Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kabila rallies popular musicians behind him

In a country that is crazy about music, politicians have always courted the support of popular musicians. And musicians have often complied, preferring to take their money and avoid problems with those in power. This election season is no different - the criticisms of yesteryear have fallen away and even previously skeptical singers like Koffi Olomide and Papa Wemba are throwing their talents behind Joseph Kabila's campaign. In fact, of the most popular singers, I think only Fally Ipupa and Ferre Gola have not endorsed Kabila's campaign. As far as I can remember, Kabila has been able to rally more singers behind him this time than in 2006.

Here is a list of the singers who have thrown their weight behind Kabila: Koffi Olomide, Felix Wazekwa, JB Mpiana, Werrason, Papa Wemba, Karmapa, Tshala Muana, Reddy Amisi, Blaise Bula and Lutumba Simaron.


Anonymous said...

By attacking the artists in Brussels and Paris, the Bana-Congo, con-battants of Tshisekedi en Ngbanda, have helped Kabila more then they wanted.

Anonymous said...

"singers who have thrown their weight behind Kabila" There is a saying in lingala that goes like this: "musicien azali lokola muasi ya ndumba alandaka kaka mbongo" which means musician is like a prostitute, he(she)will pursue only money. Congolese are not really surprised about their action.
So,there is nothing new under the sun. Rien de nouveau sous le soleil.

Rich said...

Jason -

I know this list is not exhaustive but I just noted the omission of your own main man Mopao Mokonzi Le Grand Mukulukulu... who not only sings J Kabila but also seems very engaged in PPRD and ready to run for a Senate seat...

Here is a clip where he explains why he chose J Kabila unlike a prostitute he seems to be motivated by other things than money (according to him in this clip anyway...).

It has to be noted that Koffi use to be very critical of J Kabila's entourage and the way they were managing the country. I guess this gave him a platform to be drawn a bit more closer to the regime...

His song:

What about theatre artists and comedians, Masumu Debrende, Maman Bipendu etc...?

Thanks for taking us a bit out of politic (although there is a link) for a musical break

Anon 13, 2011 1:36

Regardless of the nature of musicians, let not underestimate the potential of the message these musicians are bringing out to influence the undecided... What this translates, to me, is that PPRD and the majority had a STRONG strategic plan on how to conduct this electoral campaign; so I guess, the opposition will only have to blame itself for WAKING UP TOO LATE to the reality of the elections ...


Jason Stearns said...

@Rich - Mais il était la, le mopao munene! The third video clip. But merci for putting up the interview.

I don't know about the comedians. I wonder about the sports figures, the Trésor Mputu, Matumona, Nonda, Lualua, etc. of the country.

Here is story of a well-known boxer who supported him:

Anonymous said...

I gotta agree with the Anon poster. Honestly, do we really think this makes a difference? Even among the mass of Congolese peasants? I don't doubt that, on the margins, it does but I really don't think someone ecking out a hard living in a provincial town or village is going to wake up on Nov 28th and, after listening to these guys say:

"You know, inspite of the fact life is still so bad for me and my family, its a good thing Papa supports Kabila. Let me take the walk to the poll and give him my vote."

To even consider the Congolese making such a decision in that light of the lack of progress on so many levels is both preposterous and, if you believe they will, insulting to the Congolese.

I have a little more faith in the Congolese than, perhaps, Jason or Rich, so while this is a useful bit on a fairly obvious ploy it is likely tangential to the decision-making process of average Congolese man or woman.

Studies have shown in nearly all elections that most voters ask the following questions in races that feature incumbents:

- has my life and that of my family improved under this guy/gal's time in office?
- will giving him/her my vote allow him/her to improve given their past performance?
- can the other guy/gal implement their plans better than the current one?

There are variations to this depending on the place but all voters, no matter what their background, tend to ask some version of those questions and vote accordingly.

Family, friends, local officials and influentials like "stars" are taken into account with the decision but, again, only on the margins.

I realize its a challenge not being cynical when it comes to this country but let's do try not to let it overwhelm us. This election is going to be more volatile than we all think precisely because it is only the second truly "free" one in 50 years.

It might be useful for all of us to keep that in mind when reporting and commenting on this election.


Anonymous said...

One other thing.

In addition to Jason's blog, I do suggest, as others here have, to visit Alex Engwete's. He is in Kinshasa now (he lives in DC most of the year) and tends to blog on the Congo by highlighting its people, as opposed to the elites Jason does here.

(not a knock on you, Stearns)

Today's short piece by Engwete is rather solid. While he mentions the violence he personalizes it by focusing on a victim of it- a dried fish stall owner named Maman Ekofo:

Its a short piece but illustrates what is a stake here for the Congolese.

Amy Ernst, who I am sure everyone knows, also has a fine piece about the election and average folks responses to the campaigning, violence, Kabila, etc.


Anand said...

@ Jason - Thanks for the interesting posts. As a new observer to Congolese politics, it is very enlightening to see. Any videos or endorsements from the other candidates to share? Do any exist? Quality aside, these videos just seem like slightly more modern versions of any cult of personality propaganda materials from years ago.

I second the vote to visit Amy Ernst's blog. Great post about local election conversations. I don't much care for analogizing these singers' pursuit of money to prostitutes. Not in defense of the singers, but prostitutes, especially in Congo, have a whole host of desperate reasons to do what they do. Seems like casually characterizing them as money hungry is a little short sighted, especially in a blog about Congolese politics.

Rich said...

Thanks Anand,

You've stolen words from my mouth about the prostitution reference...

As for the singers, to be honnest almost all the big names are singing J Kabila. There is Boketshu premier who is specialised in Lingala folklore who sang tshisekedi but the problem is he is based outside DRC, he lives in Belgium and in Congo when a musician lives outside the country for a long time he will struggle to keep up with the innovations (lyrics, danses, slogans etc... ) and all the new things in the industry hence he may not attract that many listeners...

Jason -

Thanks, I don't know how I missed le grand mukulukulu...

There are also what we know as 'homme de Dieu', pastors and other religious leaders... Dennis Lessy, Sony Kafuta, Kankeza, So far it looks like the most popular are backing J Kabila.

For sports personalities it is a bit difficult but I know fooball players like Yousouf Malumbu who plays in the English premiership team, West Bromwich Albion refused to join the national team blaming the lack of organisation but also saying he needs to focus on his club rather than his country or Fabrice Mwamba who plays for Bolton another premiership team took a British citizenship and never had kind words for his mother land the DRC... However, they both never said who they are backing but I guess (long story explaining why) they back e tshisekedi.

Affaire a suivre...

Anonymous said...

Not astonishing ! Those musicians have sung for Mobutu, Kagame and will never stop at anything to sell the DRC for nothing. They have made what the DRC is now today:a nation unable to defend itself and robbed of its values. Maybe you don't understand lingala quite well, but these people spend more time praising crooks. just give 100$ to one of them, then in the next song they will be praising you.

Anonymous said...

I think its somewhat simplistic to suggest that this Lingala saying doesn't hold water- as Anon 1 and 2 are stating and Frank elaborated.

The Congolese are fully aware of the corruption of their political elite. They are also, I might add, a fairly conservative people with strong moral tenets informed by their deeply religious nature.

Given the rot that is Kinshasa and the general desire for people to engage in corrupt practices that stems from this rot, it isn't a stretch to imagine the Congolese seeing popular musicians or others support Kabila and, as a result, not taking them seriously as it relates to their own vote.

This is simply more moths rushing to the flame which, in the context of Congolese culture, gives considerable life to this saying.

I'll conclude by saying that it is odd for those who purport to support the Congolese to make excuses for engaging in moral hazards.

I fail to see how this improves the lives of a single Congolese or encourages Kinshasa- and those who seek influence with it- to engage in less venal and repressive behavior.

This is not an attack on Rich or Anand but, again, y'all's comments here seem rather informed but weird nonetheless.

- Mel

Anonymous said...

Christian singers are not in this list, noteworthy. Christian music is pretty big in Congo and they don't support any politician. If they would, it would not help their careers.

However, l'Or Mbongo, a christian singer, gives advice to the wife of President Kabila.

- Vincent

Anonymous said...

@ Anand,

I understand your concern regarding the reason for prostitution in DRC.
FYI, there is and always been tolerance(a practice of permitting a thing of which one disapproves) in traditional and modern congolese societies for people selling their most precious assets to take care of their families.
However prostitution is not a positive value( value here understood as conscientious conviction that evolved to conscious in act), in most congolese web of tribes.

Regarding the lingala saying aforementioned,
It is a very old saying, and is used as illustration to say that musicians act most of the time as "griot conteur" or praise singers Sometimes, you have to discount what their singing.
Also I second what @ Mel said regarding the influence of these endorsement.
Trust Me Anand, congolese people have developed a great deal of compartmentalization mechanisms as survival tool.
This is why it is hard, I mean very hard to fight corruption in DRC.
Rich and I know for sure that these musicians are practicing what we call the "phenomene Mabanga". They are just trying to eke out a living.
My post is not an exercise in cynicism, rather an attempt to relativise the value of these endorsement.
I won't elaborate further in order to stay on topic.

Mwana Kin

Anonymous said...

Interesting points, Mwana and Vincent.

I believe it would also be useful to get a view on the elections from Congolese evangelical ministers. I realize educated folks like us look down on them but, like or not, evangelism and its ministers are- like cellphones- a growing force in Congolese society and by and large a good one given evangelical churches are doing a good job building leadership structures outside of the atate.

- Mel

Anand said...

@Mel and Mwana - Thanks for the feedback. My comment about not liking the comparison of seemingly soley money motivated singers to supposedly soley money motivated prostitutes was meant to dispell stereotypes about prostitutes. They are often seen as wholly morally devoid and suffer a lot of demonization (in Congo and elsewhere). The reality is that many women face a complex set of usually very difficult and tragic circumstances that lead them to prostitution, sometimes not even by their own choice. It seemed to me that the comparison was shallowly pegging them as simply money hungry and making them synonymous with self interested greed. I was not endorsing prostitution or saying it is generally a good thing, if that's how it sounded. Just reacting to an unfair characterization of an already marginalized group of women.

As to the influence of the endorsements, I have no idea. I don't know enough about the Congolese politics or culture to say either way.

Rich said...

Ref # “… There is a saying in lingala that goes like this: "musicien azali lokola muasi ya ndumba alandaka kaka mbongo"…”

@Anand - I second your view on prostitution

There is another saying in Lingala that goes like, quote, “…mbisi alandaka esika mayi ezotiola…” translating as “… fish always follow stream water environment…”

Why are we trying to make a judgement on a decision made by responsible adults who are simply exercising their freedom? We can minimise as we wish the impact these artist musicians on the outcome of the elections, however, one must not forget that they are leaders of opinion, they have strong fan bases; therefore, may not appeal to radicals but they can still influence undecided.

Anyway, we’ve seen big names in American showbiz making headlines by publicly endorsing US presidential candidates. I have never heard anyone registering such move under immorality etc… why is this only valid when it is about the DRC or when it is about supporting the person we don’t like?

I suggest we look at Koffi’s explanation on why he decides to support J Kabila and take it from there rather than trying to compare election endorsement with prostitution or election endorsement with lack of morality. There is enough substance in what Koffi said and we can have an INTERESTING debate on that...

With regards to religious movements, just to note that the Kimbangu church has thrown its full support for J Kabila and we may all know how powerful this church is in the Bas-Congo…

For the record, I am not a J. Kabila supporter and for those who know me outside Congosiasa I may be one of the fierce critics of his regime. That said, the DRC opposition should be challenged and asked DIFFICULT questions too; otherwise, who is going to write a decent chapter about what a responsible opposition must be if we can allow the current opposition to accommodate their political ambitions with intellectual dishonesty by claiming, in the same breath, both a thing and its opposite?

One wants to be elected head of state and at the same time auto-proclaiming one-self head of state…

I would not trust a person who is unable to design and execute an electoral campaign to run a country.


Anand said...

@Rich - I totally agree that the opposition has to be held to task and asked difficult questions. I would also agree that Tshisekedi's recent rhetoric makes his bid for the presidency less credible. Interesting point about the musicians' motivations. The initial reaction is to assume that they were paid off by Kabila. Maintaining objectivity in a political climate that has been historically corrupt is a constant battle.

Anonymous said...


It is certainly true that Hollywood stars have long endorsed and cultivated relationships with our elites in DC. But I can assure you the American people do not take them seriously or go to a poll based on Madonna’s or George Clooney’s endorsement.

Indeed, most Americans find celebrity endorsements- whether a politician or a cause like conflict minerals or save Darfur- slightly repulsive depending on the Party of the person (Republicans generally hate everything about Hollywood) or the particular celebrity.

Like the Congolese, our vote is OUR vote and the idea one should be swayed by a celebrity is pretty laughable on a lot of levels.

Finally, one reason we don't take their endorsement seriously is because both Hollywood and Washington feed off each other- like in the Congo. Hollywood wants the right to sell our children and our collective minds a ton of racy films and nasty music and Democrats go out to Hollywood to raise money from actors, singers, producers, etc to ensure this trade keeps flowing with minimal regulation. Its all about the $$$ Rich which is one reason no voter in America would take them seriously when they endorse a candidate.

The Hollywood elite live in a kind of decadence that few Americans will ever see and the symptoms of that decadence- drug abuse, multiple partners, dating younger women or men, massive and opulent homes, altering their bodies with surgery and an addiction to working out to look young and fit forever, etc- runs against the morals of most of America.

So, again, for all these reasons it just isn't true that we are picking on the Congolese.

I could care less who Rihanna wants to win in next year's elections even though I love everything she has done as an artist. And I am pretty sure that most of the people who truly love her music don’t even bother to vote anyway.


Anonymous said...

Good points as per usual, Rich.

But, like Frank said, it is simply NOT the case that Americans don't raise a stink about celebrities and their various "endorsements"- particularly political candidates.

Most smart stars in Hollywood- the smart ones now- stay clear of politics because they do not want to offend their fan bases. As an example, I love Clint Eastwood- both the old movie star of the 50's-80's and his current incarnation as a BRILLIANT director.

Clint is a Republican and I am not. I will never EVER vote for a Republican at the national level. Local level? No problem because most local races in America are non-partisan. But never ever on the national and state levels. But the reason Clint has had a nearly 50 year career in the business is because he's smart and doesn't want to offend his fans. Most people know Clint is a Republican but he doesn't show it off like country music stars who tend to be Republicans because they mostly grew up in the American South.

Contrast this to Sean Penn. Sean is a brilliant actor on virtually every level (his ex wife, Robin Wright, recently traveled to the Kivu's with the Enough Project. He was previously married to Madonna). Simply masterful actor. But Sean is a hard core leftist and is unabashed about it. Quite a few Americans have problems with him visiting Castro, dining with Chavez, and having tea with Ahmedejab in Iran. And he has suffered as a result of it. Most people recognize his talent but he constantly throws his political views in the faces of Americans and they react accordingly. None of his movies are big hits. Not one. That's proof that to a degree his activity has cost him true stardom.

It just isn't true Americans don't have a problem with political endorsements from celebrities. It is particularly a problem for conservative Republicans who believe Hollywood is full of "Jews", "Socialists", etc. Hollywood does tend to veer to the Left so for a large section of Americans they have a real problem with the industry.

Now, I do believe there is a role for Congolese artists to encourage the young to get engaged and get out and vote. That's a good thing and in America one can tolerate non-partisan celebrity stumping for simply being engaged. But, in my view, I think it should stop there and not veer into open support for Congolese politicians.

If they want a long career it is likely in their best interests to hold their tongues. The music business changes all the time in the Congo. Well, Kabila won't be around (knock on wood) in 5 years right? Do these guys and gals want careers in 5 years?

I'm sure you know the answer to that and if the opposition gets itself together down the road it would look really odd to a fan to see a star switch to the opposition from supporting the ruling majority.

- Mel

ps. Frank, I love Rihanna too, but remember she is Barbadan and not a citizen of this country. So, I doubt she will publicly announce support for Obama but may just tell her fans to remember to vote.

Anand said...

The phenomenon of Americans being jaded and generally disdaining celebrity endorsements is a fairly recent thing. This wasn't always the case. For example, Ronald Reagan (as an actor) was very influential in promoting McCarthyism. I don't know that the current mindset of the average American regarding celebrities is aligned with that of the current Congolese. In India, celebrities potentially carry a lot of political sway with the population (especially the poorer folks who tend to idolize them). And in America we have elected actors to governorship (quite recently) as well as ex-singers, athletes, and comedians to congress. I think John Stewart and Stephen Colbert carry political weight. Also, some celebrities carry weight by endorsing issues instead of candidates, but this does lead to influencing voting. If there were no pay off at all from a celebrities' endorsements then so many causes and polticians wouldn't seek them out. I don't disagree that many Americans find celebrity endorsements distasteful and all together comical, but I don't think that view is as widely held as it may seem. I am not saying this is a good thing mind you. Just a perspective. As for the influence of these Congolese musicians, I can't say how interesting an enlightening all of this discussion is. Thanks to all.

Anonymous said...

This election is different from the 2006 election ,back in 2006 the EAST WEST divide that divided the country in to 2 strong electoral regions ,and was strongly exploited by both the BEMBA and KABILA campaign has diminished. back in 2006 almost the intire western CONGO was supporting JP BEMBA and sins all musicians are based in KINSHASA(west)and Kinshasa was JP BEMBA's strong hold, it was almost suicidal for a musician to openly endorce KABILA or criticize JP BEMBA. now the electoral map is a little bit different because KABILA is stil popular in the East but he has lost a lot of support in south and north kivu ,and gained some support in Kinshasa and Bas Congo because most infrastructure projects from his 5 chantiers(chinese contract)has been concentrated in Kinshasa Bas congo and Katanga. CHISEKEDI is popular in Kinshasa and Kasai but he does not hold absolute popularity in Kinshasa like JP BEMBA did in 2006 and this is the reason why all those musicians have been able to show their support for KABILA without fearing any reprisal from their funs in KINSHASA.

Anonymous said...

Mel, Rich,

There is offcourse Rev Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, president of the CENI but should we call him a typical congolese "evangelical", I'm not sure.

I read an article in the nineties about many evangelical or charismatic churches run by women in Congo claiming these small independent churches were a way for women to liberate or express themselves.

Kabila has obviously a strategy to go after the evangelicals, just as he does here with these artists. Just have to dig a little deeper to find it, I'm sure.


Rich said...

Frank et al, -

I may be wrong but I'm under the impression that you failed to register the whole point I was trying to make... I was not trying to demonstrate that musicians' endorsement = more votes for J Kabila. I was trying to point to a few FACTS.

1. Preparing for elections

2. Campaign strategy

3. Who are we to judge someone's (a Congolese musician) motivations to endorse a candidate? What gives us the MORAL AUTHORITY to doubt their commitment to a cause or indeed their choice?

4. Musicians such as Koffi Olomide explained in clear terms WHY he is supporting J Kabila, but, what do we (Congosiasa community) make of Koffi's explanation? Were there any substance in what he said? Did he seem convinced with what he was saying?...

5. Intellectual dishonesty when some Congolese leaders claim, in the same breadth, both one thing and its opposite...

I can stop there but as Anand said, I am not sure I need if I need to trade any further on the morality of Congolese musicians which, in this context, can only amount to a worthless MYTHS gathering exercise when there are FACTS out there begging for grown up DEBATES that will enable the occurrence of well-informed / empirical /enlightened narratives/knowledge about these very crucial 2011 ELECTIONS in the life of Congo.



Anonymous said...

Very useful clarification, Rich.

To be clear, I got your point. I'm just engaging in healthy disagreement with its central premise.

I am also a fairly cynical American voter and, as such, tend to dismiss endorsement from celebrities out of hand. I think as a voter I have the right to do so as these celebrities have the right to support whomever they want. Its a free country (America) and its also my opinion that if people are going to engage in the public sphere they better be prepared to receive criticism and skepticism for their support and their intentions. I consider myself an engaged citizen who cherishes my vote and thus I cannot stand it when others besides the candidate make endorsements. I could care less what others think who have influence in some area. My vote is mine and I am going to use it as I see fit. Consider this healthy, pragmatic, rugged individualist American culture informing this view.

In this sense, it seems perfectly reasonable to judge their intentions as one would judge a religious leader for an endorsement. Again, the public sphere in a democracy requires it and the idea that one should have "moral authority" to do so is ridiculous in my view. In this country, the American PEOPLE are sovereign and thus are accorded the right to judge ANYONE on ANYTHING as it relates to our Republic.

We rule.

Please also know that I am a conservative Republican. As such, I actually believe Hollywood and the filth it sells to the world is essentially left-leaning propaganda. Democrat then whore themselves to the wealthy elite in Hollywood and further imperil our Republic with this $$$. I tend to have the same views of really all artists though I can separate art from politics. Sean Penn is indeed a brilliant actor but I find his politics and much of liberal Hollywood repulsive.

In this sense I like what superstar Julia Roberts says when people ask her about politics

"As I say to my mother, I am not paid to discuss policy. I am paid to act."

Julia comes from a very liberal Atlanta family (her father's acting academy enrolled Dr King's children back in the 60's) and she is a lefty. But she respects the voters of this nation and thus stays clear from endorsements of candidates- though she is fairly big on issues close to her heart like rebuilding Haiti.

So, appreciate your perspective, Rich, but just respectfully disagree.

I'll close by saying that I fully agree Kabila's strategy with artists is smart and strategic. I also think, though I don't particularly like it, that its important for civil society to grow in the Congo and artist and athletes can be a part of that. Hopefully down the road Congolese artists and athletes will start NGO's that encourage young people to be engaged, register to vote, and learn about issues and lobby their representatives.

That would be wonderful and something that would deepen democratic culture in the Congo long term.


Anonymous said...

@ Rich,
Let's not engage in polemical debates here.
I did not question the right of any congolese musician to endorse any candidate, nor I question de morality of their act.
What I am questionning is the value of these endorsements period.
Yourself you used the lingala saying " mbisi alendaka kaka epayi mayi ekotiola"
Translation: Fishes always swim upstream.
but the real explanation of this saying will be that musicians are going to Kabila because that is where they will get the maximum pay out as a griots by praising him. the way fishes swim counterflow in search of maximum amount of oxygen to satisfy their biological needs.
I will refer to a song by Rochereau "leki ya Mongali" where that saying is demonstrated, albeit in a mysoginist way.

Mwana Kin

Anonymous said...

It speaks volumes about the volatile nature of this approaching election that it has generated so long, so deep, and at time so discordant of a thread about the intentions of Congolese musicians.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I really do feel there are two processes going on in the Congo- one of which is cause for real alarm.

One is a deeply compromised election nearly everyone wants to occur and mostly refuses to accept anything but an occurence. We may get a slight delay but its fairly clear elections will occur by Dec 5th if not on the scheduled day itself.

The other, from just a fair reading of UDPS sites, fbook, and the statements of Etienne and UPDS supporters is something entirely different and unnerving. It seems to be taking on a kind of revolutionary veneer. November 28th, from the rhetoric of UDPS supporters and Etienne himself, is akin to D-Day where the UPDS-aligned elements of Congolese society will rise up and rid the nation of its corrupt, potential foreign, predatory, and incompetent overlords.

How else can one interpret the fusillade of attacks on CENI, the justice system, and other institutions of state? It is a stretch of considerable imagination to believe that the opposition, who have long been aware of the inadequacies of this state and the central role it is playing in this election, that they did not know there were be challenges? How else can one interpret the "birther-like" attacks on Kabila's heritage and those of Karmerhe that are now openly discussed among ranking UDPS members as opposed to the rank and file that have longed entertained this smear? What other reason could there be for the nearly daily confrontations with the police and provincial authorities?

It remains disappointingly true that this regime is clamping down but that's not really news nor is it surprising and its not the case that everyone in the opposition is engaging in similar rhetorical and tactical aggression.

There will be violence running up to and likely past this election. I think the questions that should consume the IC is how much, what level of preparation will be needed to contain it, and what the contours of a resolution look like.

Africans are in a revolutionary and restive mood of late and its growing increasingly clear the unpredictable- always present in Congolese reality- is the predictable.

The Root

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