Friday, 17 February 2012


Considered one of the greatest writers, American artist Edgar Allan Poe, lived a very difficult life of poverty and disease and died aged only 40 in 1849. Poe (pictured below) was a multi-talent individual who did journalism, poetry, literary criticism and teaching. 
 Among his best poems is Eulalie (published in 1845).  The three verse piece describes pain and solitude:
“I dwelt alone
In a world of moan
And my soul was a stagnant tide
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride-
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.”
Reading Eulalie reminds us of two crucial events last weekend. Both entwined in moaning and smiling.

Zambia’s victory against the mighty Elephants of Ivory Coast, Black Stars of Ghana and the rest of the continent’s contestants to win the Africa Cup in a heated match on Sunday has a mixture of sadness and joy. Sadness because as we all know the Zambians lost a bunch of talented players in the April 1993, Libreville plane crush. A team that had beaten Italy 4-0 in the Seoul Olympics of 1988. A team that had fantastic footballers like Kalusha Bwalya. Lucky for not having been in the fatal accident in Gabon, Bwalya was nominated 12th best world player by FIFA in 1996 and Africa Footballer of the Year in 1988.
It is partly due to his determination that he helped create a new generation of players who saw this Sunday victory in the same town where the 1993 tragedy occurred. Sadness was turned into joy. But that was opposite to what happened to the extremely gifted African American singer, found dead in a Los Angeles hotel bath. I recall when Whitney Houston burst on the scene. In 1987 I was on a music tour across Europe when I met this slim, good looking singer from Kenya.

She was around Whitney Houston age (22 or 23 years). She loved to perform Whitney’s 1984 hit “Saving All My Love for You” (composed by Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin) and she would say: “I want to be the African Whitney Houston.” I don’t know what happened to that determined singer. She should be around 48 to 50 years old now.  Whitney Houston was a role model for many young black female musicians including Mariah Carey and later Alicia Keys (pictured in action) and BeyoncĂ©.  She had a stunning voice.
Things however changed when she married Bobby Brown and dived deeply into narcotics.  They divorced in 2007 after a very well documented stormy marriage. In his last two days Houston was said to be acting erratic and even got into a fight. It is also alleged that she was broke.
Do things happen for a reason, like the Greek philosopher Aristotle (pictured) said in his book “Rhetoric” thousands of years ago? Is tragedy remedy for revolution?
Unlike the Zambian story which starts from pain, sorrow and loss to happiness and laughter; Whitney Houston is achievement descending into doom and annihilation.
 Whitney Houston had a lot of support around her. Just like the London singer Amy Winehouse (who died after a life of drugs and toxic abuse in July 2011), they both had solid loving families. They were not lonely neglected souls. Throughout her career, Amy Winehouse had her musician father, Mitch Winehouse, by her side. Whitney Houston had her mother (Cissy Houston) her producer and mentor, Clive Davis (credited for making her a star) who had to put up with her drug addiction. She was also surrounded by exceptional role models and talent: cousin- Dionne Warwick and Godmother, Aretha Franklin. You cannot lose with such support.

Zambia is a lesson of striving and winning. A story that teaches us that if you want it you will get it. You cannot dispute that watching the matches that these “underdogs” played was quite inspiring. None of the Copper Belt players was as well known as those from Ghana and Ivory Coast – Didier Drogba, Kolo and Yaya Toure, Asamoah Gyan, Solomon Kalou, etc.
Zambia’s brilliant goalkeeper, Kennedy Mweene, said their coach Herve Renard advised them not to fear the superstars.  He is an athletic hero who saved fantastic attacks from strikers like Arsenal’s Gervais Kouassi known as Gervinho.
Zambia's legendary leader Keneth Kaunda laid down foundations for football in his country. He was seen in the match. One of a few African chiefs to have resigned peaceful. His legacy remains.

This is the main point. Is too much wealth good for you? Can money and fame win you happiness and success?  How come determination and discipline won the African trophy? And how come millionaire singers continue to die prematurely in dismaying, self destructive, sad circumstances? What lacks in the lives of artists who seem to have the world at their feet  - Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston? - And what made Chipolopolo- unknown and under-estimated team defeat mighty millionaire celebrities?
Published in Citizen Tanzania, Friday 17th February, 2012:

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