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There is no shortcut to success - Interview with dub-poet and writer Albert Nyathi
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
February 01, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Albert Nyathi

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Albert Nyathi Albert Nyathi is Zimbabwe's premier performance dub-poet. His performances are often backed by powerful music. At school he used to perform traditional praise poetry, but was inspired by the freedom struggle in Zimbabwe. He started to write plays and poems at secondary school. At university in Zimbabwe in the 1980's he was so influential within the students representative body, that he was invited for each rally or each meeting. He gave up his rapidly advancing career in government service as a very well informed senior member of Zimbabwe's National Arts Council to concentrate on performance and the development of youth training programmes in the arts in Harare's townships.

You attended University with Jonathan Moyo, Arthur Mutambara and others. What was it like in that environment?
It was fun. I remember Jonathan Moyo telling me that he was a musician. I listened to one of his songs. It was really good. I think he's a good composer apart form his political escapades. I think really honestly, he's a good musician; he's a good composer.

You mentioned Unity earlier in our Inside/Out interview, what kind of Zimbabwe do you want?
I want a country that recognises . . . like the Karangas . . . if I go to [where they are] I want to know the heroes from Karangaland, the heroes from Matabeleland. Kwamtukudzi it's called the Korekores. I want us to respect each other's territories. That's the unity I want. If ZAPU talks of devolution, what they are saying is that a particular area that produces, obviously each area has it's own strength, there must be some kind of autonomy. Let's have for instance Chiadzwa, Mutare. Mutare cannot be poor when there are so many diamonds coming from Mutare. If we say 10% or 5% of the wealth from each particular province goes to the local governing body and can develop the local area, I think that would be good. Then we have a central government that gets the larger chunk. There are some areas that would be naturally poorer, so what central government gets should be spread to areas that have nothing. Listen

How are you working towards Unity?
Some of my poems do touch on issues of unity. Us working together as a family. I'm very lucky that if I go to Murambinda today, or if I go to Kariba, or to Chimanimani, I feel at home. The other day I was in Mhondoro, and you know everyone tries to speak to me in Ndebele. The chief there said to me ‘Ah Kunjani Nyathi?' I really want us to unite in a true sense, not for political expediency, or for the greed of politicians. But us uniting in a true sense of being one. I have always said that tribalism does exist among mad people, people who don't care about each other. The kind of person, who is tribal, doesn't care about his or her cousin. It's in the mind. If I take you down to my home, they won't see a Shona in you they will see our girl, mwanangu, mdanami. I think it's emphasized among politicians. They are the most tribal. Zimbabwean people are not tribal. It's really fanned by politicians, and I think they should stop. Listen

You are the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association. What do you think are the biggest issues facing artists?
One of them is piracy. Piracy is giving hell to the industry. You can imagine you spend so much money creating the work, rehearsing and recording. There is so much money that goes into it, so much work, so much time only for somebody to make copies and sell them. That's theft. That is wrong. We must stop it. One of the challenges that I see is that people have tended to, lately, that is, over rely on the computer. You don't find the originality that is in the works of artists like Lovemore Majaivana, Biggie Tembo or James Chimombe in music anymore. Youngsters don't want to learn these days. They want a short cut, a quick way of doing things. There is no shortcut to success of any nature.

What inspires your work?
I get inspired by the things that happen around me. For instance we had our car break down the other day and I wrote this poem. It's titled I hate a breakdown

Stuck in the middle of the road
Cars whizzing past like stray bullets
Pressing us out of breath
Hooters squealing and squawking
Tyres screaming and screeching
We pushed the car to safety
And suddenly we become mechanics.

It's the plugs
Oh no it looks like it's the carburetor!
Oh no it should be petrol!
Wonder, it could as well be number plates!

Well all we know is
We are stuck here
And we have no expertise
Luckily there is no mud
The stars have not been unhinged
And the moon still shines up there.
Suddenly, a good Samaritan turns up from nowhere
And we are on the road once again.

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Audio File

  • Jonathan Moyo's music
    Language: English
    Duration: 32sec
    Date: February 04, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 503KB

  • Devolution of power and resources
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 13sec
    Date: February 04, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.12MB

  • Unity, not tribalism
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 21sec
    Date: February 04, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.24MB

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