New Internationalist

House of Hunger

July 2009

by Comrade Fatso and Chabvondoka

If it’s a lean and hungry look that defines Comrade Fatso, then Robert Mugabe better look to his Shakespeare and spot the danger. House of Hunger may have been banned in Zimbabwe, and Fatso and Chabvondoka intimidated for stating some uncomfortable truths about Zanu PF, but both music and musicians are clearly getting their message through.

Comrade Fatso himself is a Zimbabwean rapper and toyi-toyi poet Samm Farai Monro – the ‘Fatso’ tag comes from a school pun on the word ‘farai’, meaning happy. With Chabvondoka, Fatso’s band of three years’ standing, House of Hunger is a gloriously crafted bit of afrobeat, a place where guitar, funk brass and mbira come together in the cause of righteousness. ‘You want me to develop this “Yes, comrade” mentality/All in the name of your supposed “unity”/Well listen, shamwari/ My one desire’s to be free,’ raps Fatso on ‘MaStreets’.

With its imagery of life in contemporary Zim – the starving homeless on the streets, corrupt cops, roadblocks – House of Hunger describes a society that is no longer served by the hagiographers of Mugabe. The album has been rightly described as the country’s most revolutionary since Thomas Mapfumo. But for all Zimbabwe’s political wretchedness, Fatso never denigrates: Zimbabwe, its people and its languages are clearly cherished here on an album that is very much the sound of a modern-day freedom fighter. More power to them.


This column was published in the July 2009 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 424

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