Good people, Joe Gwaladi tells us ndioyimba kuyambila kale—a musician for time immemorial, nothing more or less.
For a week, the country’s most plainspoken sexual reproductive health singer has been on trial for allegedly committing what is supposed to be a felony in anybody’s book: defilement.
The musician whose sexually explicit lyrics have earned him friends and foes in equal proportions last week made a sensational cameo in court in Phalombe. This resembles the stuff that banished his Zambian counterpart General Kanene from the glittering entertainment pages to the crime section of newspapers.
But Gwaladi, being just a suspect, is innocent until proven guilty. While the learned magistrate is hearing the case keenly, I have been hearing the artist’s uncensored music from Tumbocid on why undergoing an HIV testing and counselling is better than overdosing one-self with painkillers to Zikundipatsa Minyama on the curse of poverty haunting him despite his fame, Sakufuna on gun-point love and all that jazz.
In my court, I find Gwaladi not guilty of the popular feeling that his music constitutes vile obscenities. Gone viral, the songs actually mince no words on real life issues. That has been his trademark, a tone that reportedly kept recurring when asked how his foot fitted in what Kanene terms nsapato ya mwana (baby shoe).
Every Gwaladi is a mirror. Behind his seemingly rough side the court is supposed to ascertain beyond a doubt, lies a silver shine which reflects things easier done than said.
Sexual abuse happens and justice must be done. Gwaladi has severally sang about them in an open defiance to prevailing taboos that make risky and illicit sexual encounters a silent menace despite being probably the most vibrant industry in this country of ours only second to corruption.
Gwaladi has been discussed in boardrooms and rallies as a sayer of things that most self-styled adults, including those that claim to be happily married, scarcely do to their sexual partner—openly discussing sex.
A few years ago, a study by Pakachere Institute for Health and Development Communication confirmed this failure to talk about sexual matters in and outside wedlock is one of the factors that compels many to have sexual encounters with more than one partners.
What is wrong with sexual partners talking about their sexual expectations and shortfalls the Gwaladi way?
The glaring gaps in sexual conversations is huge and the country needs more Gwaladis to iron out deadly pretence, self-righteousness, half-truths, silence and lies not by word alone, but doing as they sing.
But rather than gunning down the messenger together with the message, I want our one and only Gwaladi to keep churning out music, more music to keep reminding the nation about its sexual reproductive health responsibilities as the battle for justice continues.