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Music In Africa: A progressive theatre of struggle in historical and contemporary politics.

The fight for freedom is won through effective communication of the aspirations of the people and the shortfalls of the establishment of the day. The ability of music to communicate with people spiritually and connect at the level of the mind is essential for it can be used to conscientize society, enhance political consciousness, and foster political conscience. Music coupled with ideological rigour is a natural catalyst to fundamentally change the oppressive conditions of the society and a stimulant that consciously empowers the dejected and downtrodden masses. Patriotic citizens of Africa with the ability to communicate through music and rhythm have been able to use their influence to educate the people, speak out, communicate the aspirations of the poor and marginalized, and hold the governments to account. But due to the banning of the music, repression, arrests, and abductions, most musicians have resorted to the hallmark of capitalism, producing music with the sole motive of making a profit but those with the conviction and understanding that not material want but humanity is the cornerstone of society, continue to give purpose to their music.

Historically, music played a crucial role during the liberation struggle in Africa. It was used to amplify the African culture, educate the people, remind the people, of the importance of Ubuntu, uplift the revolutionary spirit, and communicate with the spirit mediums. In Zimbabwe, the popular revolutionary song Nzira Dzemasoja (Conduct of Military Personnel), inspired by the doctrine of Chairman Mao, was a theme song in educating the freedom fighters on how to treat the people with respect which effectively resulted in mutual respect and understanding between the ZANLA forces and the general masses in the then Southern Rhodesia. In South Africa, Senzenina (What Have We Done) was also an impactful song that articulated the challenges that black Africans were facing under Apartheid. Fela Kuti in Nigeria, Alick Nkhata in Zambia, Salif Keita in Mali, and Huegh Masikela in South Africa, used their music to speak against societal injustices. In Jamaica, the music of Bob Marley was instrumental in dismantling the British colony. He was not only confined to Jamaica but he gave solidarity to the oppressed people of the world anchoring the thoughts of Dr Tawanda Mutasah when he observed that, “ Global solidarity is the currency of small people, who do not have the military might of States, nor the economic might of Corporates”.

Recently in Africa after independence, we have witnessed the emergence of conscious artists who use music as a theatre of struggle. In Gambia under the dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh, Killa Ace used his music and influence to educate the people and challenge nepotism, corruption, and lawlessness. Killa Ace was operating under harsh conditions, a military government that killed 14 students and hundreds injured during demonstrations against the rape of a student by a police officer, abducted, tortured, and killed Solo Sandeng in 2016 when the pro-democracy activist organized a demonstration demanding electoral reforms. Killa Ace in exile, released an album called Lyrical Revolution campaigned for change and Adama Barrow won the 2016 election.

In Zimbabwe, the Reggae musician and artist Winky D has managed to gain influence and strong condemnation and sabotage from the dictatorship military regime of Emmerson Mnangagwa under ZANU PF because of his music that connects with many suffering Zimbabweans mainly those in the high-density areas who have been marginalized economically and politically. Half of the Zimbabwean population lives far below the poverty datum line, with more than 90% unemployment, rampant corruption and nepotism, thwarting democratic space, a regime suspected to have killed many opposition members (Mboneni Ncube, Tinashe Chitsunge, Moreblessing Alli and Bishop Tapfumaneyi Masaya) in the recently held election, abducted Hon Takudzwa Ngadziore, Councilor Womberai Nhende, and Hon James Chidhakwa. Winky D released an album titled, Njema (Chains) which articulated the disconnect between the man and his intellectual astituteness and consciousness of the scourges affecting the society, the capture of the mind of the oppressed people of Zimbabwe by the oppressor and the need to extricate the masses from the prison of the mind. He defined prisoners not only as those behind bars but also as those who are outside but lack political consciousness. Recently in 2023, he released Eureka Eureka, an album that led to the de facto ban of his music on state-owned media and censorship of his shows. The controversial track Ibotso exposed corruption and how the ruling few have clinched and wielded more power and benefited the country’s resources over the immense majority. Dzimba Dzemabwe (Zimbabwe), a track that exposed the betrayal of the ethos and values of the liberation struggle. Winky D has impacted so many young people to understand the sources of Zimbabwean problems and what has to be done.

In Uganda a Reggae artist and musician, Bob Wine now the President of the National Unity Platform used his music to challenge the establishment of a dictator Yoweri Museveni, during his tenure as a member of parliament, used music to educate the people of Uganda and advocate against the extension of Presidential term limit. The track Freedom was uncovering the hypocrisy of the regime and the disconnect between theory and practice. It reminded the people, of the betrayal of the ethos of the fight for freedom which ushered in Museveni as the President taking over from Milton Obote. Bobi Wine as an artist and now the President of NUP, has suffered from beatings, injection of unknown substances, abductions, torture, and killings of his comrades in the struggle. He escaped many assassination attempts but regardless of all the challenges, he has managed to lead a successful political party with prospects of removing the military dictatorship of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

In Zimbabwe, Paul Madzore, the then Movement For Democratic Change member, contributed to the galvanisation of the voter base in 2018 Elections through his track Handicheuke which encouraged hope and commitment to the struggle for freedom regardless of the challenges and turmoils posed by ZANU-PF through intimidation, torture, arrests and killings. Also, the Economic Freedom Fighters has managed to use Jazz music to mobilize young people and educate them on the fundamentals of the party ideology which has attracted many black people not only in South Africa but Africa at large.

Dear comrades, music through all epochs of life, has proved its ability to radicalize the masses and inspire hope and a thirst for change and it is upon this realization of the power it possesses that we should invest in producing revolutionary music and use it as a theatre of the struggle. Educating the masses remains the central objective of all revolutionaries, when the masses are uninformed, the prosecution of the struggle for freedom becomes a retrogressive futile exercise that will not bring change to the oppressed masses of Africa. Africa has been turned into a hub of dictators with delusions of grandeur and an obsession with power but only when we unite and understand that our struggles must be locally rooted but continentally connected that is when we can be able to extricate Africa from being an object of charity, emancipate half of its citizens surviving on less than a dollar per day and avoid losing billions of dollars through illicit financial flows with over 437 billion dollars that left our motherland illegally from 2000-2008. In the words of Marx, Citizens of Africa, unite you have nothing to lose but your chains.

In the quest to unmask the dark corners and angles of our struggle for freedom, writes

Yours Comradely

Munashe Masiyiwa

4 Comments on “Music In Africa: A progressive theatre of struggle in historical and contemporary politics.

  1. This is awesome Cde. The problem that we have with these so-called revolutionaries now running our countries is that they know how powerful music can be. That is why they try by all means to silence conscious musicians. The mass has to stand in solidarity with these artists to keep the spirit of the struggle for better lives alive. Lets keep the struggle alive one song at a time, one tweet apmplying the music at a time. Aluta Continua.

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