Recently, we have seen Kenyan creatives stand up up with the rest of the world in demanding the release of Ugandan singer Bobi Wine. Manuel Ntoyai explores the world of art-vism
Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights! Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight! …are lyrics that Reggae Icon Bob Marley penned while touring Haiti after being deeply moved by its poverty and the lives of Haitians. Marley is remembered not only by his acts of kindness, but also his peace messages.
During the violent protests that rocked his country Jamaica, he collaborated with the then government and did the famous “Peace Concert” that saw the bloodshed end.
Apart from entertainment, music has been used the world over to inform and educate. Most recently, music has grown another facet, giving a voice to the voiceless, especially those under oppression.
Across the border, Bobi Wine has been trending after being arrested by the Ugandan authorities and protests erupted in different towns and cities across the world, as creatives joined hands to stand in solidarity with Bobi Wine whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi.
On Friday, creatives merged at the PAWA 254, where they held a concert dubbed #FreeConcert and saw the likes of conscious hip hoppers Juliani and Hustla Jay perform among other acts. “As artistes we cannot sit back and watch but we have to act responsibly.
We have to be the voice of the people especially the youth, many of whom have lost hope,” says Hustla Jay. “When the times get rough a lot of art inspires people, it brings people together, it brings awareness. And that’s why we had some of the powerful music from the 60s and we need to revive this spirit.”
While there is a song for every season, it seems like the season for activism is simmering. In the United States, music has been used to spur wanted changes and expose social injustice.
From the likes of Sam Cooke’s, A Change is Gonna Come to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin On” to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, music continues to provide a platform to package and present a point of view that many would not normally entertain.
While Bobi Wine’s case continue to elicit more reactions, it is not the first time that Africa’s artistes have lent their voices to speak against inhuman acts. Nigerian icon Fela Kuti is an example when it comes to artistes who have stood up against social evils.
Despite being jailed several times, Fela’s message on oppression and corruption saw his rise as an artiste and activist. In South Africa, Mirriam Makeba great voice against South Africa’s apartheid system saw her exiled from her country.
Known to many as Mama Africa, she sung in an anti-apartheid documentary, Come Back Africa although she was vocal that she was not a politician but a musician. “In our struggle, songs are not simply entertainment for us. They are the way we communicate.
The press, radio and TV are all censored by the government. We cannot believe what they say. So we make up songs to tell us about events. Let something happen and the next day a song will be written about it” she stated in one of her interviews.