The death of the prominent Zimbabwean musician “Prince” Tendai Mupfurutsa this week marked yet another sad chapter for the country's music industry.
This year has particularly been a bad one for Zimbabwean music as the country lost at least 10 popular musicians, four of them in the month of October alone.
Sungura music legend Tongai Moyo succumbed to cancer in that month, which also saw the deaths of Khumulani Chaka, Takunda Mafika and Khumbulani Gibson Magaya.
Other music figures who died in 2011 included Cephas Mashakada, Clement Chinyama, Adam Chisvo, DJ Hilton Mambo and music promoter James “Jimalo” Chiyangwa.
Industry commentators say Zimbabwe lost more popular artists in 2011 than in any other year they can remember. Even living musicians find it hard to survive in a tough economic climate where their revenues are siphoned away by pirates.
State media quoted Information Minister Webster Shamu as saying Tongai Moyo’s family is wallowing in poverty “whilst pirates benefit from his music.
Zimbabwe Musicians Rights Association Director Polisile Ncube told reporter Violet Gonda piracy is mainly to blame for destroying artists’ careers.
She said: “If people continue with piracy it means they kill the music themselves, they kill the musicians because with the piracy the musicians get nothing and at the end of the day if they stop composing there won’t be any entertainment for anybody.”
Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart said most musicians live in poverty and they must therefore consider their art from a business standpoint so that they can enjoy the fruits of their labor and fully develop their talents.
“It’s a tragedy in our country that whilst people like Oliver Mtukudzi and others are relatively wealthy, they are the exception. The vast majority live in poverty," he said.
“We have to look at our tax laws and the general environment to ensure that artists’ talents are realized and that they become wealthy and productive in society."
Coltart said it is important to have an independent electronic media that can promote the music of the nation's artists. He noted that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, the monopoly broadcaster for now, excludes many artists for political reasons.
The Zimbabwe Musicians Rights Association, meanwhile, says it has embarked on capacity-building programs to empower musicians.
“We have galas to remember our heroes who died for our country. Now we also need something like that to remember our music legends, who also inspired us as young artists to be what we are today," said musician-producer “Dr.” Tawanda Benson.