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All That (African) Jazz

An Interview With Michael Lannas

Michael Lannas

Well, I finally managed to track him down. Michael Lannas of Talking Drum. He is not easy to find. I started of by asking “So… from the beginning, when were you born?” His reply was “I was born on the 29th July 1896 at the start of the first
Chimurenga. I started life at Mupandawana Growth Point”. 

I’m doing the Math; that would make him 119 years old! This is not going to be easy. The answers seem to depend on what or who he is looking at. I then asked him….. but he is talking about something very different. So I say the words very deliberately “Moyo Wangu Uri Kuchema”…… the title of one of his popular songs.His reply is “Seyi Usingandinzwe ?” I get the  feeling that the tables have been turned and I am now part of the song….. I have become Mudikanwe. 

Moving on…… he now lives in the UK. He mixes with a lot of Nigerians. They
all seem to own very large recording studios. He explains that there are not
many Zimbabweans in his part of the UK….. so Nigerians have filled the void. Every once in a while he lapses into Nigerian pigeon english. A corrupt version of Yoruba. He is talking to George Osinbajo on his mobile….. (while he talks to me). He says “you need to give me £2,000 for that purpose.”

The word sounds like papas. He is trying to buy some pharmaceuticals. It is not going well. ”I dey fine, Wetin dey happen? Why you dey give me wahala? Comot?
I’m beginning to suspect that he does this deliberately. He enjoys being abnormal. He is talking to me again; but in broken Bemba “Infintu filishani ? Mulanda shani ifi mu ? Anopenga, kraziness, chaiyo a looney tune, inodhunya chaizvo SEE-RE-ASS !!!

I asked him why he is living in the Uk? He replies that he is half prodigal son, and half deportee; half patriot and half deserter. He belongs to the great diaspora of Zimbabwe. EXILE is a state of mind, as much a condition of the heart as a physical event. The exile is reminded, more often than the rest of us, to question who he is and what he is. “What am I doing here?” In the case of Michael Lannas he is writing about Zimbabwe from distant shores. Zimbabwe has a relationship of mutual ambivalence with it’s prodigal son; less love and hate than love and valediction; a prolonged goodbye. BUT it is the music that binds them together. The music of Maskanda….. The Wondering Minstrels of Africa. The music of Umzansi, Ushameni…. of musical instruments as strange as the Ngongo, Ramkie, Hungu, Karindula, Lekope or Segankure. This is the music of his childhood. The music that is closest and dearest to his heart. In South Africa they call these people Amatatla…. The Migrant Workers who have done much to transform the music of Southern Africa. They are a Cultural Subsection of Tribes in the Natal Midlands who are important agents of Cultural Transformation…. Especially the Transformation of Music.

Michael Lannas

Moyo Wangu Uri Kuchema…. My heart is crying…. This is broken Shona. He replies “I write broken Shona and broken English. Fair for both sides. Murungu Dondo….. broken both ways. His language  is disjointed. He borrows and steals from a lot of different cultures and experiences. You get the impression that it’s all deliberate. That there is method in the madness; or madness in the method. He talks much the same as he writes his songs “Ike…kamina..ucabangani.. kkkkk….kraziness…anopenga..hamba…. it all makes sense in a strange, Zimbabwean, Chilapalapa, reversed, poetic, distorted, abstract, manic, contorted, crooked, warped, mischievous, playful, exuberant….. Talking Drum, Michael Lannas kind of way. 

Moyo Wangu Uri Kuchema Hapana Mazwi Nguva Yapera 

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About Editor

Constance van Niekerk is a South African-based Zimbabwean-born creative writer, poet, music lover, spoken word artist, freelance writer, blogger and educator. She has contributed to several anthologies and published her own collection, Echoes of My Heart: A Poetry Collection available for purchase on all Amazon Stores Worldwide. She is also Editor at ZimOnlineNews. Follow her on Twitter : @convanniekerk Connect with her on Facebook and Linkedin.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “An Interview With Michael Lannas

  1. Great piece for a great musician

    Like

    Posted by Setty | April 20, 2017, 12:43

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Echoes of My Heart: A Poetry Collection by Constance van Niekerk

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