Art beyond political psalms


Good people, a fierce race is underway as scheming politicians are scrambling for artists of all sizes and allure to energise their game of thrones.

Love or loathe the newest red brigade that keeps attracting crowds, you need not ask why Vice-President Saulos Chilima and his United Transformation Movement (UTM) parades Akumva Kuwawa star Soul Chembezi and Soldier Lucius Banda during their much-talked rallies.

Across the street, the blue army, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which largely thrives on allusions to its much-maligned founder Bingu wa Mutharika, is using Phungu Joseph Nkasa to prop up the image of the incumbent Peter Mutharika whom the singer likens to Joshua.

Similarly, the United Democratic Front (UDF), from the reign of foul-mouthed Bakili Muluzi to his successor Bingu’s tit-for-tat rule, worked with Lucius Banda.

If you wonder how artists are either abused by politicians or willingly sell their souls to the schemers in the so-called dirty game, this is it. It did not begin yesterday and will not end tomorrow.

The scramble for gifted, charismatic artists with a price tag is older than the Bible in which a  mentally unstable King Saul sought solace and sanity in the sweet sounds emanating from little psalmist David’s harp and lyre.

Such is the power of music that it heals and neutralises souls of troubled rulers, doesn’t it?

Just for the record, I have no idea what tunes Mutharika listens to following his ruling party’s admission that it bagged some ill-gotten money from Pioneer Investment currently suspected of cashing in on a corrupt deal to feed underpaid and poorly housed police officers. Surely, the sole signatory of the account which accepts millions if not billions of Kwachas from the so-called well-wishers with cloudy intentions deserves some smooth music, nice and easy!

I do not know what music Chilima turns up as he strategises how to turn into winning votes the huge crowds that cram UTM rallies in various cities. Surely, a presidential candidate familiar with how massive rallies deceived Malawi’s first female president Joyce Banda into capitulation just in 2014 deserves eye-opening music, not just soothing and sweet to the ear.

I cannot hazard a guess what music UDF leader Atupele Muluzi’s ears are gulping as he takes his time to decide whether to make an alliance with DPP or UTM after retaining the party presidency unchallenged. Surely, any politician who covets the State presidency despite slumping to a distant fourth place four years ago and keeps being perceived as a snowman handpicked and enthroned by his famous father needs music that will help him wise up and become his own man–for he cannot keep wobbling under the blue sky like grass in a windswept savanna as his father’s inexplicably surging affinity for the governing party is no longer a secret.

Ignore the music Malawian politicians enjoy in their private space, joys and sorrows.

When they come in the open, there is a single sickening trend which  has been obtaining for many years since this republic flipped over from one-party rule to democracy they all appear contented to use artists as commodities they can pluck from some shelves, use to prop themselves up, pay as agreed and dump like condoms.

It seems anyone with an agenda to vend can pay an artist to achieve the desired results, whether transformative or ruinous.

But artists are not props. They are human beings, taxpayers, who are looking up to the politicians at the helm of the country’s governance structure to create a better world for creative minds and their sector.

Artists who hang out with politicians must start demanding a fair deal for their kindred who are taxed like any other taxpayer, but given a raw deal like second class citizens.

Those who wine and dine with kings must not just play psalms of praise to please powers that be, but ensure artists’ affairs are talk of the high table when those who know the allure of art meet at table.

It begins with cutting back on bootlicking.

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