There is a sinking-sand quality to our present moment. The coronavirus pandemic, a resultant wave of lockdowns and quarantine, and the continuing rise in cases and deaths, has loosened the ground from under us.
We have all been coping with varying levels of dread these past few weeks. The solidity of our routines, including the ways we work, socialise and move around, has been shaken, and daily life feels a little shapeless. It’s easy to feed this anxiety with non-stop news alerts, panicked predictions and pictures of empty supermarkets that sink us deeper into a kind of paralysis. It’s affecting our mental wellbeing. Music and arts in particular can be the antidote in crisis.
I can say with no doubt that music is perhaps the most consumed form of culture. People listen to music to regulate their mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of personal and collective identity and social relatedness.
I was inspired to write this after I read a Facebook post from a fellow Zimbabwean, @Freedom Manatsa in which he narrated the story of his father the legend that lives Zex Manatsa. I have been following his posts for a while and I found his latest posts during this lockdown very uplifting.
I have found a lot of comfort listening to the his renditions of some classics from his father. Freedom Manatsa has been playing his guitar and sampling some great timeless tunes from his father to entertain his Facebook followers during this lockdown and boy has he jogged some good memories. (Zex Manatsa is one of the greatest musicians from Zimbabwe).
What Freedom Manatsa has been doing made me realise that music creates a sense of belonging and participation.
It is an antidote to the growing sense of alienation and isolation in society in general – even more so now we are being asked to actively practise social distancing and isolation.
Social distancing and geographical isolation do not have to result in social isolation. In the face of uncertainty and panic, music is a social balm for soothing anxiety, enhancing community connections and acting in defiance of a threat to community spirit.
What with constraints on our movements and general way of life becoming more and more restricted, we are feeling a loss of control not experienced in most of our lives yet.
In being confined to our homes, we are missing our normal social support from friends and family, and our freedom to control our day-to-day lives.
Many people have been doing a number of things to not only entertain others, but, have also provided their gifts and talents as tools for personal and social development. This has helped boost the mental health, well-being, and community strength and harmony.
I for one have taken to poetry and writing general commentary articles and I hope someone out there finds comfort and benefits from my writing as much as I have from Freedom Manatsa’s contributions.
With the world seemingly shuddering to a slow halt, people are hunkering down in their homes, hoping to flatten the curve of the spread of the coronavirus. But it’s easy to go stir crazy — all the tension of the extreme amount of indoor time needs to be cut with some joy.
We must all prioritise the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, and as we practice social distancing and take all necessary measures to stay well and weather this storm, we must also remember our humanity. We must continue to sing and dance, and we must continue to play, for every chord from our instruments and every line from our poetry tells the story of our shared connection.
I urge you to turn to music and art during these difficult times. I urge you to continue to hone these otherworldly powers of expression online and continue to support our creative economy, so that as a community we will emerge from this crisis ready to take back the stage.
To Freedom Manatsa, I personally say thank you. And to the legend Zex Manatsa, I thank God for your music and the contribution you have made to Zimbabwean music.