The world is used to seeing the President of the United States, Barack Obama, mingle with music superstars such as Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce at the White House and other upmarket venues.
But it is not every day that the leader of the planet's most powerful country sounds out an up-and-coming musician from the developing world. That is precisely what Obama did during an address at the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) 2015 summit in Washington when he singled out Zambia's Brian Bwembya, better known by his stage name B Flow, and extolled his work in the fight against HIV/AIDS in his songs.
Last month the Zambian music scene was in the news for all the wrong reasons. At the same time one musician, Chama Fumba, got incarcerated for mocking Zambian President Edgar Lungu in one of his songs, another, Clifford Dimba, was pardoned with 16 years of an 18-year rape sentence still to serve after singing a song lauding Lungu in response.
President Obama's praise of Bwembya was a breath of fresh air for most Zambian citizens.
The following is part of the transcript of the US President's speech:
And I know you’ve been busy. Over the past few weeks, at schools and businesses all across America, you’ve been taking courses, developing the skills you’ll need to make your ideas a reality, so that you're able to continue the great work that you’re already doing, but take it to the next level.
That’s what Brian Bwembya of Zambia plans to do. Where’s Brian? Where is he? (Applause.) There he is right there. So Brian uses music to advocate against things like gender-based violence and to educate youth on HIV/AIDS. (Applause.) So while in the U.S., he’s learned about our health care system, met the founder of an American HIV/AIDS organization, and now he plans to start a record label for music about social change. So, Brian, we’re proud to be your partner. (Applause.)
The clip went viral and many people praised Bwembya on his Facebook page.
One of the posts read:
Wonderful News of all the 700 plus guests there!!! Barack Obama recognised Brian Bwembya B Flow..This is big my friend!!! No doubt, this is God's doing…Chapwa mwaya apatali ba guy [you are going places]!!#wekeepmoving #ZambiaStandup
A YALI Zambian chapter representative, Isaac Mwanza who was also in attendance at the summit, wrote:
Brian Bwembya B Flow so proud of you. I feel honoured to be part of that team that recognised talent in you and help to take it to a level where the 44th President of the United States of America could also have acknowledged during the Second Class of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Know this that nothing is impossible until when it is done. I know you would have wished your mother to see but there always say it's darkest before dawn. However, God has a way of doing things and I believe God never closes one door without opening another one. He however does not lead us to that open door because he expects us to identify which door has been opened and walk right into it.
Now listen to Don Williams “Lord I Hope this Day Is Good”.
Your works speak for themselves. You that true Zambian celebrated musician and Radio Personality I know that's represented so well in the States.
After receiving President Obama's recognition, Bwembya posted on his Facebook wall:
Woops! Did 3 interviews today; Voice of America(VOA), US National Public Radio(NPR) and CSSI. What have you guys been up to? Let's chat…Chant it on #MusicForChange
He also tabulated his achievements in the United States:
Wait! It's not over yet. Last week I was awarded as a Wagner international Associate. I've just received another award from President Obama and the United States government; signed by the President himself. Zambia let's do this!! #YALI2015 #MusicForChange #ObamaForBFlow #WagnerInternationalAssociate
However, posting on the Facebook page of Mwebantu Media, one of the many sites that announced Obama's comments, Moono Acutely Smart, was not impressed:
Ata [gosh] so what? Obama aint God
I love b flow but I hate Obama coz he promotes gay rights
The question now is, having earned Obama's recognition, will Bwembya's message travel as far as President Lungu and the Zambian leadership?