Jul 28, 2010

Linguistic Hegemony in Music?

As I was streaming Radio Phoenix from Lusaka over the weekend, it dawned on me just how much of the current music being released by Zambian artists is predominantly in Bemba and/or Nyanja. Since I understand and speak both languages I have little problem understanding the lyrics (unless they toss in some very ‘deep’ words mostly spoken ku mushi (in the village).

I appreciate the fact that a lot of the popular artists are either based in Lusaka or the Copperbelt where both languages are widely spoken but this certainly can’t be a true representation of our music culture. Where are the other artists who sing in Tonga, Lozi or Kaonde? Are they not getting the airplay on the major radio stations or are they also singing in Bemba and Nyanja to attract fans? Perhaps I just need to find streams for the lesser known radio stations. 

I will give credit to Obrine Mwaka better known as O.C. who has released some very popular songs sung in Swahili. This has propelled him to prominence not only at home but also in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and displays his remarkable language skills. There a few other artists such as JK and Petersen Zagaze who have performed in Shona and Lozi, respectively in addition to their usual Bemba/Nyanja but they are the few exceptions.

It’s my fervent hope that my musings aren’t a symptom of a larger problem. It may be worthwhile to talk with friends who work in the local music scene to ask their opinions. 

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