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‘Munoti-dako’: The curse of technology and backyard studios
08/02/2014 00:00:00
by Learnmore Zuze
 
 
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MY good old friend and renowned novelist Aaron Chiundura Moyo once said, “Technology has ‘killed’ book writing”. Chiundura Moyo was speaking at a public forum in apparent reference to the advent of the internet. Similarly, most “old school” writers confessed that technology had left them behind. Some were even frank that they did not know their way about a computer. They bemoaned the “death” of book-writing and its rewards due to the advent of technology and the internet. Most of them recounted how novels, as secondary school set-books, were distributed en masse enabling them to make a comfortable living from the fruits of the pen.

But disbelief was clear in the audience when one writer of yester-year noted that he had actually bought a house with proceeds from writing back then. With over 1,500 secondary schools in Zimbabwe and an average of 400 copies produced per school, writers had quite a lucrative deal going. Publishing houses, it emerged, would even opt to buy a house or even a vehicle for a writer under the arrangement. It was also highlighted how publishing houses would continue to make money way after since a set-book could remain in use for up to three years or even more.

However, with the devastating effects of the readily-accessible technology today, students or colleges only need a few original copies which are run (color-photocopied) in thousands at an unbelievably lesser cost. The bulk of textbooks selling in the streets of Harare have simply been photocopied and the authors do not even know about this. Also, text books are being easily scanned and distributed on soft copy across tertiary institutions. Authors are left clutching thin air; all their efforts go up in smoke. That’s technology today.

But the greatest undoing of technology today, in my view, is that it has allowed virtually anyone to publish or record work on their own. More often than not there are no restrictions or regulations on self-produced content. In the years gone by, it was no easy thing to have a book published or music recorded. It was a noteworthy achievement to have Mambo Press, for example, publishing one’s work. Today books are self-published with the result that some uncensored material has found its way to readers.

Piracy is the foremost evil associated with music. The evils of piracy are there for all to see; from poor celebrities who pound the streets on foot to widows of artists holding begging bowls despite their husbands’ work being played across Zimbabwe and beyond. It’s indeed a losing battle. The last time the then Minister of Media, Webster Shamu, highlighted the plight was at Tongai Moyo’s funeral but success has been minimal in this regard. Police continue to run futile battles with piracy vendors every day. Before piracy, a single successful album was enough to draw an artist from the depths of poverty to a make-believe world.



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However, an even greater evil has emerged through technology which threatens the very purpose of music. Music should communicate positively. It should uphold that which is good and condemn that which is vile. It should change lives, apart from its entertaining value. Veteran music producer Bothwell Nyamhondera confirms, just like with authorship, that it was not easy for an artist to have their music recorded in the past. The music demo tape would go through a rigorous process of vetting before approval. It would pass through the hands of tough critics.

This process was painstakingly carried out that even people who had exceptional talent like the late Leonard Dembo-arguably Zimbabwe’s greatest musician-were once turned down back then. Even talented Gospel artist Charles Charamba faced insurmountable difficulties as he sought to take the Gospel to the world through music. Now, these rigorous processes helped in many respects. Music fans got quality. Artists would strive to produce quality music. Only musicians with real talent got to record. Music lovers got value for money. Artists succeeded on merit. No artist would attempt to take substandard work for recording. It was unthinkable that an artist would take a vulgar laced song for recording.

However, the mushrooming of backyard studios today has given birth to a greater evil, namely lack of restraint in musical lyrics. A case in point is the wildly popular song, ‘Munotidako’ by Jacob Moyana which is fast becoming the in-thing in bars and local parties. ‘Munotidako’ is Shona which has a two-tier meaning. Firstly, it can mean to say (in conversation); ‘you want us there.’ Secondly and mischievously dako means buttocks (big ones now according to socialites) Munotidako is certainly one song you can’t play in the presence of your children or mother. Religious people have been encouraged to lobby for its banning.

The song has sent social media into picture frenzy on the internet. Erotic dances have been attached to the song. A picture of a woman with big bums with the caption, ‘Munotidako’ has become a common feature on social media  Also, on You Tube is a popular one-minute video of a gyrating woman wriggling her waist with sexually suggestive bum dances with the track playing in the back ground. Moyana is not alone in the vulgar crusade but there are many especially in the youthful dance hall music category.

Now the question is: would this ‘indecent music’ (as Alick Macheso put it at an award ceremony) see the light of the day were it not for the back yard studios that have sprouted everywhere and only record music for the sake of money? Public transport has not aided the situation either as research shows that obscenity is wantonly glorified through repeated playing of such songs to the chagrin of the commuting public.

Indeed, backyard studios have become a curse to the beautiful gift of music. Of course, in America, as others have argued, that is the kind of staff that wins Grammies. But we are not Americans, neither are we Europeans but we are Africans with our conservative culture and we are a God-fearing people. It is my prayer that music may return to its glamorous societal role of rebuking evil, guiding, and inspiring good moral values.

Learnmore Zuze can be reached at lastawa77@gmail.com


 
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