“Munyaule Nafuti”: Petersen Zagaze and the politics of controversial music
E. Munshya, LLM, MBA, M.Div.
History will be very kind to Petersen Zagaze. I am not a very good music critic, and so this article will not try to critic Zagaze’s music, but his lyrics. No artist has managed to get the ire of the ruling bourgeoisie like he has done. The 2005 single Munyaule was a controversial song. The lyrics clearly disturbed the sensibilities of many. It certainly bothered my sensibilities too. But that is the nature of art. Art is impossible without disturbance. If we are able to control art, then it ceases to be art, it becomes science or other things. In my opinion, the lyrics in Munyaule and its succeeding franchises of Munyaule Nafuti and Munyaule Continuously belong to the same class as the mockery and sexualised innuendos of the music of the great artists of posterity such as Peter Tsotsi Juma’s Muka Muchona and P.K. Chishala’s We Bushiku Bulalepa. In Muka Muchona, Juma puts words in a man who desires to follow muka muchona to her house to go and play with her chisasa. In we bushiku bulalepa, P.K. Chishala explains how the night gets much shorter and more interesting when a man has a lady companion in bed at night. What Chishala talks about is left to one’s imagination. As expected, though, for a Christian nation like ours, Munyaule came as a shock and a surprise. The state acted swiftly. The song was banned on public radio and the politicians were quick to condemn Petersen Zagaze for corrupting public morals.
The reaction of politicians was not entirely unexpected. The pressure also came from some church leaders who took great exception to Munyaule, a song that out-rightly euphemised sex like no other musician has ever done in Zambia. But a musician can never be judged just by one or two songs. Zagaze used the visibility Munyaule had brought him to highlight several injustices he saw in Zambian politics and the society it breeds. The church was not spared. With a background in the church, Zagaze recounts in his song Amakwebo Mu Church, the travesty that seem to have engulfed the Zambian church. In the song, he visits a church after a long time only to find that the church has now become a market place, selling everything from houses, to cars, and music albums. He then requests, that “Messiah bwelelanso ukwapule nafuti … ama kwebo mu church yafula”. The message in Amakwebo Mu Church is quite appropriate for the Zambian church, particularly the pentecostal church that seem to be experiencing a serious identity crisis. If Petersen Zagaze was ever a prophet, this song is an appropriate warning to the many churches in Zambia, that the church must not abandon its core duty of Christian worship to become a place for “amakwebo”.
Zagaze left the most prolific criticism to the politicians that had moved to ban his 2005 Munyaule songs. In the Job 13:13 song Zagaze stated that the parliamentarians had better things to do in parliament than debate his songs. Calling politicians as “ba mwankole wearing black suits”, he called out their hypocrisy about targeting his Munyaule songs when they themselves had absolutely no morals. The same politicians who were pontificating about morals were “corrupt thieves, selfish and wife batterers.” Zagaze has continued criticising Zambian politicians in his subsequent music, remaining one of the most consistent poets calling political redemption.
According to the biography on the Kora Awards website, Petersen Zagaze, also known as Zaga was born Mukubesa Mundia in Lusaka, Zambia. He came on the Zambian music scene in 2002. From a music career spanning for a decade and a half, he has performed alongside several national and international artistes such as Mainza, Leo Muntu, Danny Kaya, Bruna (Angola), Extra Musica (Brazzaville), Zombo of Abashante (South Africa), Gidigidi (Kenya), Skwatta Camp (South Africa), Mafikizolo (South Africa), Pitch Black Afro (South Africa), Mzekezeke (South Africa), Proverb (South Africa), Nasty D, and the evergreen Amayenge Asoza.
Petersen has now been nominated for a 2016 Kora Award. If he wins, he would join Maiko Zulu who was the first Zambian to win. Maiko Zulu as St. Michael pulled a shocking win in South Africa. Later the Kora organisation, citing a technical mistake, reversed themselves and took the award away from Zulu. Maiko Zulu is now presenting himself as a candidate in Kabwata in this year’s election. Zambians have another opportunity to have another Zambian win the Kora Awards this year. It is only appropriately that this year’s award should go to the controversial Petersen Zagaze. Other Zambian artists who have been nominated in the past include Jojo Mwangaza.
I leave it to those who are more eminent and more learned in music to analyse and critic the music and notes and tones of Zagaze’s music. For me, the lyrics of Petersen Zagaze make him stand out as one of the most influential poetical artists. Zagaze has not won many awards in Zambia even if he is clearly superior to many of the bubblegum musicians popping up in Zambia. But controversy is rarely rewarded. However, after the Zambian music story is written, history will be very kind to the poetical musician who now calls himself, the Honourable Apostle Petersen Zagaze.
Citation: Munshya, E. (2016). “Munyaule Nafuti”: Petersen Zagaze and the politics of controversial music. Elias Munshya Blog. (www.eliasmunshya.org) (January 29, 2016)