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The People vs Rockford “Roki” Josphat: The Loser is Perfectly Clear.

Koffi Olomide (L) with Rockford "Roki" Josphat

By Farai Chirimumimba

I am reminded of the opening statement by U.S Supreme Court Justice John Stevens emotional dissent on (George W) Bush v. (Albert “Al”) Gore 2000 presidential election challenge which read: “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential
election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear.

It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law. However,  for the purpose of this article and in my personal opinion and view l am tempted to say, although the future of Urban Grooves sensation Rockford Josphat was thrown into the spotlight seven days ago, it appears we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner in The People v. Rockford “Roki” Josphat debacle. However, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear.

It is the Republic of Zimbabwe’s confidence in arguably one of the most scintillating comebacks of all time. A feat probably last seen in 1999 when the late Oliver Mtukudzi sudden turnaround produced Tuku Music; an album that catapulted him to the world stage, cementing his (senior) superstar status.

Whether or not Roki can mount a historic comeback to match his groundbreaking hits such as Suzzan, Aiyaho and Chidzoka was never a question. What was in question was whether or not he will ever mount a comeback. The timing was right and the market was ready and boom…

The agreed facts are that Roki was in the midst of a major comeback releasing two groundbreaking singles titled Zviriko and Uchandifunga that have received amazing goodwill from the media, fans, critics, and neutrals alike. There is no single local radio station or serious media outlet that has not hosted or mentioned the epic comeback since then. I will not divulge deep on the rare laughing and merry-making that accompanied the good news on social media.

It was the release of the song Patati Patata. A collaboration with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rhumba superstar Koffi Olomide and Tanzanian BET award winner, Rayvanny released last week 04 August that has caused an uproar among fans and neutrals alike and prompted a politically charged condemnation that is threatening to derail the “Chitsvatsva train” once actively northbound.

Last week, barely 48 hours after the release of Patati Patata Roki was hosted by Rumbidzai Venge on Zimpapers owned Capitalk 100.4 radio station during the breakfast show. Asked about how he felt about the then “2 million views” in what appears to be a “pre-emptive strike Roki boldly declared that “nobody can stop the Chitsvatsva train “upwards and northwards.” Chitsvatsva” is a village in Ward 8 of Seke (rural),  Mashonaland East province and the place is host to Roki’s residence.

The bone of contention appears to stem from the “ED number one” line in the song that apparently appears to endorse  President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.

As a result, the Patati Patata has seized to be music for some fans while some still insist that it is nothing else other than music. There is no consensus among experts on the clear definition of music.

However, what experts choose to agree on is that “music is anything that is pleasing to the ear” meaning what is music to me might not necessarily appeal to the next person.  The events of the last few days put to the fore the thinking that advises us that overnight political induced glory is not as important as thoughtfulness and sincerity.

Therefore, a typical winning artiste aims to  appeal to a wider audience through accepting fans and critics’ suggestions humbly and sincerely responds to
constructive criticism.

I agree with the school of thought that reminds us that although we can not separate music from the socio-economic and politics of the day,  what is known and clear from historical archives is that the Zimbabwean music market is sensitive to music that appears aligned to a certain political party or makes reference in support of a politician.

Talented musicians such as the late Andy Brown, liberation war hero Simon Chimbetu, Brian Mteki, and Last Tambaoga of the “Blair is a toilet” sound in an apparent reference to former British prime minister Mr. Tony Blair quickly come to mind. In fact, Last Tambaoga made a comeback in recent months only to be reminded of his past association with the ruling Zanu pf party. National hero Oliver Mtukudzi, Leonard Zhakata, Jah Prayzah, and dancehall artiste Winky D among others navigated their way out of the criticism but not without some bruises.

Technology has enabled artistes to literally have the attention of fans and critics at their fingertips, and it’s hard to deny these people’s influence on our lives. However, what is apparent and obvious is that Zimbabwe is always in perpetual election mode and many people would likely discredit a celebrity’s endorsement of a politician.

It is not unusual in countries such as the United States to have celebrities rallying their fans to go out and vote for or support a certain presidential candidate. An article by Heidi Parker for titled:  “Selena Gomez pleads with followers to vote in person especially in her hometown of Texas: ‘Your voice does matter and it’s so important,’ 03 November 2020, the actress encouraged fans to go out and vote in person ahead of the  U.S 2020 presidential election.

According to The Guardian article titled: “Clinton ‘thrilled’ to receive Adele’s backing for US presidency” 27 Oct 2016, pop superstar Adele requested that Donald Trump “stop playing her songs at his rallies” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.  As if it was not enough, days before the vote she told a Miami, Florida crowd  “Don’t vote for Trump”, days before the election that Trump/Pence partnership eventually won.

It, therefore, does not follow that if celebrity endorsements are tolerated in other countries they can also be prescribed in the local environment. Unless and until the Zimbabwean political terrain learns the art of tolerance of divergence of views, l recommend artistes to refrain from suicidal political experiments even if they are prepared to fight their way out. A way out that has many “unmarked graves.”

However, we find solace from Rex Thomson in an article titled ” The Intertwined Relationship Between Music And Politics” who aptly put it: “The very nature of politics is, like music, rooted in conflict and harmony. The heart of music is the interplay of the physical and the mental, as the compromise between them forms a cohesive whole. Compromise is also the heart of the political process, trying to find common ground and consensus solutions to
problems of society through open communication. Both (music and politics) seek to inspire their targets, and both have made great use of the other to advance their ideas.”

It is for this reason that l leave you listening to John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance.”



About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende