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never going to fit into any box" - Interview with Sam 'Comrade
Fatso' Farai Monro
April 05, 2011
Inside/Out with Comrade Fatso
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Fatso and Chabvondoka are an explosive, genre-busting, insurgent
band that defy musical boxes and modern day apolitical pop music.
This multi-racial African band seamlessly blends sounds as diverse
as rock, hip hop, chimurenga, jiti, house and reggae while Comrade
Fatso's spoken word hip hop flow hits subjects ranging from the
struggle for freedom to love and having a good time. His poetry
and music have appeared in print and broadcast media in over fifty
countries around the world and is being studied in universities
in Germany, UK, USA, France and South Africa.
did you evolve from Saint George's boy to protest poet?
It was a lot to do with my background. My parents were both involved
in social justice work. My dad is involved in a lot of rural community
development and empowerment projects and my mum works with the disabled
and street kids. I think definitely that kind of background influenced
my thinking and who I became.
I was always interested in words when I was at school and literature
itself. At University I did English literature with French and social
and political thought. I was writing poetry when I was 16/17 at
school. While I was at university, the poetry that came out was
to do with the political situation here. I only started performing
after I got back from University.
a question from a film, when did you fall in love with Hip-hop?
I've listened since I can remember, since I was in primary
school. At the time it was 2Live Crew and NWA, Rebel MC, MCHammer,
Vanilla Ice, Dead Prez, Mos Def and Talib Kwali, Tumi and the Volume,
K'Naan, The Roots . . . .
mentioned Talib Kweli and K'Naan who are into social commentary.
Has their way of expressing themselves influenced you and in what
I couldn't pinpoint one rapper, but I think the Hip Hop that
I listen to, that I prefer is socially engaged, politically conscious
hip hop. A big influence on what I do is Dub poetry. I was really
interested in it at University. I did my dissertation on Dub poetry
and focused on the pioneers of the genre - Mutabaruka and Kwesi
Johnson. That really interested me, how they used the word, and
how the word was connected to the political struggles that were
happening at the time.
is your work about?
My work is definitely pro-social justice, pro-freedom. I wouldn't
align my work or what I do with any political party; I think that's
the downfall of a lot of musicians. Those who were the freedom fighters
yesterday end up siding with the ruling class today, you look at
Mzwake Mbuli in South Africa they've lost credibility . .
. because you know, you go from being protest poet to praise singer,
it's a dirty thing to do.
your poem Identity from your website. How do you feel your
identity is perceived?
I think a lot of people are confused. I think they're even
more confused now, because I was the white dreadlocked protest poet,
and now I'm the white protest poet with a Mohawk and I think
some of them thought I was a Rasta, and they think I've sold
out the struggle, but I was never a rasta in the first place. I
think different people perceive me in different ways. There are
a lot of people from across colour and class lines that connect
with the poetry that I write, the music we make and the message
that it has. I'm happy that the message of the poetry and
music does cut across colour and class lines, because it was intended
to. But at the same time there are others who just don't understand
what the hell we're about. ‘OK he's white and
he's working with these black band members, and it's
hip hop but there's also reggae, Jit, museve and there's
house and there's raga . . . and' . . . you know? And
that's fair enough; I'm never going to fit into any
box musically or otherwise.
who can't be stereotyped, do you feel that we live in a post
I think Zimbabwe is far from being post racial. I think there are
those of us who in our heads, there are friends who I hang out with,
who are definitely post racial in their outlook, but I think we've
still got a lot of issues to deal with. There's no doubt about
it . . . racial issues and class issues. I'm not sure, but
I think the last ten years have in some ways dragged us backwards,
and in others have dragged us forwards. Dragging us backwards, there
does seem to be more racial tension here now than there was when
I was growing up. It's definitely because of all the hate
propaganda, the political propaganda that gets spewed in the state
media. In how it's dragged us forward, I think it's
made those who believe in Zimbabwe have to fight for it, be they
black white or coloured, and that's hopefully brought people
closer together. At the same time Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, black,
white: all these middle class kids who've gone abroad, connecting
with their Zimbabweans identity. They grew up here and wanted to
go away as quickly as possible, and then they go over there and
try to find their identity and realize what connections they've
got back here. There are interesting things that come out. You've
got white kids in London who've got an mbira punk band and
things like this that you end up appreciating what you have when
you're far away [from home].
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