Zambia: Musicians blacklisted because they refuse to pay bribes

3 June 2008
“Many musicians have their music blacklisted because they refuse to pay bribes,” the Zambian reggae musician Maiko Zulu told BBC News on 30 May 2008. Many of his own songs are censored by radio stations because of their lyrics.

Maiko Zulu (real name: Michael Somanje Zulu) is best known in Zambia for his controversial song entitled ‘Mad President’. It prompted several FM stations in southern Africa to ban it when it was released earlier in 2008, describing the song as ‘too radical’ for the air waves.

Insulting the president is a criminal offence in Zambia, and a singer can be charged with up to two years imprisonment if found guilty. In ‘Mad President’, Maiko Zulu sings:

    • “I am the police, the judge and jury
    • I hire and fire at my own desire
    • I make my own rules
    • and I don’t need anyone to give me advice.
    • I know everything.
    I am reason for your fear”

Maiko Zulu says it is not just radical messages in music that leads to their absence from the airwaves. DJs give massive air play to certain songs after the singer offers what they commonly refer to as an ‘incentive’, but which in reality, according to Maiko Zulu, is a bribe.

Several radio DJs do acknowledge that corruption has become common in the business while others dismiss the allegations. According to Sam Banda Junior from AfricaNews paying ‘incentive’ is not only a trend in Zambia but also in Malawi where DJs have been criticized of playing music of those musicians who have offered them bribes.

About the artist
Maiko Zulu is among Zambia’s leading reggae artists. He has published five albums, and nearly all of his music is blacklisted by the Zambian state-run Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation’s radio and tv channels and also by several private stations. His album entitled ‘Mad President’ stirred controversy and debate in Zambia, even in the Zambian Parliament, the National Assembly.

He has received several awards, and was the first Zambian to be nominated for a Kora Award. Together with his band he has toured in several African countries and in the United Kingdom.
He previously performed under the pseudonym St Michael – a name by which most his fans still refer to him.




Maiko Zulu


BBC News – 30 May 2008:

‘ ‘Dodgy DJs’ under fire in Zambia’

AfricaNews – 4 June 2008:

‘Zambian DJ’s under fire over music airplay’

Times of Zambia:

‘Mad President on the loose’

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