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Freshlyground Chicken to Change

The Chickens of Northern Limpopo

by Andy Davis / 17.09.2010

After years of riding the afro-pop gravy train, swanning around the world as South Africa’s number 1 export band, recording in New York and sharing stages and studios with Shakira, Freshlyground finally seem to feel confident enough to branch into political protest music. Hooray! Their song “Chicken to Change” produced in conjunction with the satirists at ZANEWS, that calls on Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to do the right thing and resign, has landed them in some hot water with the tin-pot administration across the grey, greasy Limpopo. In a ZANU-inspired clampdown on freedom of speech that has seen an artist arrested for depictions of the Matabeleland massacres and another man arrested for simply remarking that 86 year old Mugabe was “old and wrinkled”, Freshlyground’s song “Chicken to Change” didn’t stand a chance. It was summarily banned and their visas have been revoked which means they won’t be performing at the exclusive Wild Geese Lodge in Harare next month, as scheduled. However Kubatana, Zimbabwe’s biggest network of rights activists, has launched campaign for locals to download “Chicken to Change” as their cellphone ring tone and it’s going quite well. We got Zolani Mahola to answer some questions.

So apparently you won’t be playing in Zim on the 3rd of October. What happened?

His Excellency’s people got whiff of the video we made with ZANEWS in which he eventually transforms from a latex puppet person into a latex puppet chicken. I guess He was not be pleased.

Did someone from the Politburo contact and threaten you guys.

They just revoked our work permits and when our manager, Sevi, spoke to someone at Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs he put the phone down on her.

Freshlyground Chicken to Change

If they said you could come, would you still go?

I’ve always wanted a guided tour of Chikurubi Prison! I’m not sure, Andy… to be honest. The situation is pretty tense there and of course there is all this talk about imposing sanctions. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been going anyway. At least that’s what some artists have been thinking.

What’s been the reaction to Freshlyground’s most political piece of music since forever?

Overwhelmingly positive. Next we cut a little closer to the bone, we pick the rotten apple falling from our own tree, take the log out of the national eye. Only joking…

What do you mean “only joking” we expect nothing less.


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  1. the fish in the barrel says:

    I’m not saying that Bob Mugabe isn’t a legitimate target, but he’s a very easy target. What right-thinking member of FG’s target market wouldn’t agree with these sentiments? Now, if there was a local band that put Comrade Malema in his place, THEN I’d be impressed.

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  2. Andy says:

    Fish in a barrel… here’s a song we at Mahala, in cooperation with Comrade Citizen Jay Bones produced that was directly inspired by the lavish lifestyle of non-public servant and ANCYL chairman Julius Malema aka Kiddie-Amin


    you can also download it for free, gratis and Mahala…

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  3. Brett says:

    I love this video, and ZANEWS is brilliant…

    @the fish in the barrel: here’s a suggestion… do it yourself instead of waiting to be impressed 😛

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  4. unanimous says:

    @the fish in the barrel says:
    u want people to risk their asses tuning about malema but u too scared to use ur real name on
    a comment board…mmm

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  5. fillet says:

    @unanimous, if I’m a kettle then you’re a pot. We’ll leave colour out of it.

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  6. Budstar says:

    …freshly ground…I dont really care at all for this bubblegum band, but to take a swing at stoopid mad bob, (well he aint at all stupid really…hes a very clever man, pity its wasted on the wrong cause) gets a sliver of respect from mighty me…

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Easy target, Freshly. But nice – you know how to create more fans from the dumber members of our population

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  8. parownoia says:

    Can anyone guarantee that Freshlyground won’t be prevented from playing in China one day because of this move?

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  9. Tim says:

    Zolani girl stay the fuck away from that side now, I think yall burnt that bridge. And serious I wouldnt go even if I hadn’t made a track against Bobbert. Zolani for President!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    I think this is silly.
    Bob is an easy target. FG aren’t pushing boundaries. And what did they expect, this article was pointless, these 4 short questions were only a ruse on mehalas part to be able to advertise a ‘freshly ground’ article so they could link them on facebook and try encourage their fans to come here. There is no content in this interview.

    The same goes for the song and message. FG are linking to his name and his agenda to try and get more ‘hits’ but not affect any real change, I fear. I dont see any sincerity in this shakira colaborating sell out easy litening pre-packaged guilt free rainbow nation farce. Basically they’re like, ‘Yeah, we go our gig cancelled. We were playing at a secular market to rich people, who would mostly have been white, at an excluisive lodge, but fuck man: we’re so political and trendy we got that shit BANNED!’
    They probably rushed to get any gig there booked with full knowledge that it would be cancelled, and this could be used to drum up some more PR. and what kind of kak manager tries to confirm visas, gets cut off, assumes the phone was put down and then gives up. ‘What happened, Sevi!’
    ‘Gasp, I dont know!’
    ‘We must find out!’
    ‘I tried! They put the phone down on me!’

    (PS; Recently some friends from the USA came to visit, and also traveled extensively to Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana Zambia and Zimbabwe. They said that ZImbabwe was pretty much the nicest of the lot. )

    But yeah, FG release a politically charged attached on Bob Mugabe, and then get banned from polaying a gig in Zim? This was expected, and not news worthy. It’s only been formed into news to try push a PR agenda through the media. The whole things feels so sterile and calculated.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    everyong fucking KNOWS what happened here:
    Zanews is the catalyst of anything good here. FG got an opportunity to do a music video with them, and just adopted the ZANEWS formulae, politically and everything else.
    It hardly is any big move on their part.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    that cheesy little eye brow arch the singer does in the beginning of the music video exasperates me.
    So cheesy. Such a rehearsed role, not only within the context of the video, but the mind set in general .

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  13. engel naaier says:

    first anonymous under Tim with the long comment… and the rest of you anony-knobs. You’re total wetbacks. What have you been doing to effect change in Zim or at home to assume such high ground? Have you ever even been to a protest march? Zim is the central struggle of our time. It’s closer than you think. And while this bit of agit-pop is a bit late, it’s still a welcome effort. You’re probably one of those crappy unfulfilled hipster ad creatives for whom nothing is ever good enough. Why don’t you climb off your high horse, get involved and do something relevant with your self-centered and useless existence instead of pulling down the good work of others – for what reason – who knows.

    Thanks for your unhelpful cynicism. you really put the pathetic in apathetic…

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  14. Rosa Sparks says:

    To engel naaier, as Zimbabwean I must say although their attempts are noteworthy, I think they were marred by the fact that Bob is a ridiculously easy target. There are better ways to affect change and inspire a nation than attack Bob. What did they expect the Zim government to do, welcome them at the airport with garlands of flame lilies!

    I think FG were quite naive and tactless in their approach which leaves me to conclude that they cared more about who they were singing about as opposed to the message they wanted to convey…shameless publicity stunt! Which Zimbo would respond to ‘Chicken for Change’ as a call to political unity. Come now, I know we have had a pretty kak 10 years but please, don’t insult our intelligence.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    it amazes me how quick people are to point out cynical takes on a group doing something political within the context of pop. get a life. they did something from where they stand. now u do something.

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  16. Andy says:

    straight up anon… it’s like people are blaming them for not being the second coming of christ or operation desert storm! They’re an afro-pop band. they wrote a fun, provocative and silly song with a powerful message for Zimbabwe. in terms of the size of their platform, this is potentially the most mainstream band to attempt protest music in a long, long time. And that deserves credit. And hopefully they will build on it. To knock them for not doing more or falling short is disingenuous! No matter how late, or how lame, at least they did something!

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  17. FGFan says:

    Actually I think you all have it wrong….. Zim police took one look at the wardrobe on that video and decided there’s NO WAY they’re letting people into the country dressed like that Simon guy…
    They were banned by the fashion police ….. 😀

    -Seriousy tho — anything that draws attention back to the injustices of Zimbabwe has my vote.. This could have been the one message that got through…. – each to try in their own way… The beautiful, amazing people of Zimbabwe deserve better than they have right now….

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