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Singing for and on Behalf of the Subaltern: An Analysis of Alick Macheso’s Sungura

Vimbai Chamisa


Published: 2023/12/01


This study analyzes the messages that are embedded in Alick Macheso’s sungura songs interpreting them as expressions of daily lived realities of ordinary people in Zimbabwe. I examine these issues within a theoretical framework that incorporates ideas of the subaltern, a critical concept of importance in postcolonial theory which refers to a marginalized subject position in any given cultural or social context (Spivak, 1988). Data from textual analysis of Macheso’s selected sungura songs and from interviews with the musician indicate that Macheso uses a kurova bembera (indirect lampoon) technique and religion-based protest in his conception and performance of sungura, offering opportunities for the marginalized and oppressed subjects to speak up within and outside domestic family spaces in postcolonial Zimbabwe. The domestic family life issues that Macheso tackles come to resonate with a much wider social organization by also giving an account of the relationships existing between the government and its citizens in the country. Macheso’s conception and performance techniques give his sungura a ‘hidden chimurenga’ music character where the generally marginalized groups of people in Zimbabwe find the music a safer and more secure way than speaking directly against abusive and oppressive leadership. Keywords: Sungura, Subaltern, Religion, Protest, Postcolonial chimurenga

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