Free Content Music advocacy, the media and the Malawi political public sphere, 19582007

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Journalists and writers in Malawi were crucial in the resistance to Dr Banda's hegemony between 1964 and 1993. The contested terrain was orality. This paper concentrates on the role of musicians and asserts that musicians in Malawi were, and arguably are, much braver and more persistent political critics and social change advocates than their counterparts in print journalism. While journalists censored themselves, and were censored, oral practitioners' lyrics and texts were usually much more explicit. Musicians exploited aspects of traditional culture to point out the politicaleconomic suffering of the peasantry. While journalists' critiques and analyses have, since 1995, become more muted, musicians have continued to provide more independent, forceful voices on behalf of the poor in a country where literacy levels remain low and English is the official legislative, political and economic voice. This paper argues that an assessment of Malawi's public sphere excluding oral critiques misses significant and critical inputs important for social and developmental change.

Keywords: Malawi media; advocacy; oral culture; oratory; politics; public sphere

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: social and cultural historian, Dudu Nsomba Publications, Glasgow.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS) is an interdisciplinary journal that provides a forum for debate on the historical and contemporary aspects of media and communication in Africa. 
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