Now a well known tradition since 2005, the singer, activist and freedom of expression campaigner releases a protest music album every year to mark the life president’s birthday with songs that despise the dictator’s unending rule. The celebrations which were started in 1986 to encourage the youth to emulate President Mugabe’s deeds have become a household name in Zimbabwe where more than half of the population is starving.
Anthemic, touchy, and controversial Viomak’s protest songs are always consistent, as she has evolved to be a great creative singer. She deserves special mention. The album title is self explanatory and offers not only a corner of the social and political situation in Zimbabwe but it also offers some jubilant moments. This album review is also my way of introducing you again to one of Zimbabwe’s unsung heroes.A unique and tough woman who has refused to silence her voice and has maintained her innovative spirit amid a lot of drawbacks, temptations and neglect. Supreme Leader is a very special album that provides the basis for a sparkling protest scenario with themes that ring like a school assembly bell. The recording is outstanding. Viomak , whose name you may not know, but whose work is familiar to anyone involved in Zimbabwe protest music and activism remains in her own style. The album is completely different from the earlier albums.
That said, the queen of Zimbabwe protest music is this year back with a new 8 pack skillful production filled with touchy tunes that prove the point that she deserves worldwide recognition as one of Zimbabwe’s protest music outstanding figures. The singer who is an iconoclast in every sense of the word, producing music that is both relevant , beautiful and challenging is doing extraordinarily well as she has designed an exceptional type of revolutionary music with an out of the obvious protest style that thrives remarkably on affluent lyrics and powerful Zimbabwe beats.
The singer has become a unique and important figure in Zimbabwe music, an innovator and social change agent who never loses her appeal and determination in singing for human rights to be respected at the same time despising human rights abusers. She has become a great composer and one of the few masters of the rarely heard Zimbabwe protest music. Supreme Leader is a very balanced and mature package composed with everyone else who is struggling in Zimbabwe in mind, healing the minds of their troubled souls which are suffering under the self styled supreme leader Mugabe’s rule.
Supreme Leader is like a calling and after listening to the songs one begins to see life from other perspectives. The album reaches her audience with excellent political and social messages as usual. The songs are relaxed and sorrowful, performed with the confidence of a woman who is desperate to see Zimbabwe back on the right track. The album updates and reminds Mugabe about his crimes against humanity. Produced in Zimbabwe and Britain over a mixture of marimbas, congas and other outstanding instruments the release is like a salad bar, ranging from the traditional Zimbabwean to South African beat. The banned singer is determined to have Zimbabweans get her music so she uses the internet on many occasions to promote her work .It has been confirmed that the album has already reached Zimbabwe through face book and also through contacts on face book and other contacts through email, through her website and through other internet options.
The real power of the songs, like all great songs, is in the meaning of the lyrics. Viomak is enjoying monopoly of this genre of music which she pioneered and remains the only female protest singer in Zimbabwe among a handful of less than five men. One only wishes that the airwaves be freed for such kind of inspirational music to be heard. She mourns this in one of her new songs. The bad thing is her music will be rewarded with brutality as Zimbabwe protest artists are said to be a threat to the government. The album which is configured with gospel packed themes is the first album she has produced that is specifically plotted around themes of freedom of expression and opinion, POSA and AIPPA. This is arguably the most touching and extremely relevant album that she has produced to date. Targeting greater heights is what she is doing. Were it not for the fact that her music is banned in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe who is attending the celebrations as the patron of the 21st February movement would have had the chance to celebrate his birthday in style with a special song ‘Supreme Leader’ dedicated to him.
Looking at her musical career from within, Viomak is taking it in big steps. Her music is immediately recognisable yet continually developing into a solid platform of protest music. The album is a reflection of the Zimbabwe situation, the car accidents caused by Mugabe, the repressive laws POSA and AIPPA that were imposed on Zimbabweans to thwart freedom of expression and the banning of her music. This is the first time that Viomak has included her personal message in her music .Supreme Leader also addresses many socio- political concerns, issues of land ,sewages, water ,darkness, unemployment and AIDS.
Composed and sung by Viomak alone the songs will obviously be part of a unique form of modern protest music born in an independent Zimbabwe of black rule. Her song writing skills shine on all the songs. A more encouraging analysis is that her charming lyrics and their strong melodic and lyrical style succeed in spicing the unique production of Supreme Leader. The compositions clearly stand up to human rights issues and upon listening to the album, one wishes there was freedom of expression in Zimbabwe ,no POSA and AIPPA ,no farm invasions or any other evils perpetrated by Mugabe and ZANU PF. One can safely say that her music is the new torch bearer for a new revolution.
The album set commences with the title track ‘Supreme Leader’ code named ‘Koronyera’ (Thug). A very good track to start off an album, with a thriving marimba beat that is governed by a tough bassline and a mixture of other appropriate instruments that go direct to the mind.The song is a Godly protest tune that questions God on what Zimbabweans have done wrong to deserve President Mugabe. Viomak will need an ‘orchestra’ of dancers to do justice to this song. It moves very well with hiats and congas together with two ranges of rolls that highjack the music before each break. An energetic brass that accompanies a pleading lead guitar makes the song a memorable listen. Throughout the track the bassy sound guides the entire development of the song, as the other instruments compete for the lime light around a whole variety of tight high pitch voices. The song starts with a captivating beat and a brass section that sounds tight as it produces an infectious sound over layers of interlocking elpiano and brass. ‘Supreme leader’ stands out as the crown of the album. The lyrics keep asking God why innocent Zimbabweans are suffering whilst a bad leader keeps ruling. The lyrics go on to advise Mugabe that his show off attitude will soon come to pass and his supreme leader crown will soon be tattered. The song delivers super abundant, energy-charged marimba rhythms that send listeners astray. The instruments are well represented in an effective manner as they are complemented by the vocals in a beautiful unforgettable way. The harmonies give the song a confident layer of an amazing sound.
This song particularly surprises in a sarcastic manner. The captivating lyrics and the force of the instruments highlight the state in which Zimbabweans are, as they struggle under Mugabe’s rule. As a title track the song does not disappoint as apart from the production arrangement it is an educative piece that reminds Mugabe that everything has an ending. One immediately realises that they could be listening to a title track due to its catch rhythm. Other highlights of the song include an energetic chorus that revives itself whilst exploring the suffering of Zimbabweans under Mugabe. The unique tune emphasizes Viomak’s song writing skills and continues to pity Zimbabwe’s supreme leader as a thug as it builds in strength until it ends uniformly with a bang. A definite favourite. While the title might lead some people to believe that Viomak was singing praises for Mugabe, this is not the case.
The second song ‘Usiku hwekutambisa’(Wasted night) is all what it takes to be called a protest singer. Usiku hwekutambisa is an expression that Zimbabweans carelessly use to mean a useless person. When someone refers to you by that expression it means you would have defied all odds by becoming an extremely irresponsible person. The song is packed to the full with lyrics that tell about almost every wrong that Mugabe and ZANU PF has done and are doing causing warlike chaos in the country. The song mourns the problems in Zimbabwe in an electrifying manner through a host of instruments that are crafted in a compelling way. A unique lively bouncing beat that strolls safely along with the song accompanied by sweet melodies marks the song. Apart from calling Mugabe a wasted night the song highlights the struggles facing Zimbabweans and it basically summarises all of them in less than 10 mins. She starts by singing that the deceased did not see anything, as Zimbabweans are, struggling to survive. Fighting for things like water, electricity, jobs, money, food, bread and land .Life is Zimbabwe is a war of survival.
It is a song of such distinct styles and moods. The track marathons with a range of gentle vocals and tight instruments whistling to the end with a crush.Viomak’s approach to the song is impressive, relevant and engaging. Even more extraordinary is that she does not put herself at centre stage in the music. She works by allowing instruments to pursue the song to give her listeners enough time to listen to the producer’s work. Have a listen to ‘Usiku hwekutambisa’ and you will be moved instantly. The rest about the song is within your ears. After all this is my personal review.
The third song is the everlasting ‘Mbiri yaMugabe’ (Mugabe’s fame) which is also Viomak’s most favourite song on the album. The song chronicles what Mugabe is famous and most popular for. The song starts with a loud catchy bang and slowly gives in to emotions addressing Mugabe’s bad popularity whilst rocking in a pool of infectious instruments and sweet vocals. The song sounds more like a gospel lullaby .There is no doubt that the song carries the protest banner in its willingness to blame Mugabe for Zimbabwe’s downfall. Like a see saw her powerful lyrics swiftly surge across the song that is embedded in plenty of political tough talk .In the song she claims that Mugabe and company fought Douglas Smith saying he was evil but the two seem to be the same now. ‘Mbiri yaMugabe’ is a very influential song that has the ability to tear listeners’ hearts apart.An emotionally charged song with a deep message that will live forever in the history of Zimbabwe.
The lyrics rubber stamp all the evils done by Mugabe and it is one type of a song that can be given to someone to listen to in order to learn the wrongs that Mugabe did .The varied vocals infuse the album with great warmth and the underlying bass with the sound of marimba make it produce unique melodies. The song will not disappoint. It is filled with touching messages and it is hosted well alongside a variety of thought provoking lyrics. The sort of song that makes one to redefine Mugabe .The sad but beautiful song is a journey into Mugabe‘s miserable deeds.A tough and tender song that carries one in a journey of great anxiety and imagination.
The troublesome song was specifically composed for those who are willing to embrace the truth that Mugabe is famous for shedding blood, stealing, starving masses and incompetence, as in the lyrics. Words are insufficient to describe the impact this welcoming tune will have on Mugabe’s supporters and all those who think that Mugabe is a hero. The song is quite controversial and listeners are forced to come to terms with the reality of protest music with no safety barrier. ‘Mbiri yaMugabe’ blends well as Viomak lists the things that Mugabe is famous for in a touching way. The lyrics slide well in the instruments, adding a unique identity to the subtle tune. The song’s impact and strength is in its arrangement too. This is one of the most exciting tunes on the album that was most likely developed to showcase Mugabe’s human rights abuses. A song that will last well past the time.
The fourth song ‘Hapana Mutsvene’ (No one is perfect) is a definite hit. The song does not speak to Mugabe only but is speaks on behalf of everyone. Viomak sings that no one is perfect and Mugabe is not perfect either so he should listen to other people’s views and step down. ‘Hapana mutsvene’ move eyebrows with its sorrow inducing lyrics and a whole lot of other goodies in it. The continuous marimba and trumpet sounds maintain a commendable tight grip on one’s attention with her accommodating voice selflessly giving in the instruments enough room and time to be felt. The rolls contribution makes the song a great lovable tune as the voices and the instruments ride on the tough bassline without losing focus .In the background there is the traditional congas making it a straight dance hit. The song goes in many directions at once, continuously repeating the chorus with an amazing sound output.
This recording is dedicated to all those who seek and practice the principles of understanding, tolerance and human rights. After listening to the song one understands that there is a desire for us to cherish life, accept and tolerate each other’s mistakes. The song has sufficient punch to keep it amazing to the last beat. The lyrics are sweet and clever, allowing everyone regardless of political divide to appreciate the song. The fusion of two types of rolls with trumpet is irresistible. The perfect sound is so true to its lyrics as Viomak sings that Mugabe is a failure who should admit his mistakes.
The following song ‘Mhosva’ (Crimes) is a controversial recording of rare composition, very relevant and skillfully written showing her artfulness to the fullest. It is the most people inspired tune on the album and features great accordions blending as one, other times playing away from each other all packed in a South African rhythm. In the song Viomak questions Mugabe when he is going to pay those he killed in car accidents including Susan Tsvangirai .As if in a court of law she narrates Mugabe’s victims and asks Mugabe when he is going to pay back for his murderous activities. The impressive song develops naturally and Viomak does not shake off her Manyika dialect from the Shona people.I think this is a very good song that will forever remain relevant as it will be a trademark for Zimbabwe politics, providing information that could be used for research purposes and for bringing Mugabe to justice in a court of law. The song gives one shivers and asks Mugabe tough provocative questions which will obviously anger him. The goodness of the song is also matched by the competent instruments which achieve a ten over ten vibrant tune. I would ask anyone how a track like Mhosva could possibly be forgotten. This is however the whole point of her music. Viomak displays more flavoured vocals, accompanied by well-balanced instruments which goes to prove that she is definitely in touch with her kind of music.
‘Mhosva’ clearly blames Mugabe for killing Josiah Tongogara, Rukarwa, Ndangana , Susan Tsvangirai and here the political activist slightly moves away from the ordinary to try something different. The South African dance rhythm creates great protest dance music. The lead is well placed until the end of the song. Whether one chooses to dance to the song or to just listen to it ,it is given that either way the song speaks to the soul. Viomak who is very much involved in the fight for Zimbabwe human rights directs her views in this song as she questions when Mugabe will bring back the money he stole and all the people who disappeared.
Her perception of political events in Zimbabwe and her ability to artistically share her views roar in this track, emphasizing her musical knowledge and writing skills, whilst painting the song’s composition to a perfect shine. ‘Mhosva’ has a strong magnificent arrangement, a very illustrious plot and a practical theme .The moment the song starts playing it is common sense that the tune is powerful from the way it grabs your attention. The lyrics pull one ‘s curiosity sideways before she asks Mugabe the next question and so on.Of course the music tightens and gets more controversial when she asks Mugabe how he is going to end the chaotic land reform programme and when he is going to rebuild the poor people’s houses that he destroyed during Murambatsvina (Clean the filth). The mix of congas, kicks, snares and rolls gets you into a dancing mood drifting you to the end of the song unknowingly.
I can’t tell how she approached the sixth song ‘Vakadyei’ (What did you eat?) ,questioning what Mugabe ate to achieve so many years in a country where ordinary citizens are failing to reach forty years. The irresistible feeling is a sense of fake celebration in the song .Viomak asks God for how long Zimbabweans have to put up with Mugabe. The song feels beautiful and nourishes the mind on top of a natural raw voice quality free from excessive reverb. You can feel some pain through Viomak’s worried voice as she insists on knowing what Mugabe ate to reach all those years in a country where life expectancy for men and women is below 50years.
A very interesting song that relies on truth with lyrics that rhyme in an amazing way as she sarcastically praise Mugabe for surviving against all odds. The congas which are almost a must in her songs support her as she sarcastically praises Mugabe for living for so many years as if he had eaten a railway line. The song gets you into a jovial mood without your consent as usual creating a completely original music sound that easily invites one to the dance floor.As you take in the song, it strikes on you that the simple but complex repetitive lyrics produce a rich and sweet melody. Apart from being a danceable song the energetic tune captures neatly all what protest music is all about.
Going on to the song ‘Yapidiguka’ (Zimbabwe is upside down), the track is transmitted in an instantly likeable way. Viomak is clearly with this song obviously going to find a bigger audience.A combination of kicks, hiats, rolls, rimshot, brass, organ, brass, and snare wed with Viomak’s touchy lyrics to produce a masterpiece. It is not only a masterpiece in terms of production but for the fact that it recognizes Zimbabwe‘s historical icons Kaguvi and Nehanda and gives them the respect they deserve in an amusing way that is rather very pleasing to note. The song is like a report to the Zimbabwean icons that Mugabe has turned Zimbabwe upside down and the country is in a reverse motion, moving backwards instead of developing forward.
The song attacks the well known repressive laws, POSA and AIPPA asking Mugabe to remove the draconian laws and allow freedom of expression to prevail. The political activist cum protest singer also recognizes the plight of banned musicians and asks Mugabe to free the airwaves. The song will be a nationwide tune if given the attention it deserves. Listening to it calmly before standing up to dance to the upbeat tempo one feels as if they are asked to resolve a jigsaw puzzle. It is one those welcoming tunes that raises you up and slowly brightens you all the way to the end. At least the last minutes of the song are dedicated to instruments ,which is a good thing or else the tension created in the song would be too much to leave untreated. The track remains a must-hear tune with its pleasant organ sound. After repeated listening one realises that the tune has an undeniable broad appeal and will certainly acquire varied popularity. In this song Viomak’s work as a freedom of expression campaigner is solidified and honoured.
Supreme Leader album goes to rest with the South African beat song Uchaisepi (Where will you put?).In the song the singer asks Mugabe where he will put the money he stole, the wife he stole, the diamonds he stole after he dies. An inquisitive song that appears to indicate that Viomak is longing for Mugabe to go.A load of instruments start at the same time producing a catchy dense output .It goes on for a short while before some instruments temporarily give up leaving the bass, the lead and other bits to remain in the race until the end.Quite an interesting listen. Within the song, the lead sounds great and it manages to lead Viomak well from one verse to the next abruptly changing its beat in an amazing way. Something like changing lanes. She alertly joins in the beat by chanting the repetitive song title Uchaisepiko uchaisepi (Where will you put, where will you put) as if she is cheering a horse race in liaison with the bass which is allowed to prosper and play all the time. A very classical song that displays some interesting mixture of Zimbabwean and South African beat. Also of concern in the song is where Mugabe will put the mansion he built and the donor funds he stole. The song appeals, moves and offers the kind of joy that the world of South African dance could never even expect. The song will survive because of the greatness of everything in it.
Following after ‘Mhosva’, ‘Uchaisepi’ (Where will you put) has a strong element of passionate singing which gives the tune a very soft touch. ‘Uchaisepi’ gave Viomak a chance to experiment outside the strictly protest songs of most of her work. This one is sort of general as it does not mention Mugabe’s name even though some people will be able to tell that the song refers to Mugabe. Supported along by the sound of a bright piano, organ, och string, bottle, snare and lead guitar, the track offers a fantastic balance of sound that easily calls one to the dance floor.The song is more than just a song, but skill as well, as the lyrics and sound pose a remarkable style that she carefully constructed to bring out the social and political issues destroying Zimbabwe. There is absolutely no doubt that ‘Uchaisepi’ will appeal to a large listenership. She successfully competes with the instruments to end the song in a Zimbabwean signature. ‘Uchaisepi’ provides a great platform for the next Mugabe birthday album as it leaves one in suspense for what is to come next.
After this, Viomak confirmed that she is working on many other protest music albums including ‘ZANU DC’, ‘Good Nonsense Unearthed’ and women issues albums , ‘Child Abuse’ , ‘Hello Women’ and the single song Chinja Maitiro .Of course 50% of the songs proceeds go to charity to help Zimbabweans in need. More about her music and her work is on her website www.viomakcharitymusic.com .