Interview with Samm Farai Monro aka Comrade Fatso by Unathi L Sondiyazi
It was during this year’s World Economic Forum that the rulers of “small people” convened on the snow capped city of Davos in Switzerland to ‘rethink, redesign and rebuild’ their economies after 2008’s financial market catastrophe. Zimbabwe’s powerless prime minister; Morgan Tsvangirai attended the summit too; to plea with the heads of global financial institutions to have mercy on his broken country.
I contacted Comrade Fatso a poet and social activist and founder of MAGAMABA Projects and bandleader of Chabvondoka who is also internationally renowned for blogging for CNN’s on the ground coverage of the controversial 2008 Zimbabwean elections; to gauge his attitude about the current power sharing arrangement and his opinion on the political climate in his country.
The dreadlocked son of white Zimbabwean community organizers, Samm Farai Monro as he is known by his parents, has toured Europe, America and the Southern African states performing his version of toyi-toyi poetry from his banned House of Hunger album which was released two years ago and is yet to be aired on Zimbabwean state controlled broadcast media since its banning – the very same year. Monro’s socially conscious and politically piercing lyrics have earned him the fluttering comparison to the pioneering Thomas Mapfumo by most art critics who have written about him. He doesn’t seem affected by this comparison because Fatso is sticking it up toyi-toyi right under Mugabe’s hitleresque mustache.
Fatso is a writer endowed with a peculiar dry sense of humour and sharp wit that differentiates his writing from his contemporaries… perhaps its due the bitter political environment, that his live performances are riotous, loud and fervent as a toyi-toyi (a protest ‘dance’ made popular by the anti-colonial movements of Southern Africa)
Unathi L Sondiyazi: Considering that this April, Uncle Robert will be celebrating 3 decades at the helm of Zimbabwe’s throne. Does our world need to be improved and who should bear the cumbersome duty to “rethink, redesign and rebuild” it for us?
Comrade Fatso: People need to rebuild the world. Politicians only shape it in their own image. Our planet has reached a tipping point where climate change threatens the very existence of humanity. And this massive shift in our climate is due to the greed and never-ending ‘growth’ dogma of politicians and corporations. Should we give them the power to redesign the world? Should one give razors to a suicidal maniac?
Your album’ title House of Hunger, brings to mind a towering silhouette of Dambudzo Marachera to mind. What does Marachera’s writing and legacy mean to you?
Dambudzo challenged authority. Always. Everywhere. We need such anarchic minds in modern Africa. Minds that won’t lick the arses of our nationalistic ruling classes or foreign oppressors. We need to encourage free-thinking, autonomous beings.
Listening to your poetry one can say you weave your words like a weapon to smash at Mugabe’s façade of democracy. What do you want the world to know about living/working conditions in your country especially since the banning of your album House of Hunger?
Living conditions have somewhat improved since the creation of this so-called ‘Government of National Unity’ but only somewhat. The poor are still poor. The rulers still rule. Expression still ain’t free. And my album is still banned from the airwaves. So we’re in a weird situation where the opposition is ‘in power’ but our airwaves and papers are still choked with ZANU PF nationalist propaganda. So we continue using our words as our weapons.
Creatively where do you draw courage from, by that I mean who or what motivates and inspires your creative flame?
I’m motivated by my people, my comrades, my surroundings, my history, my family, my beliefs, my desires… I’m motivated by everything that can possibly, collectively inspire someone to be arrogant enough to live free in a prison while laughing.
Asked about the experience of being white in Zimbabwe…he replied:
It’s a biology fault apparently. Both my parents are white and by some freak of nature they produced a white baby. I’m still dumbfounded by the whole experience actually. But colour of skin is the least of my worries. I’m fourth generation African and am arrogant enough to believe that I belong and that I’ll fight. No hang ups.
Check out his album House of Hunger on www.comradefatso.com