Nationalisation: The remix

If music be the food of love don’t let the dictators anywhere near it. Or those in the making either.

Robert Mugabe and Julius Malema making hip-hop and house tracks to push their political agenda? What? Has the world finally gone belly-up, stark raving mad?

Of course, politics and music has had a long and twisted relationship. Nazi punk. Italian Fascist Military Music. The Parlotones.*

But enough is enough. I don’t want to hear Mugabe picking up a phone in his office and doing the Zimbabwean equivalent of “Wassup?!” before the bass beat kicks in. For goodness sakes man. Think of the satirists.

“Rebranding Mugabe is a tough marketing job,” writes Mail & Guardian Zimbabwean correspondent Jason Moyo in a masterful display of understatement. “His handlers have tried to make him look cool before. In 2008 they invoked Tupac, using lyrics from the Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z album, to send the message to voters that their troubles were only temporary [and clearly, only if they were black].

“Using Tupac’s lyrics from the song Keep Ya Head Up, one banner declared: ‘Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it gets, stick your chest out, keep ya head up.’ ”

It’s anybody’s guess when this long dark night is going to end for millions of impoverished Zimbabweans wilting under Mugabe’s rule. But at least they’ll have bad music to tide them over while they do it. In the meantime his self-professed fanboy Malema is taking a few lessons from his book.

His version involves the talented Winnie Khumalo, who has devastatingly sold her soul to the ANC along with DJ Oskido. The popular DJ is also an ANCYL member and produced the imaginatively titled track, Nationalisation, with Julius Malema’s creative direction. That’s right, creative—with no woodwork being hurt in the making of this CD, thank you very much. The gospel-inspired tune has Khumalo crooning for President Jacob Zuma to hear the youth league’s campaign for the nationalisation of mines, and is off Oskido’s album Church Grooves: 10th Commandment. A neat dovetail that—seeing as politicians speak through music nearly as well as they do through churches.

The tenth commandment, incidentally, is the bit about not coveting your neighbour’s goods. Except if they harbour gold, ore or diamonds of course. Or if your BEE version ran out thanks to hideous mismanagement and you’d very much like a government-bailout right about now.

The song follows hard on the stupidly catchy 2009 ANC national election campaign track that had Khumalo declaring she would support the ANC for life. (After covering both the elections and the World Cup as a journalist at various stadiums, I’m not sure which was worse: hearing Khumalo’s Mina ngo hlala nginje or repeat on gritting my teeth through Waka Waka being played with a similar near-retarded enthusiasm).

But in all fairness I should have seen the signs coming. Back in July already, Malema implored aspiring music producers to write songs that people can dance to in nightclubs and that have a political punch.

Selective memories
“Music is politics,” Malema said.

“We have forgiven them for the past, but have not forgotten. We need to tell that story through music. Let’s teach them about Winnie (Madikizela-Mandela) through music and let’s do it in a fun way, in a way that we can dance to,” he said.

But not, presumably, in a way you can stab 14-year-old “informers” in the throat to.

Wait no, I crossed a line there. The “mother of the nation” deserves more respect. It’s hard work earning R771,787 a year for almost never appearing in Parliament.

Not that details like that would bother Malema. If music is politics, like he says, it’s not long before it’s not only journalists who will need a tribunal. If there is a right way to do music in the warped and dangerous world of Juju and Bob, then surely there is a very wrong way too.

But two can play that game. So to end off, a taste of Bob’s own medicine: the Aids Rights Alliance of Southern Africa (Arasa) hip-hop spoof, demanding that the Lords of Bling “show us the money”. Indeed.

Music is politics? Damn right Julius, and the artists who will continue to “Get up, stand up” and fight for our rights will always outstrip the ones you can twist to your will. If music has a long history of warped politics, it has an ever longer history of articulating the howling rage of a public dissatisfied with their warmongering and greedy politicians. Try “closering” that.

* Kidding! I don’t hate the Parlotones anywhere as much as some people do.

  • You can read Verashni’s column every Monday here, and follow her on twitter here.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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