Utopia Live: Singing the Mozambican struggle for national liberation

11 Feb 2010

This article engages a historical reconstruction of the formation of Makonde revolutionary singing in the process of the Mozambican liberation struggle. The history of ʻUtopia liveʼ is here entrusted to wartime genres, marked by heteroglossia and the use of metaphor, and referring to moments when the ʻspace of experienceʼ and the ʻhorizon of expectationʼ of the Struggle were still filled with uncertainty and the sense of possibility. Progressively, however, singing expressions were reorganised around socialismʼs nodes of meaning. Ideological tropes, elaborated by Frelimoʼs ʻcourtlyʼ composers, were appropriated in popular singing. The relations between the ʻpeopleʼ and their leaders were made apparent through the organization of the performance space. The main contention of the article is that unofficiality, heteroglossia, metaphor and poetic license, although they feature in genres that have been marked out as ʻpopularʼ in academic discourse, are by no means intrinsically ʻpopularʼ. Much on the contrary, they are the first victims of populist modes of political actions, that is, of a politics grounded on a concept of ʻpeopleʼ.