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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Diana Kamara's Open Letter to Sauti Sol Musicians

Dear Sauti Sol, 

Salaam, 

I have heard about your work and fame for a long time. But it was until the Sura Yako song was popular that I did not really know your group. Still I don’t know your faces or names (if it counts in celebrity culture). You probably receive a lot of feedback and support from your fans. To be honest, I am neither your craziest nor average fan. And at this point I am thankful I am not your fan. I am writing to ask you to apologize to the African masses for misleading lyrics of your latest release, Nerea

As a feminist first, I could have discussed the question of abortion, whether to allow it or not (thanks for making the discussion on abortion public). Or I may look at the positive image of African women you are trying to promote such Zenzile Miriam Makeba (an artist who was a political activist) and Wangari Maathai. But it would also have been of my interest to know why you want your child to be important as Lupita Nyong’o (whom I remember for having a dark complexion, naked on screen and an beauty idol for 2013)? Will you be disappointed if the new born is the opposite of Lupita: plump and light skinned? I am not muting my feminist activism, at this point there is something urgent and important. 
I want to believe you juggled and tossed many names before shortlisting those you have mentioned in the song based on your knowledge of their legacies and the role model factor. I am glad that these two African names made it into the song: Nyerere and Mandela. 

The aspirations you have that your unborn child may be Nyerere or Mandela are not at question. Except for the information on Nyerere and Mandela that makes me question and really like - really doubt - your knowledge of Africa and Africans. And considering that two of you are Journalistm graduates (The actuarial sciences and banking and accountancy graduates are not less guilty in this! And the featured artists too!), I thought it was a given thing to be curious and to get facts right. 

You plead with Nerea not to abort because if the child is born Nyerere he will lead Tanzania (… aongoze Tanzania). If not, the child may be Mandela, the redeemer of Africa (… mkombozi wa Afrika). Really? Like serious? 
Much as we all agree that the two are giants in African history, we also can’t weigh their legacies. All the same we cannot mislead generations because of this outmost negligence (Don’t make me curse in writing!). 

Wallahi! I don’t believe the lyrics were written, revised, recorded and the video made without the many people involved in production noticing that it was the likes of Nyerere who liberated Africa and Mandela who led South Africa in struggles against Apartheid (at the end of it) and later became the first black president (with the support of Nyerere and other Frontline leaders and states) of the republic. 
For a moment I will forget you are graduates and say if they did not teach you this in school, you could not even do a simple internet survey (Like I just search Sauti Sol on the internet today) before you sang about these legendaries? I would take time to explain in details, with examples, about Nyerere and Mandela. But since you did not do your homework, at least Google that now!
I am not blaming you (I am not freeing you of the offence to history either). Mandela is more popular than Nyerere. My Microsoft Word 2007 doesn’t know Nyerere. It underlines his name in red and gives me these possible other words: Miserere, Nye ere and Nearer yet it knows Mandela. Athletes and actors who went to South Africa would stop by at Mandela’s house for a chit chat and (most likely) a photo. I am still trying to find one Google image of Nyerere with a Superstar. When Mandela died Rihanna, Tyra Banks and John Legend tweeted. Who was not mourning?

Don’t you find it suspicious that countries that had labeled him a terrorist like Al Shabab three decades ago or so were the loudest mourners? Or of all the African fathers and mothers of the African nation, he is the one given big time promotion in the West? If you don’t find it doubtful, I hold on to my conspiracy theory. 

Mandela’s popularity should not at any instance downweigh the huge contribution of Nyerere’s contribution to liberation of Africa in theory and practice. Popular is not a synonym for significant (you know this better as musicians). 
When I watched the video on earlier this afternoon on YouTube views were 448,841 and at this moment (about three and a half hours later) 450, 841. This makes me tremble in fear of how many people will have been misled by the song and believed it, let’s say by June. 

On that note, I write to demand that you apologise to the world for diminishing the legacy of Nyerere and adding salt to Mandela’s story. 

(I wish you were my brothers in arms)

(And I am not yours)

Diana Kamara

6th May 2015

Dar es Salaam,

Tanzania

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