“I felt that whatever connections we had, whatever resources we had, if we couldn’t use those resources at a time like this, then those things were useless," Grant Munatsi, co-owner of the Zambia-based record label SoliDeoGloria Music Group, said. "Whatever God gave us, it was for times like this — for us to be able to stand up and be counted on when it was necessary.”
Earlier this year, many South Africans blamed foreigners for taking their jobs as the unemployment rate already sat at around 25 percent, according to CNN. Numerous natives took out their frustration on immigrants with violence, some of which was deadly. In reaction, many Africans in neighboring nations whose people were persecuted sought revenge against the South Africans in their country, Munatsi said.
Burdened by this, as well as April's massacre of 147 Kenyan students by terrorists, Munatsi and another Zambian music executive, Bob Phondo, conspired to inspire unity in Africa through music.
“Other people may be able to do something else [to help],” Munatsi said, “but [music] is what God has given us, so this is what we’re going to use.”
Munatsi initially only knew artists from Zambia and South Africa, but those who he contacted reached out to their associates in other countries. In less than a week, the one song by a few Zambian rappers that he hoped to release had turned into a four-song project by a diverse collection of artists.
On We Are One Africa, South Africans share a track list with artists from Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, neighboring countries that endured the brunt of the persecution in South Africa.
“For us, it was very important to also have guys from South Africa because they were where it was happening,” Munatsi said, “and, at the time, South Africans were being looked at as the enemy. But we were saying, ‘No, they’re not the enemy. We are one. We can stand together as one. No one is better than the other.’”
Everyone who contributed to We Are One Africa did so for free, and finishing the EP was not easy.
“I think the whole thing would’ve fallen apart if people didn’t have sacrificial hearts,” Munatsi said. “People sacrificed a lot to make it work.”
They hustled to drop the project on May 25, African Liberation Day, which made submitting music on time difficult for many artists. Courtney Antipas of Zimbabwe lost his electricity, so he took a day-and-a-half bus ride to South Africa to record his vocals. Munatisi drove 12 hours overnight to the home of We Are One Africa’s executive producer, gEO, to spend all day completing the project, and he drove home the following night because he needed to be at work the next day (he’s a chemist).
These artists and producers sacrificed to stand for unity as tragedy stuck, and, incidentally, it created a unity between them.
“One of the things that I never anticipated coming out of doing work on this project is that we have created a network among the Christian hip-hop artists in Africa, and it’s growing,” Munatsi said. “Those relationships have continued, so expect to see more work coming from artists from different countries.”
Download We Are One Africa for free.