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Culture, Music

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 It was summarily banned and their visas have been revoked which means they won’t be performing at the exclusive Wild Geese Lodge in Harare next month, as scheduled.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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