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Artistes shouldn’t be arrogant

in the groove with Fred Zindi

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, an arrogant person is someone who is unpleasantly proud and behaves as if he/she is more important than, or knows more than, other people.

So, which artistes are perceived to be arrogant in the music business?

Oliver Mtukudzi, who died on January 23 this year, besides his fame and fortune, was known for his humility. In my opinion, he was the humblest musician to
come out of Zimbabwe. I am yet to come across one person who thought that Mtukudzi was an arrogant person. He was not obsessed with his own importance and he
always lowered himself and his estimate to both his friends and fans. He understood the struggles of ordinary people.

Tuku was a humble man throughout his lifetime. Instead of avoiding his fans from stopping him in the streets as most music superstars do, he would go to where
the crowds were to mix and mingle with them and have conversations. A lot of people attribute this humility to maturity. Having grown up suffering like many
musicians in Zimbabwe, his superstar status and fortune came at a much later stage when he was already in his forties.

Let me tell you a story about how I experienced Mtukudzi’s humility. Tuku became the patron of the Umoja Project in 2008.

Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet (CFC), as the programme was referred to, is the brainchild of Wilhelm Dahl and the Norwegian National Organisation of Cultural
Schools, Norsk Kulturskolerad. Around 2002, as director of the Cultural Schools Organisation, Dahl felt there was something missing in the schools arts programmes.

He devised a project integrating positive art and cultural energy, into the everyday school environment. What began as a small pilot project, developed into a national programme and in no time at all, the programme was effected into all of the Norwegian primary and secondary schools.

Dahl decided to approach the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway seeking permission and a grant to implement this programme in Africa. The ministry agreed and a huge amount of money was given as a grant for this project.

He, together with colleagues Per Skoglun and Koen Schyvens, went to Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe to find out how they could effectively establish the Umoja project.

They looked for popular artistes whom they thought would be taken seriously by their communities to become the project’s patrons. Miriam Makeba became the patron of the Umoja project in South Africa and after her death, Ray Phiri took over.

Malangatana, a famous artiste, was chosen as the Mozambican patron, while in Zimbabwe Mtukudzi became the Umoja patron.

The project took the patrons to the four countries where they would also give performances while at the same time nurturing youngsters who were recruited from schools and colleges to participate in musical and dance activities.

Tuku understood the need to develop youths in Africa and gave his services free of charge to the project. He incorporated Munya Mataruse and Donald Kanyuchi into the project.

The project allowed the patrons to take their spouses to different countries they participated in. Tuku took his wife, Daisy, to Norway where she was hosted by the project’s funders.

It was during one of Umoja’s escapades that I shared the same hotel with Mtukudzi. At the Cardoso Hotel in Maputo.

Tuku showed how humble he was when he allowed complete strangers to enter his room in the middle of the night to get selfies and autographs.

When asked why he was doing that instead of taking a rest, his response was: “These are the people who make my life worthwhile. I owe my living to them. If they don’t buy my music or come to my concerts, I will starve. So, I owe them the respect they deserve.”

Tuku did not employ any bodyguards. Many people saw this humility as a possible danger to himself as people with ill intentions could easily penetrate his space. Fortunately for him, no incident regarding anyone with a wish to harm him ever took place.

The next morning, on leaving Cardoso Hotel, a taxi was waiting to ferry Tuku to the Umoja venue which was about a kilometre away. Tuku suggested to me that we take a walk instead.

He said he did not see any reason why the promoters should waste money on a taxi when we could easily walk such a short distance. Besides, he also wanted to mix and mingle with his fans on the way to the venue.

I agreed with him and suggested that I carry his guitar to the venue, and while walking together with several other people to the venue, he exclaimed: “People have often called me ‘superstar’. I didn’t believe them. But now I am beginning to think that perhaps I am. Can you believe that a real professor is carrying my guitar?”

I did not know whether to take it as part of his humility or just a joke.

Some would argue that such a statement is a show of arrogance, but I viewed it as part of the humour Tuku was known for. As we all know, Tuku was full of humour.

In Zimbabwe, in a radio interview with Star FM Radio’s KVG and Phathisani Nyathi (2018), when asked about his relationship with Piki Kasamba (one of the members of the Black Spirits Band) since they looked so much alike, he replied: “To be honest, I am not as ugly as Piki. When we walk together, people often point at me and say they want to talk to the more handsome one. That’s me! That’s how I know the difference between me and Piki.”

Listeners to this show regarded that comment as part of Tuku’s humour and not arrogance.

I don’t think the most famous musicians are more arrogant than anyone else.

In fact, I reckon they only seem more arrogant because the general public are highly aware of what they are doing and saying more than anyone else.

I recall a situation where one Rasta musician was referred to by many as being arrogant when he was trying to protect his religion by declaring that he wouldn’t eat meat because, according to him, eating dead flesh was forbidden as Rastas don’t believe in killing animals.

He also told us that alcohol, which he called Babylon water, was the devil’s drink.

He explained to us that the growing of dreadlocks and not shaving his beard was in keeping with the covenant with Jah and not arrogance. In his preachings, he often spoke about resisting Satan’s temptations through embracing Rastafarian spirituality.

And, of course, to become more creative he recommended the use of ganja or mbanje which he said was a herb from the Most High.

However, some members of society who disagreed with him began to see him as arrogant and fake.

The fact is that most (even though I don’t find many musicians to be that arrogant) musicians who are arrogant only seem like that because we closely follow
them and this reveals the many flaws that every human has.

In fact, I have met many non-famous people who are arrogant or even more so than famous people. Some of the perceived arrogance of famous people is due to the
fact that people have high expectations of them which not many humans can uphold.
Let’s say that we took away their fame — then they would be regular people and we wouldn’t care what they do and say. We wouldn’t expect them to be a goody-
two shoes either, I don’t expect most people on the street to be instantly nice.

Again, this is the perceived “holiness” of celebrities that the general public make. Even when we see them in public we kind of can’t believe our own eyes — as if a god walks among us.

As long as the public sees them like this, then they will always nitpick at everything they say and do. Lots of people also get disappointed by celebrities who simply don’t have time to be dealing with people they don’t know too — just like you and me.

This is another part of why people think they are arrogant when, in fact, they also have needs, personal space and tempers like you and me.

One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time. Selflessness is humility. Humility and freedom go hand in hand. Only a humble person can be free.

However, humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve. Nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of oneself.

The only arrogant person I can think of on this earth is Donald Trump. I have often told my American friends that the best way to deal with such arrogance is to simply allow it to exhaust itself. Period.


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