African Women - Music and Revolution

Mariem Hassan (Western Sahara)

Mama Sana (Madagascar)

"When we surmount an attack on the unfinished business of historical stock-taking we shall begin with dynamizing freezing silences now paralyzing our womanful lives.

We shall recount herstory

Dramatizing it and illustrating it with rainbow colors.

We will pour lavish libation,

Honoring named, un-namable, yet to be named Mother Afrika’s matriots

“Mother Afrika’s patriots will rise the earthshaking power of:

the Aba women, the Abekuta women, the Maji Maji women, and the jua kali women

They will rise with the roaring fury of:

the Dakar railway strike women, the Defiance Campaign women, and the Black Panther women

They will rise with the sweeping force of Mother Afrika’s struggling women

Our matriots will surely rise with the gun salute of the final chimurenga

They will explode imperialist history’s, incarcerating myths

They will light undying flames of liberating visions

They will accurately shape the A and the Z of

Our unfolding pilgrimage

Through herstory, through living, through being.”

-Micere Githae Mugo

As I go about my primary focus, researching and curating Kenya’s music history, I have noticed that women have been seemingly erased from our musical narratives and creations. African women, since time immemorial, have been known to be the custodians and carriers of valuable cultural traditions. How is it that the names of these women have been relegated to the forgotten archives of our collective history? African women, like Kenya’s Syotuna wa Kathake and Mekatili wa Menza, used music and poetry to challenge colonial powers and so why aren’t their songs and stories sung and referred back to as we challenge the various colonial artifacts still replete in our systems today?

In the midst of the revolution we find ourselves in, I chose to look back in history and look for the stories of women musicians across the continent, those who came before us and those still alive today. Women who challenged norms and took up space. Women who fought for the freedoms we are still yet to fully step in to. Women who loved, and created beauty. Women who lived truly and fully.

I share their names with you. I share their music and a small part of their stories with you.

Here’s to honoring their legacies, exploding the chilling silences wrapped around their names, and reclaiming their ignored indispensability.

It is my hope in this enfolding six part series that you would delight in and continually draw strength, wisdom, beauty, and love from the music and stories shared.

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