Protest music incarnates the pain of our communities. These songs are our collective exhale – as we come up for air against the crimson tide of blooded black bodies fighting for freedom. A powerful rallying cry, they stitch our wounded hearts back together. I dare say, that song in protest, helps us transcend the current moment. And when our individual voices rise up together in song, we are reminded that we are not alone.
Umculo womzabalazo uvusa amanxeba amadala. Amaculo omzabalazo kudala eculwa abantu abamnyama ukuze bazivuselele. Uma sihlanganisa amaphimbo ethu ndawonye ngezikhathi ezinzima, siyakwazi ukukhumbuzana ukuthi sonke sisempini.
Camae Ayewa is an American poet, rapper and community organiser who grew up in a public housing project in Aberdeen, Maryland – a poor, tight knit neighbourhood. Alienation and racism was commonplace in her community, where important and intimate connections were often forged by shared grievances between locals. Exploding with creativity and a political message, Ayewa turned to music to express her rage and thus Moor Mother was born, wrenched out by the aching, broken world she woke up to every morning.
UCamae Ayewa ungusonkondlo nombhali wamaculo waseMelilka okhulele emzini ohluphekayo eAberdeen. Ukhule kanzima phansi kwegcindezi nokucwaswa ngokwebala. UAyewa wabalekela emculweni ukuze akwazi ukukhuluma ngalobubuhlungu. Uzibiza ngo Moor Mother okuyigama lakhe lomculo.
The name Moor Mother, pays homage to the indigenous melanated people of Northern Africa. Ancient Moors were known for their enhanced intellectual prowess, spiritual ability and strength. They are said to have invaded and occupied Spain in the 8th century. It is unsurprising then that Ayewa would see herself in these ancient heroes.
Igama lika Moor Mother liqhamuka kubantu abamnyama basenyakatho ne Africa. OMoor basemandulo kwakungabantu abahlakaniphile, bomoya futhi benamandla. Badume ngokuthi banqoba amabutho aseSpain. Akumangazi ukuthi lomculi uzibona njengabo.
Under the name Moor Mother, Ayewa creates gritty protest music infusing electronic and techno beats into her sound. Her songs tend to, quite deliberately, hold a mirror up to society – forcing us to look oppression squarely in the face and to deal with it. Ayewa manages to deliver a powerful political message while also demonstrating the importance of exploring and unraveling new sounds in music.
UMoor mother usebenzisa izinsimbi ezingajwayelekile ukuveza impilo yakhe. Ingqikithi yomculo wakhe ifundisa abantu ukuthi ukucwasana akukapheli. UMoor Mother uphinde akhiphe amangwevu njengombhali ngokusebenzisa imisindo engafani nabanye abaculi.
With that said, Moor Mother delivers music with more punch than I can stomach. Her stylistic approach is a sharp contract to the milquetoast rappers of today whose messages revolve around girls, guns and cars. And though this is commendable, the prophecies of gloom and doom in her songs are too much to bear for a struggling optimist like myself. Our different political and geographical contexts may be the source of this disconnect. Race is a prominent subject in Moor Mother’s songs – and white supremacy is set up as the main antagonist. In America, where black people are the minority, I can understand how that can engender feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. As a black South African however, I believe, as stated by Chigozie Obiama his article for ForeignPolicy titled, There are no successful black nations, that the time has come for some serious introspection. Why have we not made more headway in emancipating black people from generational poverty?
Umculo ka Moor Mother awehli kahle esiswini. Uhlukile kunomculo esiwulala nsukuzonke okhuluma ngezibhama, amantombazane nezimoto. UMoor Mother ukhuluma ngokufa nangokuphela kwethemba empilweni yesizwe sabansundu. Amagama awasebenzisayo aveza umuntu osephonse ithawula ngempilo. Umyalezo wakhe uyasinda. Uma ngiqhubeka ngilale kuyavele ukuthi umyalezo wakhe awunathemba ngoba siqhamuka emazweni angafani. EMelika Abantu abamnyama bayingcosana okungase kuvuse uhlevana oluthize. Yize noma kunjalo, ngisakholelwa emazwini ka Chigozie Obiama ukuthi asikho isizwe esimnyama esesiphumelele. Kumele sikwazi ukuzibuza ukuthi yini ushintsho lungakafiki?
Colonialism and Apartheid are only half the answer – the other – is less pleasant. In his words, Early African-American intellectuals and cultural elites saw that the future of black people could not be advanced by endless protests or marches of equality. Real emancipation comes as a result of visionary leadership and a culture of hard work in pursuit of that vision. This brings me to the thrust of my discomfort with Moor Mother’s catalogue of music – it lacks vision. In her compositions black people are powerless and stuck in perpetual victimhood. There is no glorious future to look forward to, only the steel prison that is our past. Strange, for an “Afrofuturist.”
UObiama uyaveza ukuthi umzabalazo wabantu abamnyama unzima futhi udinga ubuchule obungaphezu kokugxoba itoyi toyi. Lokhu ke kungenza ngingawuthandi umculo ka Moor Mother ngoba wenza sengathi abantu abamnyama sebephelelwe amaqhinga. Emculweni wakhe abantu abansundu abanalo ikusasa yize engumuntu ozibiza nge Afro-futurist.
If the tally of the views of her videos on YouTube are anything to go by, her music has failed to attract a substantial audience. Though she has successfully memorialised (and commercialised) black pain and suffering, she fails to provide any tangible solution on how to transcend it. Like Fanon, Moor Mother presents us with only one option – Death. We must end the world.
Umculo wakhe awudumile neze. UYouTube uyaveza ukuthi bancane kakhulu abantu abalela lomculo weziqalekiso. UMoor Mother wenza imali ngokudayisa ngamanxeba abantu abamnyama kodwa akasinikezi amazwi okuthi siwapholisa kanjani? Yini kahle umsebenzi womculo okufaka empini kodwa ungaphethe hawu? Lendumalo ingikhumbuza umbhali u Frantz Fanon, ongomunye wababhali abangenathemba.
Her debut album, Fetish Bones begins with a poem. A slave-woman travels from the past into present day America. In the slave woman’s lamentations about the similarity between the 1800s and modern America she says a phrase that stuck out for, “[I experience a] new type of happiness, a black happiness that’s filled with grief. Needless to say, that is no happiness at all. This careless stitching together of words does nothing to help us move forward. It appears, unfortunately, to be a provocative statement only best described by Kanye West’s Niggers in Paris – no one knows what it means, it’s just provocative.
Irekhodi lakhe lokuqala libizwa ngeFetish Bones, liqala ngenkondlo. Lenkondlo ivusa umuntu wesifazane wasemadulo owayeyisigqila ukuthi akazobona impilo esesiyiphila manje. Usebenzisa amagama athi, “ngizwa ngijabule kodwa injabulo yami inendumalo. Kahle kahle, injabulo ayikho.” Angazi ngempela ukuthi ubechaze ukuthini mesho njalo. Kuzwakala engathi umculo wakhe ufana neculo lika Kanye west iNiggers in Paris. Akekho noyedwa owaziyo ukuthi lamagama athini.
Several songs into the album single, the eerily named Parallel Nightmares begins in a grave, stately tone. There is one clear message: kill the king. The song’s video features flickering images of the artist in a series of movements on screen, but you can never quite get a good look at her face. If you’re going to make a threat on the king’s life – I reckon you should be bold enough to show your face.
Elinye lamaculo akhe iParallel nightmare liqala ngezwi elithusayo elise mathuneni. Lelizwi liphendula iculo elidumile lokukhonza uNkulunkulu ngokuthi kumele simbulale uNkulunkulu. Uyazifihla ubuso ngaso sonke isikhathi mehaya lenkondlo. Lokhu kuyamangaza ngoba umuntu mezokhuluma amagama ayiziswani kanje, kumele abenesibindi sokuwamela amagama akhe. UMoor Mother uphenduka igwala elimemeza emathuneni ngengesikhova.
The album bears the markings of a promising work of art but what we never quite get is the personal testimony of the artist. As in the video, she is concealed. She is inaccessible. We’re given a black history lesson without a relatable subject through which to process that history. Moor Mother does make an attempt to do this through the sampling of the voice of murdered activist, Sandra Bland, a black woman who was murdered in police custody after being arrested over for a traffic violation. Exhumed with worrying verisimilitude, Moor Mother uses Sandra Bland’s voice to express her own views. In my opinion, no artistic project of this nature can have any depth without vulnerability from the artist behind. Show us who you are. Open yourself in a more authentic way to your audience. She remains masked throughout, hiding behind the ghosts of women like Sandra Bland.
Uyazama kodwa ukuziveza ubuyena ngokusebenzisa izwi lomuntu wesifazane owabulawa ngamaphoyisa uSandra Bland. UMoor Mother usebenzisa ubuchulu bonjiniyela ukukhuluma amazwi akhe sengathi akhulunywa ngumufi. Lokhu mina ngikubona kuyihlazo. Kuyiqiniso elingeke liphikiswe ukuthi lomculo uveza intukuthelo yabantu abamnyama esiyibona iqubuka kulezizinsuku. Ngibona ukuthi UMoor Mother kumele akhulume ngempilo yakhe ngeqiniso ukuze akwazi ukuthinta izinhliziyo zabantu.
There’s no denying that Moor Mother’s music reflects the seismic changes happening across the world and the rise of the voices of marginalised people. But in order to reach more people, what is needed from her, is a more self-reflexive work than this. Our protestations and grievances will be met with sympathy, which does nothing to inspire respect. Political rhetoric has been so debased globally. We find ourselves in a spiritually insolvent age in which a diet of sugar-candy populism and rote sloganeering corrodes mind, body and soul. If Moor Mother truly wants to set herself apart from this, she needs tell us what future she wants to see – in clearer terms. Her rage needs to take us somewhere. Call me old fashioned, but good protest song, is one in which the artist caresses the song until it yields more delights than its author had intended. A good protest song tells us as much about the composer as it does about the injustice being spoken about. We need songs that will paint a vision of the future. Until Moor Mother rethinks her stylistic approach, she will be confined to her tiny audience, which will never be enough to wage the revolution that she wants to see.
Umculo wakhe usiveze sengathi siyahlupheka emoyeni. Baningi ngisho abaculi bamaskandi abakwazile ukukhuluma ngenhlupheko njengo Nkunzi emdaka no Phuzushukela kodwa abangakushiyi ufisa ukuzikilela ngentambo. Ngiyakholelwa ukuthi umculo womzabalazo ngokwazi kwami uyakwazi ukukhuluma ngempilo enzima kodwa uphinde ubenomyalezo wethemba. UMoor Mother uma eqhubeka ecula ubudlamba, bancane ngempela abantu abazobanesineke sokulalela umculo wakhe.