Restless Development ICS volunteer Rebecca Corbett spent her placement in Ushewekunze, a community just outside the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. Here, she tells the story of George and Arthur, two emerging artists proving that making music doesn’t need big money.
Musicians travelling to the ‘bright lights of the big city’ to find fame and fortune isn’t a new story. In Ushewekunze, where there is no light to be seen, it takes a bit more imagination to create a music studio. But this didn’t stop young music producers George Zeyi and Arthur Samuneti.
Still waiting for electricity
Ushewekunze, which literally means ‘outside the kingdom’, is a community fittingly perched on the boundary of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Development here moves at a different pace, with the majority of its residents still waiting for electricity – with some having been waiting since 2008.
Yet amongst the newly built and incomplete houses, a small building has been transformed into a functioning music studio. Like other houses in Ushewekunze, George’s family are still waiting for electricity. But thanks to Zimbabwe’s sunny climate, solar power comes to the rescue.
Don’t have to be from the big city
Charging $5 for a recording and with two albums under their belt, George and Arthur have proven that not all up-and-coming RnB or afro-fusion artists come from the heart of the big cities. Their journey over the last two years however, has not been easy.
Zimbabwe’s economic situation has left 90% of the population unemployed and families regularly are pushed to sell home-grown products to make extra money. It also puts pressure on young people to help support their families.
It’s been tough
This tough economy doesn’t make life for young musicians simple. Yet George and Arthur are hopeful and their professional, high quality music – straight out of Ushe – is the finished article.
There is nothing we do besides here. We spend our whole lifetime in this studio.
But you can tell the hesitation in George and Arthur’s confidence in their future. I asked them where they see themselves in five years’ time. A long pause followed. “It’s been tough,” they said.
For such a talented and dedicated duo it is evident that their dream to ‘do something bigger than this’ is based on experience. Whether the Zimbabwean economy will allow that – only time will tell.