Before Independence, music made in Namibia carried messages of hope for a better future free from colonial oppression. Many also used music for enjoyment to temporarily escape the harsh realities of the apartheid regulations and ongoing war for liberation from South Africa at the time. All this while also feeding the soul. Visual artist and musician Ndasuunye Shikongeni, popularly known as Hishishi Papa or simply Papa Shikongeni, agrees wholeheartedly that music was made for people to be happy back in the days.
“Those days, music was made to touch the soul. After independence, then came the hunger for music; young people became hungry for music.
The ‘open eye’ came from the people who were in exile because they were in countries where it was evolving.
Ras Sheehama and Tate Jackson (Kaujeua)-them came back with revolutionised minds, and showcased what they were exposed to,” he told VIBEZ!. The multi-talented artist observed that the South African wave of kwaito also took precedence, which influenced a lot of Namibian artists, saying this music was not anymore about the heart and soul.
It was more to challenge each other, and then money came in.
“Their music came about tied to money, and not humanity. It was a new market at that time, which meant live bands started fading out”. Shikongeni added that music started becoming ‘simple’, which is why he got more involved in it in order to speak to his generation and educate people about the different cultures and traditions.
He said music was very good from the 2000s to 2014/15s when the country had the Last Band Standing competition, hosted by the NTN.
“But we fail to support our own. When something comes from South Africa, Nigera, etc, we give our economy away. We don’t see ourselves as good musicians.” Shikongeni further said the lack of unity in the country hampers the progress that could have been made over the years.
“If only we can create the love that we are Namibian and we are musicians, and what we are playing is for generations to come. We don’t have a generational mindset; we have the timing of thinking about now only. We are not thinking of our children for the future.
Are we going to let our children learn how to make live music, teach them to have lyrical content that has messages in them?” he questioned. “We also had the era of the NAMA awards, where people were not making music, but running for money.
The only target for artists was for the awards ceremony. So, they were not creating music, they were running for money.”
The ‘Ombili’ hitmaker feels that only music can unite the country, as it is an international language.
“This is a unique language. When I look at the future, it’s gonna hit very hard because music is being programmed as technology has evolved.
We need the government and private sector to invest more.
Politicians and business people should listen to our music, and see it as a business so that we can be like other African countries,” he pointed out. “There is no love, no soul, no peace within our Namibian artists as well as our own people. That’s why I created my own music called ‘Ambo’, which I sell outside.”
He also feels the only way local music can flourish is when radio stations play less international music.
“80% of the music played is international. How will you help promote your own music if your mind is enslaved?
How will we market our music if that continues to happen?” Shikongeni reiterated that unity must be created first for Namibian music to thrive.