Throughout the history of music, there have been some songs and artists that have caused quite a stir, they’ve upset the authorities, pushed the envelope and angers the people, whether through lyrical content or behaviour or wardrobe malfunction, these artists in most cases the controversial they’re the genius they’re, though the establishment wouldn’t agree.
Once in a while a controversial artist/song comes along, media picks the controversy and hype it, some people gets mad, a spot light is shed on Him/Her, tonnes of copies are sold, parents and institutions rise in protest demanding the artist/song to be banned, more copies are sold, why not? controversy sells, sex sells, some musicians and their songs find themselves blacklisted by powers that be.
Sometimes tabloids makes controversy when there isn’t one, they speculate until there’s one, sometimes they blow things out of proportion, sometimes they sensationalise an error of judgement to the point which leaves someone’s careers in shreds and tatters, reputation dead and buried and in some cases dropped by their labels. But some artists they just can’t help themselves, some they thrive in controversy despite not having any substance whatsoever, thanks to the genius of their PR team, most genius artists are controversial by nature, always deliberate and calculative and repeated if necessary.
Before Kanye West & Lady Gagas time there was NWA, Ice T, 2pac, Madonna, Cat Stevens, George Michael, Public Enemy, Sex Pistols, Elvis, Black Sabbath, the list is endless. What is controversy? What makes controversial artists controversial?
In my own definition controversy is anything which society deem inappropriate, it could be lyrics, behavior or conduct, Clothing, even a CD Sleeve can cause controversy (remember Snoops Doggystyle one?)
Lets take a closer look at home because its not only western artists embroided in controversy.
In 1990 Paul Matavire was found guilty of rape and served one year, the victim was a visually handicapped woman from Jairos Jiri Association where he was a social worker, the evidence was a piece of his shirt which the victim had torn during her odeal, and despite the evidence he protested his innocence and even wrote a songs about it “joke of the year” (kwachiwundura) “munhu akanaka akarara” . just before his death he was embroiled in another controversy of land invasion, it was reported that Matavire had ejected a commercial farmer and seized the farm. Paul Matavire was born on August 3 1961 in Maranda, died on August 18 2005 in Rutenga he was 44.
Another one was Simon Chimbetu who found himself serving 5yrs at Khami prison for theft/receiving stolen property (car), The late Thomas Makion served 2years in prison for rape in 1998, he died in 2001 only months before his second UK tour he was 33, in October 2003 Gospel artist Charles Charamba was arrested on suspicion of defrauding a bank of $40m, he was released on $1m bail but this year the Prosecution was instructed by The Attorney General’s Office to withdraw the charges.
Some artists have been caught up in domestic controversies, Andy Brown and Allan Chimbetu have been dragged to the court over failure to pay child maintenance, Daiton Somanje dumps his family to move in with a girlfriend, Gospel music producer Admire Kasi was stripped of his Pastoral duties after it was alleged he was having an affair with the then gospel diva Ivy Kombo, both married at the time. Mwendi Chibindis diary caused controversy after her death in 2003 when it was alleged she had an affair with Oliver Mtukudzi, Tuku obtained a court order to stop the contents from being revealed, speculation was Mwendi had died of AIDS, she was 37.
Some musicians and songs have been blacklisted by radio stations, Leonard Zhakata’s, Tongai Moyo’s, Thomas Mapfumo’s, Hosia Chipanga’s among others have all fall victims.
Wherever there’s music controversy is never far away, next time you hear a song remember there’s something behind it, coming after it or inspired it.