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Censored Zimbabwe artists hit back

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Zimbabwean artists are hitting back against harassment by state security agents.Mbira star Chiwoniso "Chii" Maraire leads a pack of Zimbabwean artists who will perform in Johannesburg at the weekend in shows aimed at seeking support from their neighbours in highlighting government repression.

Dubbed Make Some Noise, the initiative is the first of its kind by Zimbabwean artists who have suffered blackouts of some of their work on state-controlled radio and television.Recently, police banned four political satires by renowned playwrights - Cont Mhlanga, Daves Guzha and Slyvanos Mudzvova.Among the banned plays are The Good President, The Final Push, Overthrown and Super Patriots and Morons which police said were critical of President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Gusty Zimbabwean rapper Samm Farai Monro, who is co-ordinating the show, said: "The concert aims to raise awareness about the crisis in Zimbabwe and the suffering that South Africa's neighbours are going through. We also aim to galvanise the South African public into putting pressure on their government to be a positive force for change in Zimbabwe.”Make A Noise, said Monro, hopes to bring together the many asylum seekers and human rights defenders in South Africa to strengthen their networks.

The concert is a joint initiative between Magamba, a Zimbabwean network of artists struggling for freedom, and LNM Entertainment, one of Johannesburg's top musical promotion companies.It will be held at the Bassline, one of the city’s premier live music venues and will feature some of Zimbabwe and South Africa's leading singers.Among those billed to perform are South Africa’s popular rap poet, Lesego Rampolokeng, and the emerging reggae star, Steady Rock. Also confirmed to grace the stage is South Africa's new hip-hop maestro, Blindfold, whose hit song has been number one on YFM for three weeks. DJ Kenzero completes the line-up.

Zimbabwe's Maraire has toured the world with her powerful mbira music and won numerous international music awards including the Radio France Award and the International Song-writing Competition Award. Monro, who is also known as Comrade Fatso, has performed his rebel poetry across the world and has built up a following in South African poetry circles.

The controversial poet will perform with his band Chabvondoka which is stirring up the dance floors of Harare with their insurrectionary blend of poetry, hip hop, chimurenga and jazz.

Maraire said: "To beat people, to threaten people, to put a person in a situation where they have to think for the next five hours about whether or not they are going to be okay -- is a very, very bad thing to do. "Like, I had a situation when I performed at the Book Café when riot police walked in. All of these things now start to come into your work as an artist, and it puts you in a situation where now you really have to start thinking about what you are saying and what you are doing. So . . . -- dicy!"

Musicians, such as Leonard Zhakata, Thomas Mapfumo and Viomak have been victims of unofficial bans, done outside the Censorship Act but in political offices.

Maraire said: "We have a responsibility. We are not bankers, we are not doctors, we are not nurses."We have another part that we play in society that must be done. So, regardless of whether the system is going to come in and say: 'Cut what you are saying', going to send riot cops in to your shows, going to come and arrest you and (say) 'We are going to try and put you (in jail) . . .' -- it doesn't matter. We have a responsibility.”

 

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