What’s Next for Phungu Joseph Nkasa?

By Lupiya wa Lupiya

On October 18, Zodiak Broadcasting Station aired a heart-rending tale of alleged grand deceit and predatory presidents. Musician Joseph Nkasa recounted his ups and downs in Joab Chakhaza’s Cruise 5 programme, saying politicians only used and spat him out like spent sugar cane pith.

Nkasa cut a picture of a man at his wits’ end, destitute and abandoned with shattered hopes raised by politicians who thrive on peddling dishonesty. But is it all over for Nkasa?

Music and politics are siamese twins. Politicians have always turned to music to sustain their popularity. Even in the US, ex-president Barack Obama’s campaigns profited immensely from endorsements from big names such as Jay-Z and Beyonce. Similarly, Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign was publicly backed by rap superstars Ice Cube and Lil Wayne.

Here at home, music has been intertwined with politics since the one-party era (1964- 1993) when the tyranny of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda was fed by songs of praise, especially the mbumba, members of his beloved womens guild.

The dawn of democracy has tied the knot between musicians and politicians. Bakili Muluzi’s UDF hired Lucius Banda and Tanzania’s One Theatre Band to spice up his second-term bid. Nkasa’s political inroads gained traction in 2009, during the second-term campaign of Bingu wa Mutharika whom he christened Mose wa Lero, a modern-day Moses.

It was then striking how the radio chat only focused on Nkasa’s tribulations, ignoring contrasting opportunies he accrued from political electioneering. There is little the country can do to lessen the hurt and humiliation Nkasa alleges to have suffered at the hands of politicians. If only he turned over his piece of bread, he would realise to the underside is buttered with the untold benefits of the hits he created, politics aside.

Anyone who appreciates creativity will acknowledge that Nkasa’s Mose wa Lero is decidedly the biggest political song that has come out of Malawi. The song’s influence transcended political boundaries and became a household song to be popularised even among toddlers. Its effect was a tsunami that shook the terrain and swept the opposition out of the way to clear the path for Bingu’s 66 percent majority victory in 2009.

Instead of languishing in perpetual self-pity, licking his wounds and waiting for the next Samaritan to gift another car, Nkasa only needs to go back to Mose wa Lero and realise what a giant of Malawian music he is. He should allow the song to hit his soul and galvanise his spirit. Let him realise that the lyrics he penned 12 years ago, in fact, glorify his own greatness.

Let the song reawaken the genius that clearly is being suffocated by his hideous submission to political gods who have brought him nothing but misery. It is his brainpower that came up with the gem, then. Therefore, he can repeat the feat today.

Self-righteousness is so irresistible that it is tempting to rush to admonish Nkasa for deliberately straying into the lions’ dens and taunt him to never fraternise with politicians again. Such advice would be asking too much of an artist trying to survive in a shrinking economy overly controlled by politicians. It is suicidal to swear never to associate any more with the political demigods.

Moving forward, Nkasa should draw lessons from his past experiences and act a lot smarter when contemplating the next political deal.

Confident in his unique intellectual wealth, Nkasa should apply such an unassailable advantage to approach the next political bargain with a bit less desperation and demand a mutually negotiated contract. A copy of such agreement would open doors to any civil court and help him to successfully petition for recourse in case of yet again another broken promise.

***Opinion Article first Published in Malawi Nation. Views expressed are those of the author*****