Lucius Banda is back biting extremely, but gauchely. In a complete u-turn if measured from his last album Thank You, in which he was completely placid, Lucius slips back to his old platform slamming ruthlessly the current political leadership.
However, there is no much to write about if the just released four songs featuring in the forthcoming album, Crimes, are anything to go by. Nonetheless, one song, Chako caught my ear. The release is composed tightly, personalised, but also provoking.
In the song, you capture Lucius performing what I would call Time Part II. In Chako, Lucius sounds prejudiced. He is on current leaders, who spent most of their time abroad and are failing to deliver diligently due to what he calls lack of patriotism and ownership as they were absent during the fight for Malawi’s democracy.
“Chikakhala ndi chako, abale umachisamalirira, ngati kuno ndi kwanu inu, anzathu simukanamaononga, abale munakadziwa, dzikoli tinalivutikira, anzathu muli maiko, akunja muli ku exile”
In one stanza, he gives a hint; “Ama Green Card wo”, a direct attack on first citizen, who was once yoked in dual citizenship dilemma.
Now doubles as an MP and musician: Lucius
Chako hardly goes without sensitive words such as “chitsiru chaponda ndalama” (stupid people have stolen money) creatively weaved to bury the traditional taste. As this is not enough, the hsong raises several allegations on corruption court cases. Among them is the speculated corruption report that is said to have implicated some government ministers.
While tackling some of the social issues haunting Malawi, Lucius finds himself mixing music and political interests and this raises some ethical issues in Malawian music today. Ofcourse, one may argue that he made a name with such an approach, but his current political status plunges the approach into credibility crisis, more that he sings from the opposition benches.
This raises fresh questions on whether ethics exist in music as they do in journalism and other professions, and if yes, where do they meet?
Richard Freeman-Toole in his paper titled On the Ethics of Music Composition highlights one of the critical tools to measure ethical legitimacy in music. Indeed, if applied to Chako, both ethical and credibility issues attached become naked.
“The single most powerful validating attribute an expression can have, is the ability to invoke the collective mind in the subject, thereby, giving him a super-personal experience of himself and vice-versa, the collective mind a super-personal experience of him. Therefore, since entering a transcendent state, in this regard, becomes a social act, the degree to which an expression is absorbed into the collective mind is very much a measure of its ethical legitimacy”
Precisely, despite being grounded on reality, listening to Chako soberly, provokes questions of ethical legitimacy if measured against the author’s conventional interests and efforts to incite collective action as appreciated in the lyrics. The song weaves information already in the public domain, but the artist picks the issues creatively and goes on to borrow the tongue of an ordinary Malawian.
In other words, Lucius silently adopts two critical complementing concepts used in mobilising individuals for collective action or social movement. These are Collective Identity and Connective Action well discussed by Lance Bennett and Alexandra Segerberg in their paper The Logic of Connective Action of 2012. The paper explains how organisers of campaigns against a particular issue use "sets of processes" to blur collective identities in a society and mobilise everyone for a successful movement through available connective action networks.
In Chako, Lucius relinguishes his political power from being a Member of Parliament to an ordinary citizen. I would argue that this is a deliberate move for relevance sake and to make everyone feel connected to the issues raised.
With all things being equal, it is completely absurd to expect a positive song on government from Lucius at this time he is an opposition Member of Parliament. Similarly, it is hard to believe the composition is in public interests.
Toole is clear about this: “Since what we do, especially what we do to each other, defines who we are, the mix of choices we make between transient and intransient experiences is a defining feature of our ethical identity.”
Thus, the thin line that separates Lucius from his music and political interests is something that he needs to throughly rethink for credibility sake now. Using both powers behind national interests will continue to raise ethical issues. It may be time Lucius considers talking politics only when in Parliament.
The story was first published in The Nation newspaper of 27/10/17