Jackson Kaujeua: "I am dead if I sing hip-hop"

November 2007 -

At 54, Jackson Kaujeua is Namibia's granddad of music who shaped and mapped the Southern African country's music industry. Like most of Africa's old generation of musicians, Kaujeua sings traditional music, which was also a weapon during the struggle for liberation in his country. A number of Namibian musicians today credit Kaujeua for inspiring them.

A Herero, who was born in a village, Kaujeua abandoned priesthood when he heard songs done by Mahalia Jackson and others. Later, he went into exile in Botswana, taught at refuge camps in Angola before enrolling for a music course at Dorkay Art and Music College in South Africa where he was expelled for his anti-apartheid activities. The SWAPO sent him to England where he joined a group known as Black Diamond with which he released the song Winds of Change. He returned to Namibia at Independence and made history with his song !Gnubu !Nubus ('short and round'). But today, Kaujeua who like a dinosaur has vowed not to change his beat, faces stiff competition from hip-hop artistes in a country of less than 2 million people.

"It's hard to make a living from music here. There is a limited market and thus limited buying power. But I can't sit under a tree and cry, hoping something will fall from heaven", he says. Kaujeua believes that 'every Namibian should get a piece of the music' hence he sings in a number of languages. "This makes me a bridge-builder who does not judge people by the colour of their skin. I deal with people's characters. If we do not agree as Hereros then I will find someone, who understands me", he explains.

He admits that he is most affected because the tune and the beat have changed from the days of the liberation struggle and he cannot adapt to the Kwaito or hip-hop popular among the youths. "Then it was about the war and was meant to mobilize and inform the international world about our problems. Now it's about development, the beauty of the country, love and yes hiv and Aids, teenage pregnancies and many others.

But I can't sing hip-hop or kwaito. Once I change, I am done. I am dead. I can't." Despite living a hand-mouth lifestyle, Kaujeua says he is content with what he has done for Namibia's music industry and that although things are not perfect, those imperfect moments should not keep him down. "I am not a millionaire but I have achieved what I set out to achieve. In this business it takes long to realize one's talents. I have my own label. I market my own music. It's like what Mandela said: 'You fall and stand up'", he boasts.