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Gappah

Gappah’s Bob Marley cover should go down in history as the most delightful few seconds in the history of African literature. Okay, maybe we are exaggerating, but still.

Gappah whose new novel The Book of Memory was recently released in the US did a moth.org podcast. It was posted a few days ago. In the piece titled “Birth of a Nation,” she narrates her personal experience in the months following Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

“I am from a very small African country called Zimbabwe,” she begins, “the big year of change in my country, the big year of change in my family, and the big year of change for me was 1980 when my country became independent.”

She goes on to relate scenes from the early days of independence and how it changed aspects of everyday life and changed beliefs and assumptions about the past.

Her voice is sweet and mellifluous. She peppers the story with funny anecdotes and ends it on an inspiring note. Everything about the story—the sound of her voice and the near perfect pace of the story itself make “Birth of a Nation” a truly beautiful few minutes.

In the middle of the story, Gappah breaks off to sing Bob Marley’s “Zimbabwe.”

“I have very vivid memories of that time,” says Gappah, ‘”around the time of independence there was so much music. Everyone was singing. Everybody was dancing. It was almost like you could actually touch the joy in the air. And the song that everybody was singing, if you’ll allow me to sing it is a song by Bob Marley called  Zimbabwe. Do you know it? (claps) then join in…”

She goes on to sing a line of the refrain,“Africa shall liberate Zimbabwe. Africa shall liberate Zimbabwe.”

It is a fleeting moment that powerfully conveys the uniquely intense sense of joy that one experiences in a moment as historic as a nation’s independence. We have all listened to Bob Marley’s “Zimbabwe” countless times, but there is something about hearing Gappah, a Zimbabwean who lived through the liberation of Zimbabwe, sing it. The song becomes meaningful in a whole new way.

Click here to listen to the podcast. It will make your mid-week fatigue disappear!

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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