That wonderful medium that has existed since time immemorial, music is beautiful. Enchanting and alive, music has entertained, music has been used in religion and music has divided and united both friend and foe in a manner no other thing can. As times change and the world evolves even further, music; like fashion, tags along and we can never stop moving to the beat, humming to the sound nor playing it on our stereos, phones and other instruments.
Long heralded as the cradle of mankind, I would bet every penny I own and assert that this wonderful continent is the cradle of music too. And it does not stop there. From the tambourines of North Africa, to the famed Timbuktu drums of the ancient Western Africa civilizations to the flutes of the picturesque Eastern African Coast and the harmonized voices of the Zulu, used in both warfare and celebrations… Music in Africa is part of life. From birth, to all ceremonies and even unto death, music plays a key role in spicing up all occasions.
Africa has long been known not only of its vast resources, a rich culture and eventful history but also for the never ending wrangles, conflicts and wars. It is a sad state of affairs that is perpetual and one suspects that Africans-and the world at large have almost but given up on this land of a billion brilliant and beautiful people.
Throughout history, many leaders have risen up in various parts of Africa and their influence has had a transverse effect but only for a while. Various movements have risen up to do the same with massive success but like an old tyre with many weak points, stopping one conflict brings to rise another new one. It’s a cycle that is littered with mirages in a desert landscape with the scorching heat sapping all hope built rapidly.
Coming back to music, I close my eyes and see Kenyans dancing to the now hugely popular South African Kwaito beats, Egyptians shaking a leg as they are mesmerized by the Tsyngory music and dance of magical Madagascar and even young lads in Addis Ababa being mesmerized by the artistic drumming of Cameroon’s Bamikele troupe . For a second, the angelic voice of Miriam Makeba comes back to life, harmonized by that of Angelique Kidjo. No sooner, Yossou N’Dour hums in as the famous “chaaa chooo” of Koffi Olomide rings in the air. Fela Kuti grabs his guitar and Lucky Dube asks for some Reggae percussion as Yvonnne Chaka Chaka mellows things down. This is before Ugandan’s Chameleone in tendon with Kenya’s David Mathenge a.k.a. Nameless steal the show with an energetic performance as Diamond Platinumz ensures Tanzania isn’t left behind in a tight’ collabo with Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, flanked by Tunisian’s rap sensation El General.
Africa dances and Africa forgets its sorrows for a while. We become one, even unto all the sons and daughters of the soil now long gone, and others far strewn across the globe. We sing in one voice. And the melody is the most amazing ever known to man. Somalia’s K’naan agrees, even as he is on a podium in New York accepting a United Nations award.
Music is simple and music is complex. This is not a poem but if deemed so, let it be. For I know deep in my heart that music can be a tool to restore peace to a people in war and unify brothers who barely see eye to eye. Like heat on wax, man-made boundaries can be flattened in this great land of ours. But how, you may ask.
Well, music is powerful. It etches itself in a man’s mind without any filter or discrimination. Psychology tells us that there’s no medium that works as powerful for subliminal messaging as music does. And to this I agree.
I look at my fellow youngsters in my village. A section of people who have never been outside Kenya but due to the influence of Reggae music, act like the youth in downtown Kingston in almost every aspect; accent included! I realize how much I get lost in thought listening to the current Kenyan hit ‘Nerea’ by Sauti Sol featuring Amos and Josh and accept that music might be our under-thought hope. A hope for us as a people and a hope for a continent as vast as ours.
What if we had a way to interact…not just through sports, our food, dressing and other cultural pillars that make us Africans awesome and colourful. But what if we allowed music to be the centre stage? How would it be? What if we elevated it from the BGV of our narrative to the lead singer?
The possibilities are endless!