Published on September 9th, 2016 | by Hondo0
Power To The People – An introduction to Zim Rock
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has a lot to answer for. Since seizing power in 1980 he has run his country into the ground, amassed a vast personal fortune and issued the world’s first trillion-dollar bank note.
He also killed off the Zimbabwean heavy rock scene.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I have a personal beef with Mr Mugabe. I went along to his 76th birthday party back in 2000 and was kicked out by one of his goons. One minute I was happily sitting on a grassy bank, enjoying a grizzled kebab and a scud of Chibuku, the next, a man in a shiny suit and reflector sunglasses showed me his gun and told me to get lost.
Inspired by hippie ideals and the music of Hendrix and Deep Purple, the Zim heavy rock scene was the soundtrack of the bitter war of independence that raged through the country during the 70’s. While guerillas waged war against the white minority government from bases in neighbouring Zambia and Mozambique, bands were picking up guitars and creating their own brand of politically-charged rock.
The kids in the scene called it ‘heavy’ because they said they could physically feel its impact. They loved the way it battered its way inside their heads and shoved aside any fear or uncertainty. Many of the rebels said that the music gave them the courage and strength to resist.
It was very much a live scene. Bands gigged furiously, playing all-night shows in the townships, flouting police curfews. There were some records – limited run 7-inchers released by Afropop and Afrosoul – but they were never heard outside of southern Africa.
Bands gigged furiously, playing all-night shows in the townships, flouting police curfews.
Together with Matthew Shechmeister and Albert Nyathi, a celebrated Zimbabwean poet and musician, Now-Again Records are preparing an overarching anthology of the Zim Rock scene, with all the seminal bands, their best tracks, as well as never scene before photos from the period.
It’s out later this year, but in the meantime Now-Again have released a digital-only taster called Power To The People . It features tracks from Wells Fargo, Eye Q and Gypsy Caravan and is a tantalizing blast of what to expect. From the heavy political message of the title track to the scuzzy psychedelica of Eye Q’s ‘I Am Selfish’, it’s a rare treat. If Deep Purple stylings with a touch of James Brown Funk and Zimbabwean folk is your bag, you’ll want to download your copy now.
So how did Mugabe kill off the Zim Rock scene? Well, with the war won in 1980, the 70s revolutionary rock scene lost its urgency. Mugabe decided that Chimurenga should be the musical style of the new nation, ironically named after the Shona word for revolution. It was based on traditional Zimbabwean music with just enough electric instruments and a solid drum beat to keep the kids happy. Sadly, the likes of Wells Fargo, Eye Q and Stars Of Liberty simply faded away.
Mugabe certainly wasn’t playing any Zim Rock classics at his birthday party. The only music I heard that day was played by a brass band on hand to welcome the Presidential cavalcade.
Sadly, it wasn’t anything off Power To The People.