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"I'm never going to fit into any box" - Interview with Sam 'Comrade Fatso' Farai Monro
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
April 05, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Comrade Fatso

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Comrade FatsoComrade 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.


How 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.

Why protest poetry?
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.

Borrowing 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 . . . .

You mentioned Talib Kweli and K'Naan who are into social commentary. Has their way of expressing themselves influenced you and in what ways?
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. Listen

What 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. Listen

I read 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. Listen

As somebody who can't be stereotyped, do you feel that we live in a post racial society?
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]. Listen

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