Artist’s Voice is a collaboration between Freemuse and Shouts – Music from the Rooftops!. The collaboration aims to provide a platform for artists to share their stories, in their own words, brought to light through interviews published on a shared blog. The blog is available on Shouts and Freemuse websites as well as on corresponding social media channels.
Interviews are undertaken by Shouts managing editor Halldór H Bjarnason. All interviews will be published in the artist’s own words. Cover art by Maria Dzvonyk.
Freemuse and Shouts believe that the right to freedom of artistic expression is a right for all and will work together to create a platform for these expressions.
Freemuse and Shouts cooperated on the below interview of Zimbabwean musician Cris Gera. Gera was forced to flee his country after receiving death threats in relation to his song Chema Zimbabwe.
After completing the ICORN residency program in Sweden, he now lives there and can create his music freely.
Halldór Bjarnason: You are from Zimbabwe but now you live in Sweden after having fled your own country. Can you explain to our audience why you had to leave your home?
Cris Gera: First of all I would like to say no place is better than home, but when you see one fleeing a home that he or she loves the most then there’s a serious problem with that home. I love my home so much but I left for safety reasons, that’s all I can say!!!
Halldór: Why do you think the authorities in your country got so upset about your song, Chema Zimbabwe?
Cris: “CHEMA ZIMBABWE” is an initiative I did in response to the crisis in Zimbabwe and the pain that has gripped the ordinary life in our country. As a Christian musician, I encouraged my fellow countrymen to raise a cry to God for deliverance while also chronicling the corruption and abuse of power that is causing many to suffer. The song exhorts the people of Zimbabwe to cry before God and to the world seeking intervention against the axis of evil that is causing suffering to all. It describes the vices of this life that are causing and exacerbating the suffering including corruption and disintegration of health delivery services, poverty and unemployment and cash shortages among other things.
I have stipulated what the song is all about on the text above and it tells you exactly that when one is found wanting with the song’s lyrics, he or she gets upset so that was the case for me.
Halldór: How and when did you first realise that you could use music to connect with people and get a message across?
Cris: Since way back before I even recorded my first solo project in 2009 I always dreamt of myself doing music that addresses things and real life issues that affects people in a special way. I never wished doing music for myself, but for the people. In a nutshell I am a mouthpiece!
Halldór: You recently released a new album, called Nziyo Dziri Mandiri (Music In Me). For people who do not speak Shona, can you tell us a bit about some of the topics of your songs on your album? What motivates you to write down some lyrics?
Cris: I get inspired by things that I sometimes experience, see, read and hear. My recent album touches on a lot of stuff!
Nziyo Dzirimandiri (Music In Me) reveals my passion for social justice and for questions that affects people’s daily life. This Afro sound delicacy is a collection of eight songs which touches a variety of subjects and inspires your heart and soul. NZIYO DZIRI MANDIRI is my way of touching other people’s lives.
I bring up a lot of dark issues in my music, relevant, important ones. It makes you think, but through my vision and my sound, through the music in me, we move towards the light.
Halldór: The album is released through a rather unique record label, LIDIO, (a label dedicated to releasing music from artists, musicians and composers experiencing censorship, threats or persecution due to their musical activities). What did it mean for you to have this label collaborate with you in releasing the album?
Cris: LIDIO to me is a GATEKEEPER and I don’t know what the world of art will be like without them. Art and freedom of expression is indeed important for it is a very powerful tool which can be used to better the world for the good. I am grateful for LIDIO for availing themselves to stand against censorship and this gives me the hope that freedom of expression’s future is still safe!
Halldór: What kind of power do you think music and art can have in society? Do you think music can help generate positive changes?
Cris: Music indeed connects people together and so is my connection with you. There was never a day in my life I thought or dreamt about being a Swedish resident but through my artistic work but here I am. That’s how vigorous music is, it can do the unexpected!
Halldór: Can you tell us about some of your musical influences? Who has insipired you to use your voice for good?
Cris: Of course I do have many artists from around the world who inspires but at the same time am inspired more by events or things I see happening in the world in our day to day lives.
Halldór: Is it common for Zimbabwean musicians and other artists to use their voice and talent in protest? Do you follow any contemporary artists (from your country or around the world) that use their music in this way?
Cris: There are talented Zimbabwean musicians I know who recently used their voices in protest and ended up in a miserable predicament. I do follow quite a few contemporary musicians from my country but a lot from around the globe. In my country some musicians opts to turn a blind eye for fear of reprisal but I don’t blame them at all for I understand the reason behind their fears.
Halldór: What can people around the world do to help Zimbabwean artists?
Cris: The best way to empower Zimbabwean artists is to avail them many state-free electronic and press media platforms.
My passion is to see a liberated Zimbabwe with full respect for human rights, freedom of expression and speech as well as the liberty of artists to voice the socio-political ills without being victimised. I believe Zimbabwe has potential to be the greatest nation in Africa and the world if the aspirations and labour of her peoples are respected and protected.
Halldór: What do you hope to achieve with your music?
Cris: I will be more than grateful if my music achieves to provide; good news, hope, positivity, advice and impact change in people’s lives.
Halldór: What is on the horizon for you?
Cris: I have quite big plans and I am happy that I have already started working on them to become a reality. So I would say keep tracking my space through my social media platforms and you get to understand what am referring to.
Halldór: Thank you very much for participating and for the music you make. Anything else you would like to shout from the rooftops?
Cris: I have nothing more left to say except thanking you for availing me an opportunity to express myself the way I did. Once again, thank you!