Music as a Key Player in Driving Social Change in Africa

Music uses different forms of expression and themes because of its diverse nature. Songs are tailored to take listeners through an informative journey and educate them on various topics including social injustice. Music has the power to impact people and significantly influence change. Songs not only affect individuals but society as a whole.

Since its emergence, music has been used to convey messages. A lot of African musicians have utilised music in dispensing information and advocating for human rights, from patriotic songs, to protest and political songs. This is not entirely new because artists like Brenda Fassie used music to educate and create awareness, thereby proving that music is more than a form of art.

Here are some of the songs written by artists to enlighten listeners by highlighting issues that have affected Africa. These artists vividly showcase the power of music in moulding society through storytelling. From advocating for peace and unity to standing up for human rights, these songs cover the same theme of creating awareness on issues that need to be addressed.

Tujiangalie, a Kenyan song by Sauti Sol, featuring Nyashinski was released in 2018 just months after the campaign and election period. Tujiangalie is a Swahili word meaning ‘let’s self-reflect’, and the whole song was sung in Swahili. It basically highlighted the difference in Kenya’s past and present. The song drew attention to issues like corruption, poor quality of education, unemployment and even service delivery.

It also targeted the youth, encouraging them to rise and join hands for the better. It was a letter to create awareness and enlighten Kenyans about the power they hold, ultimately igniting fire in the hearts of the citizens. 

The second song Ndodemnyama by Miriam Makeba, the South Legendary musician who is a great force of social change, can be translated into ‘beware’. The purpose of the song was to send a warning during the brutal apartheid regime in South Africa, spearheaded by the then Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd in the 1960s. 

In the lyrics, this statement stands out; Bhasobha naants indod emnyama Verwoerd Yini Verewoed, which translates into ‘Watch out, here comes a black man, Verwoerd, what is it? Verwoerd’.

She further highlighted the plights of South Africans and instilled hope with her music, which empowered people during the apartheid period.

Amkeni by Nay Wa Mitego from Tanzania is a thought-provoking anthem urging Tanzanians to rise and take charge. Amkeni is a Swahili word meaning ‘let’s all rise’. 

Nay, in his song, criticises the government under the present leadership for corruption while poor citizens still pay taxes. He questions the quality of education in his line; wanatupa elimu mbovu ya bure isiyo na maana, and the media for not having someone who can stand up for the people. 

He also addressed unemployment, and poor service delivery in government parastatals, urging  Tanzanians to rise or forget about the growth of their country. 

Nay Wa Mitego has always been a sensation, mostly rubbing the government the wrong way, but his music is always positively received by his audience who relate a lot with what he delivers.

The #FreeSenegal movement gave birth to the #FreeSenegal song by Dip Doundou Guiss, a Senegalese rapper. It was released at a time when the Senegalese were protesting against the government and all they were going through. Protesters were met with aggression from the police, which prompted the movement. The rapper took it upon himself to embody everything in a song and call on the government to respond and act. His song went viral in Senegal during the protest period. 

The role of music in the advocacy for social change was very evident during the Coronavirus pandemic. Most musicians tailored their music to educate the public and create awareness on the disease. They didn’t only educate the masses on the importance of adhering to COVID regulations but also informed them about the disease. Rayvanny from Tanzania, Bobbi Wine from Uganda, Fally Ipupa from Congo, and  Ndlovu Youth Choir all used their art for sensitisation during the pandemic. 

Conclusively, it is evident that music has proven time and again that it’s a great aid for social change in society. Music speaks to the masses. It is not only an avenue for communicating with people, but also an ideal way of instilling ideas with the hope of action.

Scroll to Top