25 August 2010

Rapper Azagaia speaks about freedom of expression in Mozambique


Azagaia means light javelin or spear. It is also the name used by a Mozambican hip-hop artist, rapper and sociologist, Edson da Luz.

The rawness of his music and the lyrical content of his songs have caused discomfort in some circles, took the Mozambican blogging community by storm and saw him apparently fall victim to alleged attempts at silencing his voice.

His debut album, ‘Babalaze’, was released in 2007, produced by Cotonete Records.

Azagaia is a controversial artist due to some of his lyrics. His song ‘As Mentiras da Verdade’ talks about the murder of journalist Carlos Cardoso and the subsequent trial. His ‘Povo no Poder’ is considered a panegyric on the Maputo riots of 5 February 2008. He was called in for questioning at the Maputo City attorney’s office on 30 April 2008.

One of his songs included insults against the country’s president, Armando Guebuza, and also contains what could easily be understood as a threat.

Azagaia’s profile on MySpace:

Azagaia’s music videos on YouTube:

The video clip is produced by Freemuse. It was recorded on 10 August 2010 in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Mik Aidt.

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3:41 minutes

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Entrevista em português audio visual:
(Video interview in Portuguese:) Sobre a Liberdade de Expressão em Mozambique


The cost of living keeps on climbing
while we keep lowing our income
This government does not seem right …No!
There will be a tragedy!
Even though you bring your tear gas
The strike is full of oxygen
Do not stop our performance
I will fight, will not abstain

Excerpt of lyrics in ‘Povo no Poder’

Azagaia photographed by Mik Aidt

Interview with Azagaia
Transcription of the video recording of 10 August 2010

“My name is Azagaia. I am a rapper from Mozambique. I rap about social and political issues, basically.”

(Excerpt from ‘Combatentes da Fortuna’)

“I am not afraid. But there is a lot of people who think that I should stop doing it, should stop doing this song [writing]. But I think that if we don’t have this critical voice — or critical voices — in the society, the society will not develop. So, that is it.

Talking about self-censorship, well, I don’t think [that I practise self-censorship]. I think that I have crossed the red line so many times, but this ‘red line’ is not something we should not say, it is something which people say that you should not say. But I think that I am talking about reality, the truth.

And because of that, people really sing the songs when I am [performing] at a concert. They sing the songs, they agree with me. They think that this is missing now, it is them who stand up for themselves, and talk for themselves too. I want to inspire them to do that. So I don’t have a lot of self-censorship. I write what I think that it is, and then I tell it to the people. I tell it to the audience on the records. ”

(Excerpt from ‘Combatentes da Fortuna’)

“In the radio, there are some songs that they simply don’t play. Because… Firstly, we have the public radio [which are government controlled], and even the private radio [stations] are somehow connected to the Power. They are more free to play [whatever they’d wish to play] but they are not entirely free.

And talking about the musicians, the musicians depend on their live performances. We don’t sell a lot of CDs in Mozambique. People don’t have this culture of buying CDs. So the money that musicians make to live is from the shows, the concerts. And those who organise these shows are for instance mobile phone companies, and all those big companies that we have. They support the culture too. So, because they are connected to the Power, to the government, too, sometimes they just don’t invite certain artists. They only invite the artists who they think will not give problems to the system. So, basically there is this fear of not having bread for you and your family, so that is why people don’t talk much about social issues with a critical point of view.”

Lower the price of transport or raise the minimum wage
Xeeeeee… that’s the least you could do
Unless you want us to put the gas stations on fire,
rob the bakeries and ministries – imagine! – destroy your banks and mines
It seems like governance has been contaminated by irrationality
They need to learn their lesson
And do not wait for the next
I warn you, gentlemen, that will be the next

Excerpt of lyrics in ‘Povo no Poder’

‘Povo no Poder’ – Watch on

‘As Mentiras da Verdade’ – Watch on
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