Celebrity Politics, Political Cynicism and Contestations of Credibility in Lucius Banda’s Songs

Published in: Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies
Volume 6, issue 1, 2020 , pages: 58–77
DOI: 10.1080/23277408.2019.1707936
Author(s): Syned MthatiwaDepartment of English, Malawi


Lucius Banda is one of the renowned popular musicians in Malawi. His songs explore a wide range of political and social issues. In 2003 he joined the United Democratic Front (UDF) party and decided to run for parliament representing Balaka North Constituency. This paper focuses on Banda’s transition from musician to celebrity politician, and on what his music and behaviour after joining politics reveal about the man who prefers to be called soldier for the poor. I illustrate that Banda’s transition reveals that he is a shrewd musician who envisioned joining politics in the future. The transition also shows a remarkable continuity of a calculating artist who sang about the necessity of his martyrdom for his country’s social and political transformation to an elected politician who believed he could advise fellow Malawians on which political party and presidential candidate to vote for during elections. Thus, while most of his songs that criticise politicians resonate with Malawians, in others one sees evidence of a savvy musician who used his songs to promote his own interests and ambitions. The discussion draws from Karen Barber and John Street’s views on the communicative power of popular arts and from John Street’s notion of celebrity politicians.

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