Thursday, August 12, 2010

Music and politics? Not a bad bet, but who promotes who

By Asuman Bisiika

The rumour is that the National Resistance Movement will adopt Joe Chameleon’s Basima Ogenze as their signature promotional song. And of course, Dr. Hilderman’s Amelia is a praise song for Amelia Kyambadde, the powerful Principal Private Secretary to the president, who is expected to try her hand in active politics in 2011 Oh by the way, it was reported that FDC will hire Bobi Wine to out a song in their favour. One of the books that capture the dilemma of artists playing an active role in the socio-political affairs of a society is Ali Mazrui's The Trial of Christopher Okigbo. The late Nigerian writer Christopher Okigbo, who is itemised in Encyclopaedia Britannica as a poet, is said to have died in active combat fighting for the secession of Biafra from Federal Nigeria. Earlier, Okigbo had declined an award for African Art reasoning that “art is art and there cannot be African Art and European Art”; very good arguments. The ethereal setting of the book and the arguments are a testimony of Mazrui’s brain power and creativity. The main argument in Mazrui’s book is: if Okigbo could decline a continental or Negro award portraying it as racial and parochial, how could he bring himself to die in (or for) a parochial secessionist cause for the Biafra State? But there is nowhere the art of music played such a big role in political activism like in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In DR Congo, when all avenues of expressing discontent were shut by the state, music offered the only escape. But unlike in Uganda, the music industry in DR Congo was big and had been accepted as part of the Congolese socio-political culture. *********************** In 1986, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) held Presidential Elections in which President Marshal Mobutu Ssese Seko sought re-election. To spur President Mobutu’s campaign, Franco Luambo Makiadi released Candidat Mobutu calling the population to rally behind the candidature of Mobutu. Marshal Mobutu won the poll by 99.99 per cent; as was expected. Of course, the politically passive Tabu Ley Rochereau (Afrisa Internationale) was ‘requested’ to do something. He outed Mobutu, bato bako vote yo massivement (Mobutu, people will vote for you massively). The twenty-minute long Candidat Mobutu was a hit in Zaire and most African countries including Uganda where Congolese music was popular. In search of theme songs after the overthrow of President Mobutu in 1996, (and of course not knowing that the lyrics of the song were praises for Mobutu), radio stations in Uganda ironically played Candidat Mobutu. I will let you in on the lyrics. The Intro Chorus goes like: Zairoise mpe Zairois (Zaireans, ladies and gentlemen). Bima na balabala (take to the streets). Banzana nabasolo (think and be true). Tala lokola nkake (shine like lightning). Pona candidature ya Marshale (for the Marshal's candidature). Mobutu Ssese Seko. Tozala Sese, tozala frank (we are frank, Ssese). Hypcrise to boyi (we hate hypocrisy). Ingratitude to boyi (we hate ingratitude). Nani akoki kosumba ekolo (who will lead the nation). Soki Mobutu te nani mosusu (if not Mobutu, who else). Mobutu Ssese Seko. Some of Franco Luambo’s (the lead singer) lines went thus: Mobutu azongisa unite nationale (Mobutu returned national unity). Mobutu azongisa la paix na Zaire (Mobutu has returned peace to Zaire). Tambola nakati ya Zaire mobimba (Go all over Zaire). Loba monoko nyoso oyo olingi (Speak whatever you want). Moto akotunayo azali te (no one will ask you). Est que kala ezalaka bongo (was it like this before?) Listen to this: Tozuiye naano mabe te (We don't have any problem with him) Abebisa ata moke te (he has not made any mistake) Alembi naano te (he is not yet tired) Nzoto naye ezali naano makasi (His body is in good health) Pona nini toluka candidat mosusu (why should we look for another candidate)? Anecdote: Franco released Candidat Mobutu when he was in exile in Belgium where he had fled from Mobutu’s brutality. In appreciation of the song, President Mobutu 'forgave' him and allowed him to return from exile. Franco turned down the offer; the song was after all a clever satire; for how can an enemy sing your praises. My estimation of Uganda's musicians is that they can do better than just throwing tired lyrical lines at us. And I hope the praise songs for politicians are not the usual hollow entreaties on the campaign rallies of all the candidates. ENDS

No comments:

Post a Comment