A good friend of mine, oh why the secrecy, Sokari Ekine, asked me a very interesting question: how do I feel about a man whose music is at a level unparalleled, incomparable to any, probably the best this world will ever hear yet he was a misogynist (harboured a deep hatred of women) and very homophobic.
Indeed the legend of Bob Marley and his music has taken on immortality, yet outside the studio he was not as infallible. Despite his character faults, to his death the world loved him; they still love and will probably love him for generations to come. Who am I kidding I move around with his best album (in my view) on my phone, with my earphones plugged into my ears; I admit, I also love him. His messages calling for African unity, celebrating Zimbabwe’s liberation and his calls for equal rights inspire me.
Very few people know about his personal character, very few even care. Twelve kids and only four by his dear wife Rita, he was clearly a philanderer. But why should people bother digging into the deep recesses of a legend’s personal life? After all, all that matters is the music, right? To me yes, I do not care what Bob was all about in his time out of the studio. The man made good music and that’s all I care about.
In yet another legendary tale, Marilyn Monroe led a very successful career. Her trademark features were her angelic face, a voluptuous body worth dying for and a husky, breathless voice. Years later, many remember her with respect and admiration for her musical prowess. She has been dubbed the world’s most celebrated actress. Despite the suspicion that her death could have been suicidal, Marilyn continues to be remembered as a real icon in the entertainment industry in the US.
That is a different society with a different culture that is able to separate personalities from their careers.
To bring it closer home I see something different, I see gendered bias in the perception of celebrities conduct within and outside their career paths. The images that celebrities sell and the lives they lead in private are judged differently in Zimbabwe based on whether they are male or female.That is why today’s profile is a bit different.
Ivy Kombo began her career in music in 1993. Her albums ‘Mufudzi Wangu’ ‘My shephered’ -1993, ‘Ndinokudai Jesu’ ‘I love you Jesus’-1994, ‘Vimbai naJehovah’ “Trust in the Lord’- 1995, ‘Kutenda’ ‘Faith’ -1996, ‘Revival Songs’-1997, and ‘Ndaidziwanepi Nyasha’ ‘From where would I receive such grace’ -1998 made her into a household name. In 2000 she released the album ‘Nyengetera’ ‘Pray’. Her collaborations with the South African outfit that included Vuyo Mokoena, Zodwa and others produced the hit album ‘Nguva yakwana’ “The time is now.’ She then released other albums carrying the hit song ‘Handidzokere Shure’ literally translated ‘I will never go back’ but meaning ” I will never regress.” In 2002 she received a National Art Merit Award (NAMA) for Best Selling Gospel Artiste.
Her mistake was infidelity, or so the tabloids claimed. She had an affair with her pastor (and foster father) whom she allegedly eventually left her husband for. The truth of the sequencing of the events was never established, and not a single shred of evidence presented to prove her alleged guilt. But it cost her career. Overnight she stumbled from grandeur to mediocrity. Today she is just a memory and the leading recollection of her life story to the majority of Zimbabweans is not how she ministered the word of God through music but how she committed adultery with her pastor.
One website even clearly stated that,
” If ever Kasi (the man Ivy had an affair with) and Kombo (Ivy herself) come back to Harare, they are most likely to live a life of solitude and misery as Ivy is booed at most of her public appearances, which makes her stage act a bit difficult.” (NewZimbabwe.com)
On the other hand, Zimbabwe has a living musical legend, Alick Macheso. Famous for his ‘ Borrowdale dance’ with a record breaking profile of producing more than 4 hit albums in a row, they do not come quite as celebrity as he does. Zimbabweans love the man and love his music. Then in 2010 he hit the headlines for his extra marital affair with a girl named Tafadzwa. The story was splashed in all tabloids. Macheso married his mistress and came to be known as the ‘proud’ husband of his two wives.
People grinned at his ‘gutsy; behaviour with most men championing him as ‘bhuru chairo’ – ‘a real bull.’ After his marriage thousands flocked to attend his live shows just to catch a glimpse of him with his new young wife in tow. Clearly some people separated the man from his music. Others saw the two as one and loved it, even admired it.
Why was that not the case with Ivy?
So because Ivy sang gospel music she was expected to lead an exemplary life, preaching the word of God through music and living like a saint? Is that a fair expectation? Macheso is many times more popular than Ivy, so who has more influence than the other. Who in all likelihood will be emulated by greater numbers than the other? Obviously being a household name, Macheso’s history and conduct reaches out to a wider populace than Ivy ever did and is likely to influence, both negatively and positively those who look up to him.
So why was it so easy for him to escape this saga scot-free yet for Ivy she was damned for life.
I perceive a gendered struggle. Infidelity is the preserve of men, testimonial of their maleness and eligibility in the female hunting market. It is totally acceptable for men to flaunt their adultery and remain unquestioned yet females should remain paragons of virtue. The moment they fail, they are no longer worth a penny.
This is one of the struggles that women in my country still face. Indeed patriarchy imposes standards of morality, subjective to the sex of the person. Females are condemned for morally reprehensible behaviour while man can only gain a ‘macho’ reputation out of the same discord.
I may be wrong, but that is how I see it.