By Vasco Chaya
Artists are divided over the conviction of singer Seh Calaz who was fined $100 or 30 days in prison by the courts for lyrics he penned on his song Kurova Hohwa.
The Zimdancehall chanter was found guilty of “polluting public morals” for recording the obscene and indecent song. Harare magistrate Josephine Sande convicted him of contravening the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act.
He was given up to May 25 to pay the fine or spend a month in jail.
It is the State’s case that on a date unknown to the prosecutor but in 2016 the informant, one sergeant Brian Daimani of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, while on duty in the Harare Central Business District received information that Seh Calaz had recorded and performed an undesirable and obscene song.
Daimani proceeded to Mbare looking for Seh Calaz and found his manager and confiscated an exhibit.
The exhibit (song) was sent to the Censorship Board for viewership compilation and the recommendation was that the song was undesirable and should be banned.
The song’s lyrics read: “…Nhasi izuva rangu rekurova howa. Mumba inge ingori ahowa pachiridzwa mhere kunge pane arohwa. Babe ita uchindikisa pahuro. Ndorova zvingani zvima rounds. Ndadikitira ndipukute netauro. Chinja magiya uchindibatirira. Zvandinenge ndichiita mubedhuru. Ndiwe unoita ndisabuda mumachira…”
The Kwatinobva Kwakasiyana hit-maker had pleaded innocent saying he makes two versions of every song, one for commercial purposes and another “raw version” for party revellers.
He argued he was not aware that some of his raw version songs were being distributed on the open market.
However, the courts ruled that ignorance of the law is not an excuse and Seh Calaz would have to face the music for penning the song.
The magistrate urged the musician to guard against his raw music ending up commercial.
Controversial playwright Sylvanos “Bhanditi” Mudzvova condemned the courts for applying the “outdated law” on artistes.
“There is a very big challenge that we have with the Censorship and Entertainment Act. The law is too old. We actually call for it to be aligned with the current laws, or even for the law to be changed to suit the current modern scenarios.
“Look at the act, right now the censorship board can even go to the courts to stop ZBC from playing films such as Chuck Norris and A Team among others as these films promote violence in society. The censorship law does not allow ZBC to produce or show violence content on the television. Hence the law is too outdated,” Mudzvova said.
He said Seh Calaz was not supposed to apologise and plead guilty at all.
“I would want to say it was wrong for Calaz to plead guilty. What it means is that it is going to affect a lot of artistes, it is your right to create and there is freedom of producing what you feel or want. By really admitting it has actually put a very bad record on him as an artiste.
“According to Copyright Act, one has a right to produce anything without anyone stopping him or her. Even the censorship act is overridden by copyright act; hence Calaz should have engaged a lawyer in the first place,” he said.
Mudzvova said the society should select what to take and what to ignore.
“If people do not want to listen to the song Kurova Hohwa they should just not listen to it. Its’ funny that in Zimbabwe people play vulgar music from Congolese and Jamaican artistes but it’s only that the majority of them do not know the meaning of these songs.
“Penalising Seh Calaz should be condemned in strictest sense,” Mudzvova told the Daily News from his United Kingdom base.
Veteran arts manager Mathias Bangure said the courts have crippled creativity.
“Zimbabweans pretend to be holier-than-thou. The latest development is a disturbing one. How can an artiste be gagged? This will result in artistes concentrating on useless content owing to fear.
“Artistes should be allowed to express themselves freely without fear. Above all who doesn’t have sex?
“Zimbabwe should be the least to condemn vulgar considering that people used to wear skins that cover the essentials only back then,” he said.
Singer Clive Malunga famed for hit song Nesango, however, applauded the courts for penalising Calaz.
“We are a responsible people in nature and have a strong dignity. This habit of getting stray from our core values does not only start with young musicians, but even our leadership has been getting lost, and here I am referring to the organisers of the carnival, when they go out to Brazil to just get naked women to parade on our streets, imagine flying out to Brazil for that, what kind of examples are they setting?
“That is why you see young musicians not appreciating the values and culture we have here and go on copying other people. We have a rich culture; look at musicians like Thomas Mapfumo who have made it big by taking bits of our culture,” Malunga said.
The Jenaguru music producer added that young musicians should be responsible. “Young musicians should take their time to make good music; they must know they have parents out there. They should sing songs that teach, but what lessons do you get from those kind of songs?”
Zimdancehall promoter Partson Chimbodza of Chipaz Promotions told the Daily News that artistes should concentrate on clean lyrics.
“Each country has a set of rules implemented to safe guard its norms and values. As a result, anyone seen breaking these laws is labelled a deviance, hence musicians should not compose lyrics which are not in sync with our laws.
“Singing vulgar might be condemned in countries such as Jamaica but condemned in Zimbabwe,” Chimbodza said.
Television personality and Zimdancehall patron Oscar Pambuka said everything has to start by respecting the authority of the courts which has its way of analysing issues and interpreting the law.
“This issue needs an all stakeholders approach if we are to move forward with one mind. We need to understand that there is what is called underground music which surpasses most commercial productions.
“Many artists not only in Zimdancehall but in hip-hop or anything have numerous underground productions which have made even international artists like the late Tupac Shakur make it,” said Pambuka.
He added that all radio stations in Zimbabwe have their airplay requirements. “For example if the so called explicit song Kurova Hohwa was played on radio then it’s no longer Seh Calaz issue but the station involved. In underground music there is freedom of speech as artists communicate all those issues we hear and talk about daily. No one in that movement is forced to listen to the song.
“Instead of fining artists we need to educate each other especially on the legal issues which surround our vocal capabilities. The Constitution of Zimbabwe clearly states that one has freedom of association and speech and from that angle we also need the freedoms to be guaranteed.
“From the side of the artists the court’s decision clearly makes it clear that explicit songs are not allowed.” Daily News