Playlist – These Bones Will Rise Again

Re-posted with kind permission of The Indigo Press.

Ahead of Panashe Chigumadzi‘s appearances at Africa Writes 2018 (The Making & Re-Making of Zimbabwe & African Books to Inspire), listen to the playlist she has curated to accompany the publication of These Bones Will Rise Again, taking the listener on a musical journey through over 70 years of Chimurenga.

“Stimela” – Hugh Masekela

Many Zimbabwean families will have heard stories from that brother or uncle or father or grandfather who went to “Wenera”, the commonly used name for the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA), set up as a recruiting agency for South Africa’s gold mines. Over the years “Wenera” also came to refer to South Africa the country. In 1886, the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand of South Africa drew the attention of the world to Southern Africa. Rhodesia itself was brought into being by the prospect of gold on its many reefs.

Although it doesn’t appear in the book, I begin with Hugh Masekela’s Stimela because I believe it is a song that sings the soul of Southern Africa’s settler colonies. It sings the story of dispossession, migration and forced labour that destroyed African families and livelihoods in ways we are only really beginning to account for now. I am haunted every time I hear Masekela, whose great grandfather was a Kalanga preacher who came from what is now known as Zimbabwe to evangelise in what is now South Africa, begin his spoken word monologue:

“There is a train that comes from…all the hinterlands of Southern and Central Africa./ This train carries young and old men who are conscripted to come and work on contract/ In the Gold and Mineral mines of Johannesburg and the surrounding provinces and Metropolis/ 16 hours or more a day, for almost no pay./ Deeeeeeep, deeeeeep deeeeep, deeeeeep, deeeeeep, deeeep..”

Check out the Live at the Market Theatre version.


Khauleza” by Dorothy Masuka

“Khauleza!”, a phrase shouted in South Africa’s black townships, reservations, whichever, near the cities of South Africa as people see police cars coming to raid their homes for one thing or another. They say “Khawuleza!” which simply means “Hurry! Don’t let them catch you!” The song, later performed by many other artists including Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, was composed by one of our greatest songwriters Dorothy Masuka. Dorothy, the “famous Rhodesian star” was born in 1935 in Bulawayo after a Zambian Lozi chef working on Southern Africa’s white passenger trains met a Zulu nanny tending the children of her white South African employers. Masuka, who moved to Johannesburg in her late teens and went on to be a powerful voice against Southern African settler regimes, once said, “I never held a gun but my voice was as powerful as a gun.”


“Skokiaan” by August Musarurwa

I am told that as a young man my late paternal grandfather loved to go to the kokotero, cocktail bars which were an upmarket place where African ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’, who were not allowed to drink ‘European beer’ and had to observe an evening curfew in the European town, could be served. If Africans like him were not at the beer-halls or the kokotero, entertainment could be found at the Native Recreation Hall where dances and sometimes the “bioskop” would be shown.

“Skokiaan” or, “Chikokiyana” in Shona, is a toxic alcoholic concoction made famous by saxophonist Augustine Musaruwa with the song that became an anthem in Rhodesia’s townships in the 40s. Recordings by Musaruwa are hard to come by, the version here is recorded by Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band Major. Many other great musicians, including Hugh Masekela and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong recorded their own. Satchmo who in the 1960s, visited Southern Rhodesia, for a memorable concert in Salisbury and later met with Musaruwa, the great composer himself. Satchmo’s rendition with carefree Africans drinking pineapple beer in the jungle missed the political undertones of the song that was really about subversion of the criminalisation of emergent African urban culture often deemed unsuitable for “natives” who had just come down out of the trees. By focusing on Chikokiyana, a illegally brewed and sold by African women, Musaruwa zeroed in on an aspect of the heavy settler regulation of African life by the Rhodesian settler state – the prohibition of so-called “European beer” for Africans, as well as the prohibition of independent brewing and consumption of beer.


“Dzoka Uyamwe” (Come Back and Suckle) – Oliver Mtukudzi

Excerpt from These Bones Will Rise Again:

When I mention that I am going to Dande, people nod in appreciation, ‘Ah, Dande? Kumusha kwa Mtukudzi.’ Not only are Oliver Mtukudzis people from Dande, but his totem, Nzou Samanyanga, Elephant, keeper of the tusks, is that of the regions royal clan. By far, the most popular ode to Dande is Mtukudzi’s ‘Dzoka Uyamwe’, ‘Come Back and Suckle, a song of longing and homecoming. A person shunned by a world that sees the darkness of their skin as an indication of a bad soul cries out for home. In response, mother beckons them to come. The place you left is still here. My breast is waiting for you. Dzoka uyamwe.


Mhondoro” (Royal Ancestor Spirit) – Thomas Mapfumo

 Excerpt from These Bones Will Rise Again:

I had discovered’ Mapfumo on my own in the last few years. His Greatest Hits album is in my car, so I look for him on YouTube. In the video I often play, we hear Mapfumos deep base explaining the song before it starts. This song, as are many songs of the mbira, is one that is used for communication between the living and the dead. When it is sung, the ancestors, communicating through the spirit mediums, tell the living what they should know about the past, present and future.


“Chachimurenga” (It’s Now a Chimurenga) – Stella Chiweshe

Excerpt from These Bones Will Rise Again:

On the night of her concert, tall and regal in her long white kaftan, dreadlocked and barefoot, Ambuya Stella Chiweshe performs new songs and old hits for the intimate occasion which becomes a full-on celebration as she plays the most popular song of her career, ‘Chava Chimurenga’. Its Now Chimurenga. In between sets, Ambuya tells us, her audience, that the music of the mbira dzevadzimu, the music through which we commune with the ancestors, is like water.


Take Cover” – Jairos Jiri Sunrise Kwela Band

Excerpt from These Bones Will Rise Again:

‘Mudzimu vaivepi, ko, mudzimu mukuru isu tichinetseka?’

The Jairos Jiri Band asks this of me as I listen to them over my iPhone speaker. Where was our ancestor spirit, our great ancestor, while we were suffering? Someone had just sent their song Take Cover’ to one of the many WhatsApp groups keeping me updated with the latest in fake and genuine news of what was happening in Zimbabwe. The day before we had seen the videos of tanks moving on the outskirts of Harare after army chief Constantino Chiwenga denounced Mugabes sacking of then vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa…When I forward the clip of Take Cover’ to my friend, she in turn shares her recordings of the Chimurenga music playing on ZBC that morning. She says she is feeling patriotic. Apparently, so are a number of other Zimbabweans on my Twitter timeline.


“Mugove” – Leonard Zhakata

I grew up in South Africa in the 90s and I don’t think I ever went to a braai hosted by Zimbabweans in my childhood without hearing “Mugove”, literally meaning “share”. I consider it to be the “unofficial soundtrack” to my debut novel, Sweet Medicine. The song, a lively prayer to God to please give him his fair share while he is alive because those who are on top are oppressing him, was released during the festive season of 1994, a time when the effects of Zimbabwe’s Structural Adjustment Programs were beginning to be keenly felt and some of the promises of liberation were beginning to be reneged on. The album on which it was released ‘Maruva Enyika’ (Flowers of the Nation) sold more than 100,000 copies, the first for a Zimbabwean solo musician. The song’s genre is Sungura (the Swahili name for ‘rabbit’)which became popular after independence in 1980 as radio and television broadcasts became open to more indigenous music. To create this “everyman’s” genre Zimbabwean artists infused benga, rhumba and soukous from East and Central Africa with indigenous genres such as masiganda, mhande, shangara, jiti and tsavatsava.


Dai Ndakadzidza” (If Only I Was Educated)  – Simon Chimbetu

This must be one of my favourite Sungura songs by the late Sungura pioneer Simon Chimbetu. In the last couple of years before her downfall Grace Mugabe would attempt to prepare herself for this new role as leader of country that values education by acquiring a doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe. With breathtaking speed, “Dr. Amai” as she would soon be called, submitted her sociology thesis titled, “The changing social structure and functions of the family: The case of children’s homes in Zimbabwe.” Chimbetu’s own use for education is a little bit more modest. If only he was educated, he would read the newspaper without any help, he would check the temperature on the thermometer.


Murimi Munhu” – Oliver Mtukudzi

Excerpt from These Bones Will Rise Again:

 Driving through Gracelands, I am reminded that in December as we returned from visiting our family kumusha and drove through the agricultural town of Marondera, Oliver Mtukudzi’s ‘Murimi Munhu, literally A Farmer is a Person, played for the second time in twelve hours on a local radio station as we passed a billboard which declared to motorists and pedestrians, ‘Kohwai pakuru!’ ‘Reap a big harvest!

 After years of difficulty, agricultural productivity levels are rising, in many cases approaching pre-land-reform levels, as smallholder farmers like the one on the billboard and the family members we visited are gaining expertise and experience. The song felt fitting for this time. Murimi munhu. Those who till the land embody our humanity, embody our nations hope.

When the song was released back in 2001, fast-track land reform was taking place. Understandably, there were many questions around Tukus message. Who was, or is, the farmer Tuku refers to?


Disappear” – Winky D

Dancehall is big in Zimbabwe. Blame it in part on Bob Marley serenading us on independence. Zim dancehall, as it’s known, has taken over from Sungura as the voice of the youth. Winky D is one of its pioneers. This is one of my favourite songs of his. He starts it by chanting in a Jamaican accent “When we say party, we want all the problems to dissapear…Abracadabra”, and goes on to prompt us to imagine that all of our problems disappear in this moment of “happy happy” as they raise their hands in the air. After initially following Mapfumo’s lead in hating on this younger generation of music for being “derivative”, I found that after really sitting back to listen to Winky D’s lyrics I was compelled by the way he captures the everyday hopes, aspirations and frustrations in an economy in disarray and leaving little room for the dreams of Zimbabwe’s young people. The song that got me was “Twenty Five”, which resonated deep within the soul of a twenty-something-year-old millennial who thought they would be driving a convertible and living in a mansion by their mid-twenties and has found the actual experience to be, um, quite humbling.


Mudhara Vachauya” – Jah Prayzah & The 3rd Generation Band

Excerpt from These Bones Will Rise Again:

This was warm encouragement from an uncle to a youthful son who had expressed a yearning for the return of his father. Jah Prayzah, whose real name is Mukudzei Mukombe, had fashioned himself as a son who had been ‘foretelling’ the coming of the ultimate father figure who would save the people from our misfortunes. In 2016 he released Mudhara Vachauya’, ‘The Old Man Will Come, which soon found itself at the centre of ZANU– PF succession wars. In Shona, to refer to mudhara, you mean to say, my old man’ and in Zimbabwes hierarchical society this can also refer to a powerful, usually older, man. Although Grace Mugabes G40 (Generation 40) faction tried to counter-spin this popular song as an endorsement of Robert Mugabe, its reference to Shumba, Mnangagwas lion totem, ensured his faction were the clear winners of the battle.


“Muchinjiko” (The Cross) – Jah Prayzah & The 3rd Generation Band

This is the song, a hymn, that firmly converted me to a Jah Prayzah fan. The song is a hymn from the United Methodist church, which Jah Prayzah belongs to and like a number of other Zimbabwe’s Africanist or traditional churches, is known for maintaining Zimbabwe’s traditional musical cultures by incorporating the ngoma (wooden drum) and hosho (gourd rattle). Listening to “Muchinjiko” it’s not entirely clear whether you are in a church service, or you are at a bira, a spirit possession ceremony. As Jah Prayzah laments the weight of the cross he has to carry, he collapses the boundaries between African and Western spiritualities, in ways that have, for some religious diehards, caused controversy. It speaks to me of the ways in which Africans sought new ways of being after the military and spiritual conquest of the late nineteenth century, and in particular in the 20s and 30s which “became the great founding age of independent African churches” which sought to remake the Christian gospel within a liberator African idiom that declared salvation would come from Africans themselves.

Meet Panashe and hear readings from These Bones Will Rise Again on Sunday 1 July 2018 at Africa Writes:

The Making & Re-Making of Zimbabwe
11:30 – 12:45

African Books to Inspire
15:15 – 16:30