Zambian musician and political activist Pilato is set to release a new album on July 4th, entitled ‘Here I Live’.

The new album, which will feature 15 original songs, cements the singer’s reputation as Zambia’s most famous dissident, as well as reaffirming the courage of his convictions.

Where other artists might delve introspectively into their own thoughts and emotions, Pilato’s music, as ever, draws from wider debates about the world around him. It questions the power structures that hold elites in place and fans the flames of political disobedience.

The 36-year-old singer is, of course, no stranger to political controversy. In January of last year, he was forced to flee Zambia after members of the governing Patriotic Front threatened to kill him.

The threats came in response to his song ‘Koswe Mumpoto” (rat in the pot), which tells the story of a rat that breaks into a home, eats the occupants’ food and steals everything in sight. The track was met with popular acclaim but infuriated the PF, which interpreted the song as a direct attack on President Edgar Lungu.

Supporters of President Lungu gave Pilato 48 hrs to withdraw the song or risk death. Faced with an angry mob on the one side, and an uncooperative police force on the other, Pilato fled to South Africa, where he has remained ever since.

The new album, therefore, heralds a return to the public eye for the refugee singer – a homecoming of sorts. His music has already shown the ability to shake the foundations of government to its core and prompt the public to question their rulers. Now, ‘Here I Live’ challenges us to lose our sense of tribalism and to rediscover the power of political organisation in addressing our common struggles.

The foreword to the album delivers this strong message in no uncertain terms. It asks us 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.”

The time seems right for such an incendiary message. With protests ongoing in Lusaka against government corruption and suppression of free speech, Pilato has already lent his support to the anti-government demonstrators. Now, he once again lends his voice.


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