Group defeats cultural imperialism

Most of the group’s members are aged between 20 and 26 years which is a surprise because it has become very rare for youths of such ages to strongly spearhead cultural campaigns in Africa. Urban youths have largely been swayed by the impending force of cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism can roughly be described as the dominance of one culture over another to the extent that the cultural values of the dominating part erode those of the dominated one until they are viewed as the norm. In the African case, through forces of colonisation and recently globalisation, some core cultural values have given way to the western ways as the West continues to exercise political, religious and economic influence on Africa. The media has been instrumental in disseminating western culture to ‘developing’ countries and this has seen products like music, books, films and magazines form the West spreading to the rest of the world. The relationship is very asymmetrical and highly lacking in reciprocity ‘ the ‘developing countries’ cultural products hardly find their way onto the Western market. The current era of New Information Technologies has brought technologies such as the Internet and Satellite Television and these have played an integral part in promoting Western cultural values. This development has brought devastating effects to the youths in Africa, who are vulnerably exposed to these alien cultural products. Consequently these youths see the Western characters portrayed in the media as their role models and they want to speak like them, dress like them, walk like them and live like them. Urban youths in Africa has thus become followers of Michael Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Lopez and Denzel Washington among other international celebrities. The youths that pursue careers in music have, therefore, been blinded by admiration for their Western idols and they want to sing like them. Today Africa has witnessed the advent of new music genres that are inclined to the Western types and we hear of Urban Grooves music which is synonymous with Zimbabwean youths. Very few youths in Africa want to be associated with cultural music and dances which they now regard as old fashioned and a preserve for the old, primitive and uncivilised. It is in this view that Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, among other few culturally-oriented youthful musicians in Africa, should be highly credited for a job well done. When the group came to Zimbabwe for the Independence Concert last month, many enjoyed their excellent kwasa kwasa dances as well as their revolutionary tunes. I spent about 45 minutes with the leader of the group Jessy Nombanza in Harare before the group’s departure for its home country and he was very clear on the cultural and revolutionary stance of the youthful group. He said the group was proud of its African identity and would do everything possible to promote cultural values. “We do not want to sound Western because we are African. We are proud of what we are and we strive to stand for everything African. We aim to uphold our culture and make sure that it does not die. Future generations should have someone to show them the real African way of doing things because globalisation is taking away some of the important artefacts of our identity,” Nombanza did not mince his words. It is very interesting to note that the current group is a fourth generation Ndilimani. To an average urban youth in Africa it would sounds unfashionable to join a group that was formed by old people a long time ago and try to maintain the vision set by those grandfathers and grandmothers. Sadly most of the youths who are obsessed with the idea of sounding civilised and copying everything Western have become nothing more than struggling copycats with no market for their music. Their music has been overshadowed by the real Western ones they want to imitate. In most cases the youths become so desperate as to take the exact Western beats and try to fit in their lyrics, which they do in their vernacular languages in some cases. Their music does not make a single dent of international appeal yet those who use traditional African instruments like the kora, mbira, bongo and hosho have been commended for keeping their identity. Those who pursue African dances have been accepted (though to a very limited extent) on the international market. With such a scenario, it would not be erroneous to say that in terms of music cultural imperialism has killed the African music industry and those who have been able to maintain their culture through music should be highly credited. Ndilimani has indeed scored first in this aspect.

May 2006
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