For years, rap music has been used around the world as a means of expression among the youth. There are many protest songs done in the hip-hop genre, but the trend is not so prevalent in Malawi.
So, on Wednesday evening, University of Malawi associate professor of English Literature Ken Lipenga Jnr delivered an online academic talk on how Malawian youth use rap music to express their political opinions.
The session took place at Wesleyan University in the United States where he is currently a visiting scholar under US Embassy’s Fullbright programme.
During his talk, which lasted over an hour, Lipenga illustrated how rap music formed part of the political discourse during both the 2019 Tripartite Elections and 2020 court-sanctioned fresh presidential election.
He outlined how local rap artists have used the genre to guide the political narrative in addressing political violence, advocating for accountability, making appeals to politicians, drawing partisan politics, its influence on voting power and trends.
In his presentation, Lipenga brought in the limelight how some artists and particular songs have weighed in on the political landscape. He made reference to compositions such as Faith Mussa’s Sitidya Ndale, a protest song which speaks about the unfulfilled promises made by politicians.
Another focus fell on compositions such as Mutipatsa by Phyzix, Nkhondo Ndi Anansiby Suffix and Fredokiss’ Tili Ndi Mphamvu.
But perhaps the most exciting part was the inclusion of Mary Chilima, wife to the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima, in his presentation.
Mary Chilima earned her passage into the presentation courtesy of her 2019 campaign song Tikupatsani, which was designed to garner support for her husband who was contesting for the presidency on the UTM ticket.
“It should be noted that Mary Chilima is not a rapper or an artist. She is a wife of a politician. Her song was actually a campaign song for her husband. In probably trying to appeal to the younger generation, she had to conjure the rap magic to send her message across,” he said.
Lipenga said the song is a perfect example of the growing influence that the rap genre is having in shaping the political narrative. The song was a direct response to Phyzix’ song Mutipatsa? which was pleading for accountability from politicians as well as asking them what development initiatives they have in store for the youth.
In closing, the scholar said the future of rap music in Malawi and its influence is bright.
He said: “It illustrates that the youth are awakened about their positions. It’s no longer about elders, but them taking up their positions so that the country can achieve the change it desires. It has shown the hunger that the youth have to be part of the solution.”
In an earlier interview, hip-hop artist Suffix told On The Arts that he uses his music to address social issues affecting him and fellow young people in Malawi.
“I want to make music that does not only talk about God and Christianity, but also about issues that affect the youth and Malawians in general. I use my talent to address all social issues affecting the masses out there,” he said.
Information specialist in the public diplomacy section of the US Embassy, Marcus Muhariwa, said Lipenga was awarded a research grant under the Fullbright African Research Scholar Programme to conduct a research in any academic discipline.