Zimbabwean artists join war on xenophobia

Zimbabwe's music community has joined hands in the fight against xenophobia violence in neighbouring South Africa. Numerous groups of artists as well as a few individual performers have recorded special anti-xenophobia songs, some not yet released, while musicians in South Africa and Namibia continue to get involved.

Zimbabwean musician and producer Willis Wataffi.
Zimbabwean musician and producer Willis Wataffi.

The most publicized of these projects is a group of musicians called United Artists Against Xenophobia, which includes Ammara Brown, Roki, Jah Prayzah, Simba Saini, Cynthia Mare, Suluman Chimbetu, Kessia, Afrika Revenge, Mafrique, Pastor G and Alick Macheso. The group held their first event on 20 April at The Book Café in Harare, a free concert and candelight vigil under the banner ‘Black on Black Love Concert’. Willis Wataffi of Afrika Revenge, producer of the song, tentatively titled 'Stop Xenophobia', recently told the Zimbabwe Broacasting Corporation: “Musicians who are coming from different backgrounds are now taking responsibility in the restoration of peace by spreading non-hate messages as they cannot fight hatred with hatred.”

Assisting Wataffi is radio personality Zandile ‘Zaza’ Ndlovu, who has been getting artists from further afield to get involved, including Zambian star Mampi and South African rapper Cassper Nyovest, whose tour of Zimbabwe was put in doubt over the xenophobic attacks, although he refused to cancel the show in Bulawayo, despite threats. Zaza, who attended the recent South African Music Awards, worked to bring more South African stars on board. “I used the opportunity of being at the SAMAs to talk to various artists and got the likes of Lira, Bucie, Malaika, DJ Cleo, Loyiso Bala and others to join in the campaign. They already were scheduled to record their own song as SA artists but they welcomed the initiative to work with us. Our message is definitely going stronger and spreading across Africa,” she told Zimbabwe’s Daily News. “Each artiste is writing their own lyrics from their hearts. Our job is to collectively and creatively bring all their voices together to make a beautiful song about a really tragic plague that has adversely affected us all.”

Meanwhile, other Zimbabwean artists got behind another anti-xenophobia song, also called ‘Stop Xenophobia’ (initially titled 'No To Xenophobia - We Are One People'. The song was produced by Munyaradzi Viya at Vialy Studio. Under the banner Zimbabwe All Stars, it features artists such as Sulumani Chimbetu, Mathias Mhere, Sabastian Magacha, Pah Chihera and King Shaddy. Video producer Dr Clarence put together the accompanying visuals:

Similarly, Dereck Mpofu recently finished writing and recording another anti-xenophobia song, this time featuring local stars Alexio Kawara, Esther Mukazika, Ras Caleb and Willis Wataffi. Also reportedly involved were Kunle Ayo (Nigeria), South Africans Ringo Madlingozi and Winnie Khumalo (who were recently put under pressure to boycott performing at the Green Concert in Harare on 15 May), Botswana’s Amantle, Spiza and Bouncy, and Norry Malonga from the DRC. The song, as yet unreleased and reportedly titled ‘We are African - No to Xenophobia’, was recorded recently at Monolio Studios in Harare (view the photos here)

Elsewhere in Zimbabwe recently, Jay Prayzah released a video for ‘No To Xenophobia’, Blessing ‘Bled’ Chimanga dedicated his song 'Tirivanhu Vamwe’ (translated as ‘We are Family’) to the victims of xenophobia (download the song here) and a collective of Zim-dancehall artists released ‘Zim Dancehall sings against Xenophobia’.

Zimbabwean superstar Oliver Mtukudzi recently issued a statement on xenophobia while on tour in the USA: “The borders we see today were drawn for us by others. I am urging all South Africans to stand up and say no to the hate of other Africans, no to violence and no murder. In the same breath I am calling the leaders of Africa to speak out strongly against this madness. We have always stood together as Africa, from the pre-independence days of our nations when we supported freedom fighters in their cause to more recently when we came together to fight Ebola. Xenophobia is a scourge that we must get rid of once and for all.”

The efforts of Zimbabwe’s music community go hand in hand with other similar projects in the region. Across the border in South Africa, some 180 musicians gathered to record a new version of ‘We Are The World’ (more details here), while others teamed up for a similar cause (see here). In Durban, where the xenophobic violence first erupted, lesser-known artists recently united to record ‘Dig A Little Deeper’, written by Don Clarke, while Jemotech Studios released a single and video also titled ‘Stop Xenophobia’, written by Isaac K and featuring Nokzen. And in Namibia, a group of prominent musicians - including Big Ben, Atushe, Swart Baster and Black Door - gathered last week on 22 April at the Zoo Park in Windhoek to denounce xenophobia, racism and tribalism.

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