SISHUWA Sishuwa says musicians are part of the broader forces of social movements.

In his foreword to musician Chama Fumba’s upcoming album, Dr Sishuwa, a lecturer in African History at the University of Zambia, said music is a social weapon that defies all restrictions from authorities.

Fumba, artistically known as Pilato, is on July 4 scheduled to release his fourth album titled ‘Here I live’, in which he outlines the high poverty levels which Zambians are currently experiencing.

“Musicians are part of the broader forces of social movements. Music is simply the platform on which they seek to carve out a wider progressive agenda, to create larger narratives of nationhood and to participate in building a new script for the country, one that resonates on a very phenomenological level with the masses,” he said. “Like other activists, artistes wield enormous influence and have the capacity to bring down autocrats, encourage self-introspection in a manner that has the potential to alter relations of power, cultural attitudes and established psyches, and to transform whole societies through song. The earlier cited response of the ruling party to Pilato’s song, ‘Koswe Mumpoto’, illustrates, more than anything else, the disruptive power of music.”

He described Fumba as the most famous dissident in protest music in the country.

“Pilato has emerged as Zambia’s most famous dissident in the tradition of protest music since he first burst on the national scene in 2009. His latest album, ‘Here I Live’, confirms his reputation. It is a tribute to the courage of his convictions and willingness to risk his life selflessly that he has continued to sing after his near-death experience,” Dr Sishuwa said. “If those who issued death threats against the musician thought they would intimidate and slow him down or silence his silky voice, they were wrong. Pilato is back in Zambia and with more ‘dangerous’ songs that preserve his status as a towering artiste with a deep-seated consciousness who deploys music to educate people and to causes that promote the public good. The music in this 15-track album, you will soon discover, is not like any other that you have previously listened to from other Zambian singers.”

He said Fumba had proved to be a voice for the oppressed, whereas some other artistes were speaking for the oppressors.

“Where the lyrics of most musicians draw inspiration from ephemeral concerns and instant consumer pleasures, those of Pilato draw inspiration from wider public debates and the struggles of the social classes and communities around him. Where other artistes offer platitudes of a high order to those in power, Pilato delivers songs that promote accountability and proclaim virtue,” he said. “Where the voice of many singers identifies itself with the few powerful elites who abuse public trust, rob the poor, manufacture inequality, serve as the midwifery of injustice, and erode Zambia’s democracy, Pilato raises his voice to pour scorn on the actions of such elites, to attend to the pain of those who suffer, and to serve the silent and oppressed.”

On January 5, 2019, Fumba fled the country after members of the governing Patriotic Front (PF) threatened to kill him.

This was after he released the satirical ‘Koswe Mumpoto’ album, which depicted the destructive nature of rats.

While the track met popular reception, PF supporters were infuriated and called for Fumba’s blood.

Dr Sishuwa said ordinarily, the song was not offensive to anyone, and that Fumba should have been protected by police.

“In a country with militia-like police that is largely serving as a sword for the ruling elite and their supporters rather than a shield for the weak and ordinary citizen, his call for help fell on deaf ears. Ordinarily, the term ‘Koswe Mumpoto’, the Bemba language equivalent for ‘a rat in the pot’, should trouble no one,” he said. “However, the creative power of music is such that it empowers its consumers to comprehend or interpret it in ways that reflect their own experiences and which its composers or architects may not have envisaged. This is especially the case in instances where a singer uses metaphors.”

He said by demanding the arrest of Fumba that time, PF supporters understood the power of music.

Dr Sishuwa called on the public to be creative as Fumba and other unapologetic artistes.

“If the wider public were to extract similar meanings from the song, they would likely question the actions of the ‘thieving rats’ and call for the removal of the said koswes from State House…Here, we see the ability of music to be mobile and widespread, to effectively defy the constraints of a shrinking democratic space, and to disrupt the status quo,” Dr Sishuwa said.

He challenged people to mobilise further and realise the real power they possess, as opposed to that of their oppressors.

“This is what this album is all about. ‘Here I Live’ challenges us to lose our vanity; to rediscover the power of political organisation around our struggles to reclaim our basic sense of humanity; to protect the environment; to be moved by the plight of others; to be riled by injustice; to find ways of cutting down the outrageous levels of inequality and degrading conditions of poverty that afflict most around us; to rebel against our sub-human existence and reject the mediocrity of our lives and public leadership; to strive to defeat all things which retard our full expression and full lives, and work towards the greater fulfilment of the human person. In short, the album calls us to reject what we have become,” said Dr Sishuwa.

‘’Above all, ‘Here I Live’ challenges us to active solidarity…Musicians are thinkers. They are public intellectuals who manage within a few words to express what an academic will say in a book. Easily accessible and cheaper, their intellectual output serves society better and more effectively. They are the closest to God. In fact, if God has left people on Earth to carry out His work, it is musicians and poets. In this album, Pilato fulfills that mandate.”


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