“The Lies of the Truth:” One Rapper Speaks Out Against the Corruption in Mozambique
January 5, 2011 Leave a comment
Nyleteti Honwana, Columnist
Edson da Luz is a typical young Mozambican who, at 26 years old, attends the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique. His blog, “Gestos das Palavras” (Gestures of Words) is where da Luz expresses his “passion for words.” He would seem the normal Generation Y’er searching to communicate his thoughts and feelings through the blogosphere, but he is much more.
Da Luz moonlights as the rapper Azagaia who is known as one of the continents’ most outspoken rappers because his music highlights the corruption in Mozambican and other African governments. Having released his first album, entitled Babalaze in 2007, he has spent the last few years as Mozambique’s premier rapper. Rapping about the corruption within the establishment in 2007, to rising bus prices in 2008, to the corruption within the continent as a whole, he calls his music “intervention rap.”
“The Lies of the Truth” (2007) was Azagaia’s debut single and one of his most popular songs. In it, Azagaia addresses the often rumored about but never confirmed conspiracy theories surrounding the deaths of many prominent Mozambicans who worked for the betterment of the country, including Samora Machels, the first President of Mozambique. The video shows him running from the “establishment” passing disillusioned and destitute people on the street, all let down by the government. His first single paved the way for many more songs that criticized both FRELIMO (the Mozambican governing party) and RENAMO (the opposition).
On his blog, Azagaia explains that he is impassioned by the written word and that an unchanging goal in his life is to “be the words.” While in Mozambique earlier this year, I came across another of Azagaia’s tracks, titled “People’s Power” (2008). In the song’s chorus, Azagaia clearly issues a warning to the government:
Shout with me for them to go away
The People have the power
The power to choose
The one who will govern us
We are the ones to elect
And if you haven’t been honest
Then get yourself in line
You will not manipulate us
Now the people are mad!
Weeks after the song was released, there was uproar within the government over Azagaia’s lyrics. The headline of ‘Freemuse’ (Freedom of Musical Expression), an international organization that promotes anti-censorship for musicians and composers worldwide, read, “The rap artist Azagaia was summoned before prosecutors to explain the allegedly violent lyrics of a song he has written about the February 2008 riots in Maputo.” On April 30th, 2008 da Luz was apprehended by the police and questioned for an hour and 30 minutes about his song, and the inherent violence in it. Azagaia did not deny his hostility toward the government and openly champions the song to those who protested against the 50 percent rise in fares charged by the minibuses in Maputo (the city’s main form of public transportation).
One of the things that struck me about Azagaia’s music was that it reverts back to the original forms of rap. Modern day American rap was born in the early 1970s in the era of the New York block parties. It has roots in African and Jamaican dub music, but quickly became a way of self expression for “disenfranchised youth of low-economic areas as the culture reflected the social, economic and political realities of their lives.” Today rap (now heavily incorporated into Hip Hop) remains the music of low income African Americans, but the messages in rap songs have changed dramatically. It has become rare to hear political rap and much more so to see those songs top the charts.
However, in Mozambique people have flocked to Azagaia’s music because they can relate to it. He raps about the everyday occurrences of their lives, and the people rally around him for it. He, like many Mozambicans, feels let down by the government, and he uses his words as a weapon to try and inspire change not only within the country, but the continent as a whole. In fact he chose the name Azagaia, because it means “spear.”
Undoubtedly, the controversy surrounding his music also has contributed to his fame, and led him to tour in Mozambique, Angola and Portugal. An avid Facebook user, he uses social networking to connect to more people and spread his message and refers to it as “a necessity that we all possess as humans, which is to share.” It is Azagaia’s belief that there are aspects of every life that should be shared with others, in the hopes of attracting both those who think as you do and those that do not. That is the power of words. With an album and a host of successful singles under his belt, Azagaia is poised to keep advocating for the disillusioned of Mozambique and calling out corruption and dishonesty in the government as he sees it.