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Popular Music and the Concept of the Dissident in Post-Independence Zimbabwe

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Abstract

This study argues that indigenous musicians in Zimbabwe have acted as “dissident” archetypes in a country where any formal opposition to power has been met with legal and extra-judicial interventions by state apparatus. This form of dissident expression is drawn from Zimbabwe’s historical political experience tracing back to the pre-colonial period. This chapter employs the concept of the dissident to study Zimbabwe’s post-independence-era musicians (1980–2020) and Mano’s conceptual framework of music as a journalism variant to understand how musicians have relied on lyrics to challenge power. This study finds that four themes have found lyrical expression: Marginalisation, socio-economic inequality, corruption and political violence/repression. The selected musicians for this study are Thomas Mapfumo, Hosiah Chipanga, Lovemore “Majaivana” Tshuma and Wallace “Winky D” Chirumiko. They sing in Zimbabwe’s two dominant languages—Shona and Ndebele— and their lyrics exhibit a dissident tone. The findings of the chapter suggest that the selected musicians coded their lyrics in dissident language which sought to challenge political hegemony, expose corruption and decry poverty under the successive Zanu-Pf rule.
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