Inspired by Makonde – How folklore songs carried the struggle in Mozambique

The Mozambican liberation war was different from other wars in Southern Africa in terms of songs and choirs.
While Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa had dedicated choirs, Frelimo relied on songs scoured from mostly Makonde folklore.
But just like in other liberation war choir movements, the Frelimo war had its hero singers one of whom is Americo Nampindo whose songs adapted mostly from the public domain made it big in the war field. One such song which later became a farewell song sung by many youth before they left their homes and parents for Tanzania and Zambia had these lyrics: “I go, my parents/ AK in my hands/ I go and make war/ with my elders/ and if I die, it doesn’t matter/ I leave my children to you, my family/ take care of my children/ send them to school/ so that they learn to read.” (Translation)
To show that Mozambican songs could be adapted for different situations unlike songs done by other liberation war choirs in Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the same song was given a slightly different spin by one Frelimo soldier.
The soldier’s version went like this: “I go to war/ AK in my hands/ On the road to Chindano/ If I die, my uncle will replace me/ I go to die/ In the name of the People/ The day I die/ Our land we will free.” (Translation)
Most if not all of Frelimo songs were adapted according to the situation at hand.
There were songs which were spontaneously composed while people were on a journey carrying arms or food for the combatants.
Unlike Zanla choirs or the Ndilimani’s explicit messages in their songs, those who composed songs for Frelimo played on words so that the Portuguese would not know and understand the import of the songs.
Consider the following: “We are many to refuse the coloniser/ We refused the white coloniser/ And the house-rat followed us/ We ran away, entered in the bushes/ And the house-rat came looking for us/ And we asked the house-rat/ (it replied) Because I refuse the coloniser/ Who embittered the country of Mozambique.” The house-rat can be anything from a person who worked for the Portuguese, a person who turned his back on the struggle or a common spy.
Writing in the “First National Festival of Popular Dance” published in 1978, the late Mozambican President, Samora Machel said the people created culture because they own land and have inspiration from their pains and hopes.
“Culture is created by the people/ the artists don’t create it/ Bourgeoisie doesn’t produce art/ it lacks the land/ it lacks the inspiration/ The people are inspired everyday/ look at the peasants/ Their music talks of their life/ of tilling, harvesting, watering/ It sings of how rice, pumpkin and ear were harvested/ labouring, sweating under the sun/ watering the land with his sweat/ the peasant sings/ The peasant comes back home with a bucket of water on the head/ thinks that she must light a fire to cook/ lives life and sings life/ During the night, in the hours of rest/ when the full moon lights her/ she sings to her work, tells her pains/ her sufferings, her hopes/ she sings happiness, sings dance/ it can be sad or joyful/ a reference to history/ or even an episode of the  everyday/ but be as it might, it has a real meaning/ it defies an enemy/ and how to fight against this enemy.”
In fact, although there has not been a dedicated Frelimo choir, liberation war songs have been compiled into the “Songs from the War of National Liberation”.
In the compilation are songs such as “Frelimo is Infinite” (“Frelimo Aina Mwisho”), “Salazar Go Away” and “Let’s Exalt Mondlane”.
And like all other liberation war music, Mozambican protest songs are still being composed today to suit current situations.


June 2013
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