Guest spot

02 October 2020 | Art and Entertainment

Wanted: Original Namibian music

One of the key factors holding back the progress of Namibian music, and perhaps why hardly anyone outside our borders gives a sh*t about it, is the lack of originality of our songs.

I can tell from a mile away when a Zambian song is playing – even when I am hearing it for the first time. The same is true when a South African or Nigerian song is being played.

And that's not because I am a genius of some sort. It simply means those industries have carved their own art in an otherwise flooded global music industry.

Kwaito, which is perhaps the biggest genre in Namibia, did not originate from this country.

Hip-hop is playing second-fiddle in all of Africa because it's imported from overseas.

Personally, I would rather listen to Zakwe's hip-hop tracks than Nasty C – because the former has brought in a great African element, which is his vernacular.

The song 'Woza My Love' by South African duo Blaq Diamond has only 11 English words. The rest are in isiZulu - except the isiXhosa phrase “ngingenanto” (when I had nothing).

And it's one of the greatest songs in that country at the moment.

Namibia's progress is being held back by what we call in development economics isomorphic mimicry, which is the tendency of governments to mimic other governments' successes, replicating processes, systems and even products of so-called 'best practice' examples.

Locally, we are dancing but we are not happy. In the mid-2000s Tate Buti and his sister Janice brought us 'kwiku' music, which by and large was originally Namibian, but they too later faded into the sea of mimicry like the rest of their industry peers.

Many would disagree, but Oviritje is perhaps the best example of an originally Namibian genre.

*Toivo Ndjebela is the editor of Namibian Sun

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