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15.-18.12.2022 Chrëschtdag

Susana Baca

The Podium as a Rostrum, the Microphone as a Weapon

Charlotte Brouard-Tartarin

To many, music is the language of the soul and emotions. However, it can also be the preferred means of communication for artists who express political or social demands in music. Susana Baca from Peru, ­Youssou N’Dour from Senegal and Mario Lucio from Cape Verde were all ­ministers of culture in their country during the 2010s. To each of them, political work in government was a concrete extension of the struggle they had led for years through song. Baca is an icon of Afro-Peruvian ­culture, which she actively works to preserve and share. N’Dour worked for Nelson Mandela’s release and later for vari-ous charitable organizations, while Lucio, who is a writer as well, is among the early leading theorists of creolization.

Another key figure in activism through music is Miriam Makeba, who was forced into exile for more than thirty years because of her opposition against the repressive and segregationist regime in her native South Africa. The indefatigable ­free­dom fighter left a major musical legacy, kept alive today by the American singer Somi, whose roots are in Rwanda and Uganda. She is fully conscious of the fact that Makeba and «her voice as an African woman forged her own path forward, as well as that of innumerable other African artists».

The above fought their battles with an open heart, using the concert podium as a rostrum – yet today others are persecuted simply for being musicians. In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, merely owning a ­musical instrument is punishable by law. The musicians now living in exile depend on a friendly reception else-where to make their repertoire resound and keep their traditions alive – as is the case for the Safar Ensemble.