Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church from where he sprung his famous comeback.

While others argue that his songs are now more gospel-inclined, it seems his message is still intact although it is wrapped in Christian values — values which mould us as society.

The past two years have really shown Zhakata’s stamina and composing prowess as his songs dominated the Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola Top 50 radio charts.

Interestingly, as his star continues to shine, peeping through the thick darkened clouds, there have been loud cries from a disgruntled lot who still think he doesn’t deserve the honour. But lest the haters forget — you can’t bring down a good man!

This past year, Zhakata had three songs taking the first three spots on the Radio Zimbabwe Coca-Cola Top 50, thanks to his multitudes of fans who voted for him.

On first position was the song Madam Boss featuring Suluman Chimbetu and Progress Chipfumo, which garnered 104 046 votes.

Zvine Mwaka was second with 89 663 votes followed by Mwoyo Wekutenda with 62 272 votes.

The wins have shown that while Zhakata may have been a victim of government propaganda whose need for “feel good art” in which State radio and television are replete with propaganda songs that laud government projects and programmes, the listeners out there are still with him.

They still enjoy his music and they have also shown that they are so organised in that they managed to mobilise so many votes.

His radio music charts dominance also shows that while his support base had over the years been cowed and misled into thinking that he was anti-government, deep down they still like his music as shown by the numbers who attend his out-of-Harare concerts.

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