How to spread it – Stewart Sukuma: Songs to fix the world by

2014-07-27 15:00

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Music is all about giving back, it is inherently social. That’s the ­philosophy of Stewart Sukuma, the national treasure of Mozambique.

The son of a truck driver, Sukuma rose to fame in Mozambique with the band, Orchestra Marrabenta Star, in the 1990s and has since performed across the world.

Combining an energetic marrabenta beat with a strong social message – Sukuma has thrown his musical weight behind Mozambique’s national campaign against Aids, the country’s National

Election ­Commission and Unicef. Sukuma exemplifies positive ­humanity.

In your career, you have been dubbed the singer of the people and the national mascot of Mozambican democracy. Has your music always had a strong social ­message?

Yes. I think music is a powerful tool if you know how to use it. Music can change the world, and I believed, from the very beginning of my career, that my music should bring a message of awareness to the public.

Do you think success and stardom mean you have a responsibility to give back to the ­community?

Definitely, yes – the only reason artists can be active is because there are people to listen to their music, therefore there is no stardom without people. So there is a moment in our lives when we have to give it back.

Would you call yourself a philanthropist?

Yes. In the last 20 years I’ve been part of many social ­initiatives that help raise awareness and also provide funds to support and create better conditions for helpless people, ­especially women and helpless ­children.

Tell us a bit more about Sem Crítica, the movement dedicated to empowering the youth by encouraging their artistic skills and talents...

The concept of “sem crítica” – which means “uncritically” – was to invite young voiceless people from poor neighbourhoods and give them a voice so everyone could hear what they had to say through music, poetry, painting and theatre. Art is both a weapon that frees people and it also brings peace and love.

Tell us about the 30 Seconds to Save a Life ­campaign that you initiated along with many other ­international artists...

In early 2000, they were shooting Ali in Maputo featuring Will Smith and other famous actors, among them Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight and Jeffrey Wright. I decided to ask them to give 30 seconds of their time to deliver a strong message about HIV/Aids awareness.

It was a great experience for me because every one of them used their own past experiences as examples as to what people shouldn’t do. I remember Jamie Foxx telling me his father’s story, crying in the interview he gave to me. It was very strong. After that, we used those images for the local TV ­campaign.

Which projects that you sponsor are closest to you?

Education is definitely my favourite. I Have a Dream was a project I did in the schools to get people to ­explore their past and their possibilities.

How do we create a culture of giving?

By teaching our children from the beginning. I believe one good example is better than a thousand words. Our communities need good role models, and the government and civil society should promote them.

What are the worst problems facing ­Mozambique and how can philanthropy play a role in overcoming these ­problems?

I believe good education helps people make the right decisions in their lives. Good schools are a good investment for the

future of our country. If I had money, that’s where I would invest for sure and that’s where I’m focusing my effort right now – looking for partners or sponsors to build schools with good teaching programmes where the arts should be a strong part.

Do you have a message for ­Mozambican youth?

Go to school. Music and sports are only good when you use your skills. Only the right choice pays off. Follow good examples of ­success and focus. Stay away from drugs and ­alcohol, learn your rights and duties, and follow your dreams.

Next week we visit Mavis Mathabatha, whose philanthropic actions have made her a unique entrepreneur

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