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If all else fails in Zim, why not turn to music

By unknown | Aug 01, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The first Frank Sinatra song I tried to sing began with: The tables are empty. The dance floor's deserted.

The first Frank Sinatra song I tried to sing began with: The tables are empty. The dance floor's deserted.

Like any boy growing up in the ghetto that was Harare township and being obsessed with a future as a singing sensation, I believed Sinatra was the greatest ballad singer of all time.

Later the admiration swung to Nat King Cole, whose Mona Lisa knocked us out with the velvety quality of his voice.

Sinatra was The King, though. It was not until I was an adult and owned my own radio and a turntable that I managed to memorise all the lyrics of this early Ol' Blue Eyes hit.

Recently, the US Post Office commemorated the life and times of one of the world's best-selling recording artists with a postage stamp.

I have no recollection of them issuing a Nat King Cole stamp. I would not say with any conviction that there was anything racist in that decision.

To mark Barack Obama's victory as the first AfricanAmerican Democratic Party presidential candidate, this would be a grand gesture of reconciliation, before the November ballot.

How his rival John McCain might react is unpredictable. He has been accused of waging a "dirty" campaign against Obama.

Of the two men, I believe only Obama would qualify to make his campaign theme song one of Sinatra's best-selling tracks, My Way.

Months ago, in this column, I suggested that if all else failed to knock sense into the heads of Zimbabwean politicians, then it might be time to try music.

In place of Thabo Mbeki, I suggested Miriam Makeba as mediator.

I doubt anybody took me seriously. Most politicians must be tone deaf, for I have yet to meet one who has an interest in music other than the praise songs to them.

Yet the role of music in Africa could be employed for reconciliation among diverse ethnic groups.

Some people might say, with justification, that if one of the most musically obsessed countries on the continent, the DRC, has failed since 1960 to employ this "food of love" to bring about reconciliation among its people, what chance do Zimbabweans have?

The leadership remains deadlocked on the final solution to a crisis that has killed innocent people.

The misfortune might be that, though we Africans are born with rhythm in our veins, our regard for musicians is not as deep as it ought to be.

In South Africa the murder of the reggae singer Lucky Dube was a dastardly, meaningless act of madness.

I could be out of touch with the latest developments, but it is my hope that the government plans to erect a statue of Dube.

Here was a South African entertainer of humble beginnings who had perfected his art in a genre not indigenous to his country, achieving success beyond his wildest dreams.

The abuse of musicians for cheap political antics by Zanu-PF is most shameless.

This crass cheapening of their art is responsible for stunting the growth of one of the most original composers in our midst, Thomas Mapfumo, now in exile.

To hope that the post office would one day issue a Mapfumo commemorative postage stamp might be tantamount to wishing upon a star.

Certainly, it is a goal the politicians ought to aim for, if the change for which a majority voted on March 29 is to be complete.

Music is a wonder tonic. It could still determine our destiny.

lBill Saidi is deputy editor ofThe Standard in Zimbabwe


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