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Artistes’ widows feel neglected

Musicians’ widows (from left) Barbra Mabuyane-Tazvida, Minehle Mkweli, Ratidzai Tecla Marasha and Eunice Munatsi-Dembo

By Moses Mugugunyeki

A myriad of Zimbabwean artistes’ widows are languishing in poverty yet their late husbands recorded many albums that are earning royalties.

These women say they are being exploited left, right and centre by radio stations, record companies, pirates and con artists disguised as Good Samaritans.

Efforts to tackle various issues that affect them as individuals have on numerous occasions hit a brick wall and they believe that their concerns can be understood if they work collectively.

It is against this backdrop that a group of widows of late artistes met in Harare last week to come up with an association that will help them tackle their problems.

The Widows of Artists Foundation Trust is open to all who lost their husbands who were involved in arts.

“We are inviting all widows of people that were involved in all arts forms, music, drama, sculpture and dance, among others,” said the trust’s secretary Barbra Mabuyane-Tazvida, wife of the late sungura musician System Tazvida.

“We are being exploited by a number of people who are making money out of the sweat of our late husbands.”

She said the trust would mobilise resources for its members to start income-generating projects, while at the same time empowering offspring of the late artistes.

Vice-chairperson of the trust, Eunice Munatsi-Dembo, the wife of the late Barura Express frontman Leonard “Musorowenyoka” Dembo, said the current crop of music promoters were after fleecing their sons who have inherited their late husbands’ bands.

“It’s sad that our children who took over their fathers’ bands are being exploited by these people masquerading as promoters. My son at times does not get any cent after a performance and when he is paid, he is a given peanuts which he cannot share with his band members,” Munatsi-Dembo said.

“We hope these are some of the issues that we will deal with as an association. We intend to buy a music kit that members use when they have live shows.

“As for record companies, we are getting paltry earnings from royalties, which are paid quarterly. For instance, I just got $80 from this record company [name supplied] and this is supposed to cover three months, yet Dembo’s music is still being played and sold.”

The late Tongai Moyo’s wife Minehle Mkweli said the other role of the trust would be to unite the “heir apparent” to their husbands, whom she said were a divided lot.

“I think our late husbands were united in the name of music, but our children are so divided. It is our hope that as a trust we unite these children through galas and get-together parties. In the event that we acquire instruments as a trust, we hope to encourage these children to host joint shows to forge unity among them,” she said.

According to Ratidzai Tecla Marasha, wife to the late singer Biggie Tembo, there are some people operating behind their backs collecting royalties at their expense.

“We have over the years received ‘Good Samaritans’ who approach us as close associates of our late husbands, but at the end of the day they are the ones benefiting. There is a case where a church leader [name supplied] approached us and collected our identification particulars and those of our children in the name of sourcing assistance for us. The church leader has since disappeared and we have never received any information from him,” she said.

Marasha said although her late husband was not the leader of the Bhundu Boys, the paltry quarterly earnings of $22 in royalties she was receiving from a recording firm did not tally with the contribution he made to the music industry.

Widows of Artists Foundation will among other things hold memorial galas as one way of raising funds.

The trust is chaired by local medical doctor Johannes Marisa. Other members of the trust are Belinda Rupapa, Tendai Dembo, Elizabeth Mzembi, Lovert Marisa, Sheila Ishemunyoro-Kasenga and Timothy Chinhamo.

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