“I’m reppin’ Zim”: Talking politics with Kuda of DKR

November 11, 2009 at 18:44 1 comment

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Beat Bungalow met up with Kuda at Zimfest, which is a festival of Zimbabwean music and culture now celebrated in London, Cape Town, Perth, Brisbane and Bulawayo, Zim.

The bass player out of the band he’s playing live shows with,  Fabgrease formerly of MOFRO, links us up for an interview in one of the tents near the main stage. While we talk, there’s a strong feeling of unity in the air: the people who have come together for Zimfest are celebrating togetherness and a shared heritage, most also share a strong hope for a better tomorrow in Zimbabwe.

This is also what comes across in Kuda’s music: a fusion of politics, Africanism and the struggle for a better situation in his divided motherland – in his words, the Divided Kingdom Republic. Here’s what the man had to say…

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Q: What does performing at Zimfest mean to you?

A: Being at Zimfest is always fantastic and we’ve performed at a few festivals this year and this one is always special because it’s a place where we can play the songs that are contextual to our people. We can do songs like war cries that people from Zim would automatically recognise and sing along to. When we’re at other festivals we’re always the new artist and play different songs. Today we could let ourselves loose so it was great.

Q: Tell us a bit about your group DKR: how long have you been together, what’s your style of music and who are the people involved?

A: The group is called Divided Kingdom Republic and we’re a collective of artists. Our musical style is Zimbabwean music with a contemporary fusion of the music that’s around us all the time, so you’ll hear some hip hop, some reggae but we always try and bring it from our perspective as Zimbabweans. We’ve got a really good artist, Rassi Ai that we work, also Munyaradzi and we’ve got some really good backing singers. DKR is a very spiritual group in the fact that we all believe in our god. We also believe that music should be a positive influence and it shouldn’t be a tool of self-advertisement or that it should be used to oppress other people. We call ourselves DKR, because kingdom’s are run by kings, republics are run by the people and we’re from a divided country, our people are scattered all over the world and we’re trying to fuse our humanity in our music.

Q: In terms of the political situation in Zimbabwe at the moment, is it something that you’re influenced by and that’s constantly in your mind and in your lyrics?

A: Absolutely, the political situation in Zim has been of a great concern to all of us because we have family back home and right now we’re in a transitional government situation where the Zanu PF and the MDC administrations have decided to unite and work together. Right now my position is that we support the transitional government and we hope the leaders, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, can put aside their differences and start doing better things for our nation. As diplomats of our culture all over the world we are saying that we want the western world to recognise this inclusive government because our people have suffered enough. The sanctions that have been put in place by the west are having very bad effects, we’ve seen them in operation: our mothers, our sisters and brothers and fathers are suffering right now because of the situation that Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden and people like that have put in place. We don’t need US legislation governing what’s happening in Zimbabwe and we need our people and the transitional government to have a chance. We’ve got some great minds and the ability in Zimbabwe to be a better country – we just don’t need the west hindering the process. With the sanctions and they’re not affecting the fat cats as they say, but they are affecting my mother and father who are hard-working people.

Q; Has the western media been hindering that process as well, as you say, has it been biased and focused too much on the problems of white farmers. How’s that affected Zimbabwe?

A: I am not offended by any way by the mass media from the west because they’re doing exactly what they’re told to do. You read different newspapers and they support different sides. They are very polarised in the way that they report. Some of the tabloids are not worth the paper they’re printed on, so I’m not offended by they’re nature. They have moulded a perception of a country that is great, a country that has the Victoria Falls and beautiful people who are resilient – people who have not cannibalised despite the most incredible hardships. At the same time it’s also a place where police have been corrupt and government officials have not been doing their job properly. All those kinds of things, so nothing positive has been reported about our people. There should be more respect in that our country has not gone to chaos like other places have. We’re an educated able people and we’re grateful for the assistance that the west has given us. At the same time, we’re not looking for hand-outs and just want to operate on a level playing field. The press in the UK won’t change, the press in Germany won’t change and the press in Zimbabwe is the same.

As human beings we should start to listen to both sides of the argument. Indeed, there was a lot of wrongs done in the land reclamation but it was untenable to have 90 per cent of the population living in slums when you had 5,000 European-descended farmers who benefited from stolen land and colonialism could live off the fat of the land. This is not taking away from the fact that they were paying taxes or feeding people and that would be ignorant for me to say that they were not playing a part in society. I say that it was time for the other people of Zimbabwe to start reaping the benefits of independence: we needed white Zim farmers to use their expertise and start working with young black people who graduated from agricultural colleges and other schools. We needed Zimbabweans to also have a sense of ownership in the process.

Q: What about Zimfest? How much of a part has this festival played in making people conscious of what’s happening in Zimbabwe? Do you think it’s important to help people in need?

A: Zimfest has shown that white and black Zimbabweans can come together, mingle, have fun, share stages, share food. There have been no fights there are no police anywhere and we are all extremely cordial and celebrating together. I went to school with lots of white guys and we don’t see colour. We don’t want the west to tell us that all we see is colour. We don’t believe that Zimbabwe is a racist country because it’s not. We believe white men can be Zimbabwean, they were born there and they are part of us. At the end of the day, there was still a large majority of indigenous Zimbabwean men and women, black or white, who are still not benefiting from the rewards of an independent, prosperous Zimbabwe. I think the time will come when that will happen. We need our political leaders to realise that we would like some new energy and some new ways of thinking to progress and make our country a better place.

Q: Is there a need for western people to wake up and stop thinking that Africa is a continent plague by aids, atrocities and corruption, poverty? What would you like to tell them about Zimbabwe?

A: What I would like to tell the Europeans, Americans and everyone else in the world is that you’re correct to believe that Africa has got Aids problems, you’re correct to believe that there are lots of atrocities being done to people, you’re correct to believe that there’s a lot of mismanagement of systems. But that’s not the whole story because there are a lot of aspects of Africa that are beautiful. I think we need to be given the same amount of time, people in Europe were given to be able to develop and get themselves on their feet. We don’t want to become Europeans and want to remain African, so we would love to trade and speak as equals. We don’t want to be your little brothers anymore. If you look at the amount of wealth, people and resources that were stolen from Africa over the last 400 years, it’s incredible, unbelievable. If we were putting that into today’s monetary values, Africa should be a very wealthy place. I’m not trying to go back into history, but I mean that we would like the west to start seeing Africa for the positives, as well as the negatives. Just like we do with Europe.

Thanks;

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