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By Tony Mboyo “Kasmall”

“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain” – Bob Marley

The Communist Party of Kenya has embarked on a project to document party songs as well local and international songs of struggle.  This is a first of its kind project to be attempted on such a scale, and the party aims to educate the Kenyan masses on the past and current political and socialist struggles through use of song. The music collection is also expected advance the efforts of the Kenyan progressives and revolutionaries as they continue with the struggle against exploitation, oppression, neo-colonialism, and imperialism in Kenya. Historically, music has been used across nations and cultures around the world to fuel positive change, popular uprisings and revolutions, and also to motivate fighters and revolutionaries in the course of their struggles.

It is said that “Music is found in every known culture and religion, past and present, varying widely between times and places. Since all people of the world, including the most isolated tribal groups, have a form of music, it may be concluded that music is likely to have been present in the ancestral population before the dispersal of humans around the world.[1]

In that regard, CPK recognizes the power of music in penetrating the human soul and as a part of human life in itself.  In Africa for example; musicians like Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and Lucky Dube and many others used the music to speak and fight against the apartheid regime. Here in Kenya, the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (Mau Mau) created dozens of resistance songs which were used to arouse the masses and mobilise them against the British colonialists. Music has been part and parcel of all the national struggles in Kenya since we gained independence from direct colonial rule.[2]

Initial Phase

The CPK music project's initial phase will involve collecting and recording already existing songs.  One such song is Wimbo wa Mapambano (Anthem of the Struggle), which is largely sung in progressive and activist spaces including demonstrations, community forums and other grassroots activities.  The song, which was written by earlier activists and made popular by the Release Political Prisoners organization and the 5 Centuries Human Rights Theatre group, adopts the tune of NkosiSikelel’ iAfrika, a song adopted by the African National Congress in South Africa in 1925. Other songs include a Kenyan version of the Toyi Toyi chant, characterised by rhythmic stepping movements and mostly performed during protests.  This particular version is intended to create awareness on injustices such as corruption and tribalism, and to mobilise the masses to wage a war against these and other societal ills.  Other songs include; Viva Afrika, which is a panafricanist song made popular by the Rastafari Movement and the Communist Party of Kenya; Kalimambo, popularised by the late Comrade President Samora Machel of Mozambique; Kazi Ngumu Tunayoifanya, a song inspired by music from the training camps of National Resistance Movement of Uganda, Tutasonga Kwa Mapinduzi, also from NRA training camps, and Sisi Watu WaAfrika, which is was at one time adopted as an anthem of the Pan-Africanism Movement in East Africa.

Celebrating the Role of Women

In celebrating the role of women in various struggles for liberation, the party identified two songs that would form part of the initial phase.  One of them is a re-do of a South African song called Slovo na Tambo originally done by Amaqabane.  In this song, the party celebrates the contributions of three great Kenyan women leaders in the liberation history of Kenya, each signifying a different era in our anti-colonial struggles.  These women are Mekatili wa Menza, who led Kenyans against the theft of their land and forced labour by the colonialists, Muthoni Nyanjiru, who led men and women to protest against theft of African land, imposition of the Kipande system, and the imprisonment of Kenyan civil rights leaders, and Muthoni Kirima, who was one of the highest ranking guerrilla officers in the Maumau army.  The CPK version is titled Mekatilili na Muthoni. The contributions of these and many other Kenyan women in the various struggles in Kenya is often downplayed and hidden in the archives, but through songs such as this and others to come, their memories and inspiration shall be re-ignited.

The second song that celebrates the role of women in the struggle is titled ‘women of the working class’ originally from the 1984 miners’ strike in the UK and recorded by Mal Finch.  CPK will give the song a Kenyan context. 

Another significant achievement of this project has been the translation and recording of Bella Ciao in Kiswahili. Among the younger generations in Kenya, the song is synonymous with the Spanish series Money Heist. Unbeknownst to them, Bella Ciao is a popular protest and anti-fascist anthem that has united freedom fighters for decades now. The song originated from Italy, where women working in the paddy fields sang to protest the inhuman working conditions that they were subjected to. The song gained prominence during the Italian resistance to the occupying German Nazi forces, and has since then been sang by partisans fighting foreign occupation and domination, as well internal oppression and exploitation.

The Internationale in Kiswahili

Perhaps one of the greatest contributions to humanity will be the recording of the Internationale in Kiswahili for the first time in history. The Internationale has been translated and sang in all international languages except for Kiswahili. Translated by the Chairperson of the Communist Party of Kenya, Comrade Mwandawiro Mghanga who also happens to be a poet and a Kiswahili enthusiast, the song will bring the international revolutionary fire closer home. Also, a recording of the proper English version of the anthem will be done, since most of the versions found online are of the “reformed” type.

The initial collection will contain eleven songs in English and Kiswahili. The second collection will continue to document already existing songs of struggle, but will also have new creations, and will include songs done in different local languages and styles. These songs will be educational, ideologically grounded and artistically unbounded.

The CPK music project is a long term project, which is expected to deepen the revolutionary spirit in Kenya. The project seeks to popularise the manifesto and the revolutionary ideas of the Communist Party in Kenya, which is the vanguard of workers and peasants in the country.  Indeed, it is the only party in Kenya and the region that wields a true ideology for the emancipation of people of Kenya.  Viva CPK!

[1] (Wallin, Nils Lennart; Steven Brown; Björn Merker (2001). The Origins of Music. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-73143-0)

[2] it is critical to note that music has also been used by successive independent regimes, especially during the KANU era to promote dictatorship and other reactionary ideas amongst the masses.

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