The song and liberation movements

In the early 1960s when former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda was pushing for the independence of Zambia, he would open all his rallies singing the song “Tiyeni Pamodzi” (loosely translated to let’s go ahead together). This song was not just for Zambia but also for the entire Africa. Kaunda meant that with unity, the continent would achieve independence, writes WONDER GUCHU.

The power of song is like the power of love – it goes deeper where one cannot reach to scratch. Both the song and love sooth the soul.
This is why the song has been used to lull babies to sleep; to win over a woman’s heart with birds doing this better than human beings; to comfort the bereaved; to celebrate with the newly-weds and just to lift up depressed spirits.
The song has been used from time immemorial and over the years, it’s been abused too.
Above all, the song is a symbol of a people’s culture and religion.
There is strength in the song that makes people sum up courage and believe that they can move mountains.
The history of the song being goosened up for either cultural or nationalism causes goes way back in history with Hitler using the song to prop up the perceived superiority of his race while the late Zairian strongman Mobutu Sese Seko had rumba music defining his ‘revolution’.
Indeed, most liberation wars fought in the region would not have been easier had it not been for the song goosened up to lift up spirits and to infuse courage among the youthful fighters.
In the next three or so weeks, the attention will be on some few liberation movements in southern Africa which used the power of the song to drive both the nationalist and the struggle for independence spirit.
SWAPO had and still has Ndilimani Cultural Troupe that has been there for more than 30 years now.
This group has been propping up and is still propping up SWAPO objectives through songs and dance.
Zanu-PF had a number of choirs during the war. There was one group that comprised mbira players and had a link to the spirit mediums and then there was a mass choir.
One greatest song that came from the Zanla choir was “Vanhu Vese VemuAfrica (All the Peoples of Africa)”, which spoke about the importance of unity as a tool against colonialism.
The other armed organ in the Zimbabwean struggle – Zapu – also had a choir, the Zimbabwe National Choir while the ANC had Amandla Cultural Ensemble.
These choirs or groups were instrumental in boosting morale in camps where people stayed during exile.
In some cases, the choirs or groups too held all-night mass mobilisation gigs where liberation war songs were sung to entertain the people and to drive home the message of the struggle.
A number of the songs composed by the guerrillas take a dig at the settlers calling them names or calling for their demise.
In case of South Africa, two such songs – “Shoot the Boer” and “Ayesaba Amagwala (The Cowards are Scared)” – were still causing a great discomfort as late as last year when the expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema sang it.
So-called civic rights group, Afri Forum, had to take Malema to the High Court seeking an interdict that he should stop singing the song they perceived encouraged hatred.
Such was the power of the song that even decades later, the lyrics can still cause discomfort.
Even former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda used song to address people in the early 60s.
One of such songs is “Tiyeni Pamodzi (Let’s Go Together)” was not only meant for Zambia but the whole of Africa.
Just like the Zanla song “Vanhu Vose VemuAfrica”, “Tiyeni Pamodzi” encouraged unity of purpose, as people marched towards self-governance.
Today, Kaunda has turned this song towards his fight against HIV/ AIDS.
Just like in the early 60s when the song would make people cry, today whenever Kaunda sings the song, tears course down his cheeks.
That’s how powerful songs are – as powerful and compelling as love.

May 2013
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