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Don’t blame artists

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Blame Lucius Banda for toning down in the recent years; blame The Black Missionaries for not criticising the Babylon System anymore; blame Limbani Banda, not Lambanie Dube, for not speaking against the vampires and blame Joseph Nkasa for not criticising mapwepwete.

While blaming the living artists, praise Evison Matafale for criticising the corrupt government; praise Gift Fumulani for speaking against Bingu wa Mutharika for not being merciful, in ‘Nkhanza’ for instance and praise Musamude Fumulani for speaking against the Police brutality.

A number of dramatists can be criticised too. Blame Thlupego Chisiza for going silent; blame Frank Patani Mwase for caring less about drama; blame Emmanuel Maliro for taking a different path and blame Jeremiah Mwaungulu for realising that he needs to survive too, just like everyone else, so ‘Tikuferanji’ is his only focus now.

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We can praise Du Chisiza Jnr for questioning the powers in the most difficult of times; we can praise Jack Mapanje for their art when the political environment was so frightening. Only the courageous ones could write; it was not everyone’s game.

The artists who were relevant back then have become irrelevant today. The perception usually is that artists have abandoned Malawians and they do not care whether what they create reflects reality today.

It is easier to blame artists but we should surely blame ourselves for not being angry and demand answers from the authorities most of whom have promoted corruption.

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Lucius, who complained that he would rethink whether it was important to continue composing protest music, blames the Facebook generation for just liking his page or liking the links of his song but do little to appreciate the fact that musicians call for action.

Action and violence are not the same. Action does not mean burning and looting. But several times, when people have the opportunity to take action, what becomes prominent is violence.

Musicians want the people to take action and demand answers. They do this by commenting on the contemporary issues like corruption and poor services. Lucius Banda’s ‘Take Over’ for instance, highlights a number of issues including blackouts and dry taps. The song is 19 years old but since no-one took action in 1997, we still face the same problems. The government at the time did not like him for this song. But should musicians continue suffering on our behalf yet we do not take action?

We tend to endear ourselves to musicians when they speak for us while we do little to trigger change by following the script they give us. Nkasa’s criticism of the politicians endeared him to the ordinary people and he had to defend himself in a song to declare that he is not a politician. He was accused of taking sides by some politicians who were criticised at the time.

But as everyone else would, artists need to survive. They rely on the sales of their music or the live performances yet the people rarely patronise musicians’ show and burn their CDs. Nkasa Mutharika saw the opportunity to make money when he composed ‘Mose wa Lero’ but he was heavily criticised for aligning himself to the ruling class. Of course I criticised him too but is he not like any other man who should survive?

It is not greed that mutes the voices of musicians but our lack of action compels them to think about their survival too. Today, we might claim that artists are no longer relevant but what most musicians have realised is that we do no act when they call for action in their music.

For artists to be relevant again, for Patani Mwase to return to the stage and indeed for Lucius to be the Lucius of olden days, everyone should get offline and forget Facebook and act. Action does not mean violence, it means demanding answers from authorities who do not care about the ordinary people.

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