Lift that leg, wiggle that tail, soon you’ll go to jail

Monday November 19 2018
By Charles Onyango-Obbo

Tanzania’s moral guardians just banned a new song by musicians Diamond Platnumz and Rayvanny, and slapped them with a Tsh9 million ($3,930) fine.

The song, Mwanza, was deemed “dirty” and inappropriate for public consumption due to its alleged explicit sexual content.

Bongo flava star Diamond Platinumz’s music has been banned several times, and the Tanzanian government is the leading censor of music in the region. President John Magufuli has on several occasions railed against “immoral” music and video, and his government has banned nearly 20 songs.

He is in good company. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni’s government recently banned Freedom by musician and rising opposition star Robert Kyagulanyi, better known his stage name Bobi Wine, for criticising the political order.

Another musician, Lucky Otim, had his song Mac Onywalo Buru (Fire Produces Ash), which laid into musicians from the north, banned.

In all, in the past couple of years half a dozen songs have been censored, perhaps most sensationally Ensolo Yange (My Animal), by the audacious Jemimah Kansiime, known by her stage name Panadol wa Basajja (Painkiller for Men).


Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo described the video in which Kansiime, dressed only in thong, lathers herself with shampoo and twerks in a bath, as “obscene and vulgar.” In the end, she was thrown in jail for five weeks.

In Rwanda, Urban Boyz’s 2014 hit Ancilla was yanked off air, criticised cryptically for being “too westernised.”

Kenya has seen long battles between the Kenya Film Classification Board and its unrelenting CEO Ezekiel Mutua, against what the latter has labelled obscene content that is undermining the country’s moral foundations.

A slew of, especially, videos by musicians ranging from the hugely popular Sauti Sol (Nishike), Noti Flow (Birthday Cake), Chris Kaiga (Pombe Bangi), to Mustapha (Dodoma) have been banned from radio and or TV.

Sometimes the music bans have been both bizarre and far more fundamental. Last year, in Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government banned women from playing ritual drums.

But the record for music censorship in Africa today probably belongs to a place where otherwise, there is generally a lot of artistic and media freedom – Nigeria.

From rapper Falz and other superstars of the contemporary music scene like Davido, Olamide, Wande Coal, 9ice, the hammer has come down on so many in the country’s vast music scene it’s nearly impossible to keep count.

The crackdowns on political songs come from the old world, and the fears driving them are familiar.

However, the politicians’ anxiety over raunchy dancers and lyrics has a new, frightened edge to it. Moreover, it’s happening on YouTube where they can’t stop it and bans only drive up the traffic. And it’s also the music of a ballooning African population over whom the political and cultural establishments have little domination.

Zodwa Wabantu is a saucy South African dancer who famously performs sans underwear. Her shows have been banned in Zimbabwe, and she has been barred from entering Zambia.

Just one woman, lifting her leg a little too high is the biggest fear some governments in Southern Africa have.

The politicians may not be entirely wrong. If they lose all control of how the new Africans love, dance, and sing, it’s only a matter of time before they lose control over how they vote.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. [email protected]