Of album launches and politicians

HARARE - I was part of the estimated 2 000 people who attended the launch of Jah Prayzah’s latest album Jerusarema at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) on Friday night.

The launch of the Uzumba-born musician’s fifth album was scheduled to kick off at 6pm but we had to endure a three-hour delay reportedly because the guest of honour Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was committed elsewhere.

The organisers, particularly Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa and Themba Mukanda who were the masters of ceremonies, never saw it fit to explain to the crowd the reasons for the unbearably long delay and neither did they have the courtesy to apologise for ‘holding us hostage’ without any decent entertainment.

In that three-hour interlude my mind began to wander. Suddenly music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi’s song ‘Hero’-a track that questions what a national hero is all about-came to mind.

In the subtly political song Tuku asks whether one has to die to be a hero and more importantly he sings, “Can Safirio Madzikatire be a hero?”

What the music legend implies in the song is the fact that national heroes should not necessarily be politicians. He infers that the late comedian-cum-musician Madzikatire is a national hero. It is clear that Tuku’s aim in composing the song was to educate our politicians that artists are also national heroes.

Interestingly, Tuku was part of the album launch programme and was even asked by the organisers to give Jah Prayzah some advice. As I was there waiting for the launch to commence I could not stop wondering why Jah Prayzah and his advisors chose Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to be guest of honour instead of Tuku?

Even more pertinently why do Zimbabwean musicians –to quote President Robert Mugabe- have an “instinct” to appoint politicians as guests of honour? Do they, like the ruling ZANU PF, see no heroes beyond the political elite?

If the artists themselves cannot even recognise heroes within their sector why should they be surprised when the Madzikatires and the August musarurwa Skokiaan fame are not considered by politicians as national heroes?

I expect Jah Prayzah to be predictably delighted to have managed to lure a whole Vice President to be his guest of honour.

I can’t remember any other Zimbabwean musician in living memory who pulled off such a feat. 

Hopefully Mnangagwa, who conceded that he had never attended an album launch before, will now develop a deeper interest in the arts.

But the disadvantages of making politicians guests of honour were there for all to see at Jah Prayzah’s launch. Many people who attended the album launch will forever remember the unexplained delay that blighted what should have been a truly remarkable event.

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