Malawi urban music may be facing different challenges, but female-unfriendliness is one of them. This shows in different ways, just a few notable examples; the industry is yet to produce a known female producer, none of its female rappers is put at par with male counterparts when the talk of ‘Best rapper’ arises and more prominently, the verbal abuse female artists have to endure.
The music highly carries the stories and images of Malawian youths. Although there is the word Malawi in it, the industry is to a great extent a replica of the American Hip Hop and R & B culture. But with time, it is transforming itself to fit into the Malawian society with still some sort of identity crisis in its performers as well as followers.
On the other hand, it is rising in a society which can be classified as conservative. Things like religion and culture still influences people’s fundamental opinions and decisions on themselves as well as others. With the hope that urban music will carry the new generation’s spirit of flirting with the other world, it seems we have a long way to go.
Days ago, comments that were made on images of Ritaa and Zani Challe on various Facebook posts were not pleasant at all. For their dressing, they were referred to as ‘unworthy of marriage’ and even ‘prostitutes’. Some even wondered if these girls have parents. They still expect a girl who is legally an adult to be controlled by her parents. This is the life most of us were brought in; we never grow up to be our own men / women. We still act in accordance to family and society.
Saying that this is one reason we are slowly progressing as a nation is a topic for another day. There is not enough courage in us as youths to question our culture or religion. We do not represent the new spirit of cutting a new legacy of our own. We are comfortable in the ways of our fathers. We feel protected and accepted in there. This manifests itself in so many ways, even in politics.
It will need strong Ritaa and Zani Challe to rise from the abuse. But a word to them before going into the heart of matters; if ever I admire you girls, it is because you are willing to dare and break the limits people have on you as females in urban music. There is always hypocrisy when someone asks you to behave in a certain way because of culture or religion. They do not put their life against those standards at all, but would like to see others doing it. Keep the defiance alive!
There is a need for a strong voice against this. A space for females to flourish in the industry should be demanded, not just expected. People easily conclude someone’s life basing on their public image as an artist. There is a difference with their private lives. I have been privileged to be friends with some of the female artists in the industry. Believe you me; they are fine girls when they are away from the cameras.
An artist creates an image that fits into a narrative. When comedians dress in rags on stage it does not mean that they do the same after that. They just do it to be into a story line, to let their dressing communicate what their words are attempting to. In addition, the moment one assumes the title of an artist, they need to be given immunity from personal criticism. Whatever happens inside the mask stays there.
The verbal abuses are definitely keeping some ambitious girls away from the industry. There is no way the abuses can be controlled as people will always have different opinions. But with a high self-esteem, and having a few people one can be answerable to, progress in terms of female representation will be made. Girls, do not back down!