‘Phone’: Dan Lu’s double-framed sword against Gender-Based Violence


Dan Lu has done practically everything an artist can do for his culture through his art.

His spirit of artistic dedication has propelled him to tremendous heights in the game, keeping him relevant for generations. He has written music for generations, each with their own vision. Those of a particular age recall ‘Shupi’ which cautioned them against the spread of HIV and Aids, which was a concern at the time, while a specific cohort danced to ‘Nsanje’.

Then there are a few of hits on the route to Democratic Progressive Party blue advances. Dan returned to his finest after writing political anthems, and we saw him compose songs like ‘Chiphazi’, ‘Ankolo’, ‘Game Changer’ and the one in today’s analysis, ‘Phone’.


The song ‘Phone’ is a double-edged sword which is sexist by infantilizing women while ending Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Intimate Partner Relationships (IPV).

It is argued in feminist literature that while trying to do what society envisions as the best way to treat women, men find themselves in trouble with sexism. This is exactly what has happened to Dan Lu whose attempt of trying to show love has landed him in the hell of a sexist outburst. In the song ‘Phone’, Dan Lu presents a live episode of trying to show how best one can handle a woman and shares some tips.

The song starts with a man who is the persona regretting that the woman he likes is already in love and wished he could have been there to love her in the first place. “Nkamaona ukuzunzika ntima wanga sukhala m’malo, m’malaka laka nkanakhalapo pomwe iye ankakufunsila, nkanaphumisa, sakanakutenga, chitani manyazi am’dala, nzachikale zomenyanazi…..” (When I see you being abused, I feel bad, I regret that I was not there to love you first, be ashamed of yourself, it’s outdated to fight your wife, it is no longer masculine). The first verse presents a critical view of the persona who is cherishing a woman already loved and tries to tell the other man how best he can love a woman.


Through the persona, Dan Lu discusses a critical issue of IPV which is a form of GBV. GBV is defined as any “acts that are systematically perpetrated by one sex against the other”. Gender experts have argued that GBV relates to the physical, emotional and economic harassment that many women experience at the hands of their male partners which can be physical or emotional.

In many African societies, particularly in Malawi violence is much gendered. It is mostly perpetrated by men on women. It can happen in many forms and IPV comes in because this song talks about people in love. IPV expresses violence that happens in intimate relationships like husband and wife, and boyfriend and girlfriend relationships.

Dan Lu voices it to men that it is no longer masculine to beat one’s wife, arguing that if one is too obsessed with masculinity, he can join the game of boxing and face fellow men and not beat the wife. This is a critical issue in our society. After all, we still have cases of GBV in IPV settings because our society normalised the beating of a wife as one way of disciplining her. However, efforts have been made and continue to be made on the need to end GBV and Dan Lu tries to bring self-shame to any man who attempts to beat a wife or lover.

However, the controversial artist does not take a passive approach to ending GBV. He uses the active approach of empowering the victim too. He tells the woman to withstand any other thing but should not tolerate beating. He tells this woman to call him for comfort if the husband attempts to beat her. This is a paradigm shift to popular theories of ending GBV which promotes the passivity of victims. Many encourage the victimiser to stop without informing the victim what to do in the case of abuse.

“Akakakumenya!, ndi imbile foni, ndine okukonda, ndipase mtimawo” (When he beats you, call me, I am the one who loves and values you).

In the chorus, the ‘Part of Life’ hitmaker brings the emancipation proclamation that the woman should call the persona for safety.

This in one way means the woman should dump this current lover or if married, then divorce. This move by the woman in the face of abuse is against the popular idea of marriage popularised in songs and books of faith: endurance. Women have been socialised to endure abuse in marriage and relationships for this defines what it means to be a good wife or woman in Malawi and Africa.

However, Dan Lu brings a radical approach to normalcy by asking the woman to leave the abusive partner and go to the one who loves and respects her holiness as a human being. While divorce is not a celebrated conflict resolution strategy in African societies, Dan Lu calls for it and asks the woman to make a move to a desired partner so that those abusive should stay alone.

While this is a good approach and a recommended one, the song’s second verse presents a sexist aspect infantilising women. This is an act of presenting women as children who need care and attention like children. This idea claims that it is sexist to present women as people who need care and attention like babies.

However, while this is sexist, it is what is called romance in today’s language. For example, the persona tells the abusive partner that a woman needs special time and buying her flowers.

“Amafuna a t a p i t a kocheza… Amafuna atasekelela, amafuna atanyamulidwa, show her some love, give her some flowers, she needs some kisses, ndizo apanga amuna muna”.

The items displayed by the persona infantilize the female sex, it presents women as infants who have to be nurtured to be happy. I s s u e s like buying flowers and lifting her are for children. However, this is what the persona presents as an ideal way of handling a relationship.

The song ‘Phone’ joins the historical songs that have stood out against GBV. Looking to the side neighbours of Malawi, we reflect on Oliver Mtukudzi’s celebrated song in his career, ‘Neria’. Based on the lyrics of the song, the song denounced the violence that is perpetrated against women who lose their husbands.

This was an explicit attack on the violence that is perpetrated against women once they lose their husbands. With more than 50 albums under his sleeve, Mtukudzi made a mark in the history of music in Zimbabwe and worldwide and he used his music status to fight for women. Apart from the song Neria, “Tuku” as passionately referred to by his fans, produced other songs that denounce GBV and other social ills against women in his entire music career.

‘Phone’, as a song about love, highlights crucial themes that are important in our culture. It’s a romantic and liberating voice. It speaks to everyone in love, telling women not to accept violent spouses and giving men advice on how to handle relationships. As a society, we must promote love in a respectful environment and anti-toxicity zones.

We should all answer Dan Lu’s phone.

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