I have just finished writing a letter of support to jailed Cameroonian music star Lapiro de Mbanga, and sending him some music. For those who have not been following this story, Lapiro has been a dynamic, engaged voice in Cameroon music for decades. But in recent years he has fallen afoul of the government, and he has spent the past year in prison. The problem stems from the release of his song ‘Constitution constipée’ (‘Constipated constitution’), which expressed his opinion against the government's plan to expand its powers in a new constitution. From that moment on, it seems, Lapiro was in the government's sights, and after a patently unfair trial last summer, he was sentenced to three years behind bars.
You can read the background on these events on the website of the human rights organization Freemuse and I would also encourage you read what International PEN had to say about the situation.
For an update on Lapiro's case and a history of the case, check out Freemuse.org here. Just search on Lapiro and you'll find many links to stories detailing his travails over the past two years. It won't take you long to understand that this is a brave artist being very badly treated. We all celebrate the courage of the late Fela Kuti, and the exiled Thomas Mapfumo, artists who risked much to speak out against unjust regimes. Well, here's an African music hero suffering imprisonment in a cell with 50 other men, as we speak. He is in failing health, and in need of our support--not money, but words of support. And music!Freemuse wrote yesterday:
"Lapiro's wife, Louisette can only visit him once or twice a week as she lives far away. Lapiro was nominated for the Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize, by Freemuse in 2009 – and he won – USD 25.000 which has been distributed to his family in portions to cover the costs of living of his wife and six children, the kid’s school fees, his wife’s travels back and forth to prison and medication for Lapiro.
If you have the time, please consider sending him a letter in English or French, and /or a CD of your music, or any music. He can listen to music in his cell but most important for him is to receive moral support from fellow musicians abroad. Please mention that you got his address via Freemuse as he then will understand why you write to him.
All letter should be addressed to his wife:Afropop Worldwide encourages you to share this link, and help get out the word about a cause close to our hearts and our values. We thank you for adding your voice, and music, to this worthy campaign.
P.O. Box 167
- Banning Eyre