I was appalled, rather bemused, by the general response to Mwiza Chavura’s song Rape.
So fervent has the uproar been that the musician has apparently been arrested.The general consensus, by activists and the public alike, was to ‘crucify the musician’.
But I believe arresting Chavura is a wrong remedy to the problem.
Someone who sits down to write such a distasteful song, and even goes ahead to record and release it, is a troubled soul and needs counselling.
To disparage women with such vitriol and to think it is normal needs deeper therapy.
My take on the matter is that arresting and censuring the musician does little to address the underlying problem because the problem is bigger than Chavura’s Rape.
It is a problem that has been lingering in Malawian social psyche for ages.
The problem is deep-rooted.
In all settings—rural, urban and semi-urban—women have always been portrayed as victims in the artistic narrative.
Some cultural songs, particularly Gule Wamkulu and Jando songs, are so lewd they should have been outlawed centuries ago. But they continue being performed and, in most cases, in the presence of children.
Suggesting that Chavura’s song encourages men to rape is no worse than saying any woman who wears a miniskirt is courting rape. Some people have even encouraged others to do worse.
The only crime Chavura committed is against art. There is nothing redeeming about that—the lyrics are poor, the arrangement is criminal and the vocals are atrocious.
Vile as Chavura’s lyrics might sound, to act that the song is a divergent of the industry is to miss the point and completely (and deliberately) ignore the facts.
These kinds of revolting lyrics have been allowed to flourish in the industry for decades and we all have turned a blind eye.
Actually, we are all complicit in the crime because we have buried our heads in the sand, allowing this indecency to go unchallenged; hence, creating a conducive environment for such obscenity to flourish.
Which is why we absolutely have no right to act surprised when a little known and irrelevant musician takes this message onto the mainstream. To be honest, anyone with time to check on what this guy has done in the past year will see that all his “artistry” has been to catch people’s attention.
The problem with Malawi is that we let problems fester and fade away, only to reawaken when the problem resurfaces. And the circle goes on and on. Acting all concerned now is a bit superficial and a little cosmetic.We do not have a culture of facing problems head on and dealing with the cancer once and for all.
The Chavura song ought to have ignited discourse on what the problem is in the industry and sought to figure out how to deal with the crude undercurrents that have been allowed to simmer undeterred.
A while back, Mafo released a song that equated women to beer with this chorus:
Akazi ndi mowa mumakonda cha?/mowa
Not only did this song become number one hit, but I do not remember any organisation or individual that rose to reprimand the musician for portraying women so disgracefully in his music.
And because no one, not even the Musicians Union of Malawi, the Censorship Board, the clergy or the women rights NGOs have stood up to censure the musicians, this has allowed such baloney to sip into the mainstream and become accepted as standard.
I believe that Malawi has an underlying problem of denigrating women for which there is no quick fix solution.
As a nation, we need to confront these hard truths about ourselves if we are to heal these festering wounds and hate-mongering directed at women, most of whose only crime is to dress in a mini-skirt.
There have been countless scenarios where women have been abused and harassed across the country for dressing and/or acting ‘provocatively.’
As a society, we need to bring these issues into our daily discourse so that we teach our boys early about the importance of treating girls with the respect they deserve. That is the least we can do. We owe our mothers, sisters and daughters that much.