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Bob Dylan released his song ‘Mozambique’ in 1976, but many Mozambicans only found out about it with the award to the American songwriter on Thursday of the Nobel Prize for Literature. And, as on its release forty years ago, the song is far from generating consensus.
Bob Dylan composed the song with Jacques Levy in 1975, the year of the proclamation of Mozambican independence, and when it was released on the ‘Desire’ album and as a single in 1976, the lyrics, which treat the country with some lightness, generated discussions around their appropriateness after a decade of armed struggle.
Forty years later, Aurélio Le Bon, one of Mozambique’s best-known showbusiness entrepreneurs, believes that the new Nobel Literature laureate’s song should be a source of pride for Mozambicans, but the writer Mia Couto thinks the opposite.
“The lyrics are not great, and speak of someone who is just a tourist passing through. I do not think there’s anything to be very proud of in that ,” Mia Couto told Lusa, while declining to comment on the controversial Nobel Literature appointment itself.
Novelist and poet, and winner of the Camões Prize in 2013, Mia Couto recalls that the song was circulated discreetly in Mozambique in 1976, and says that only now, with the award of the prize, were Mozambicans listening to the song, which “has a beautiful harmony despite the superficial lyrics”.
Four decades ago, Bob Dylan wrote “l’d like to spend some time in Mozambique”, though it is doubtful that he ever visited a country where “the sunny sky is aqua- blue” and with “couples dancing cheek to cheek” and with “lots of pretty girls” and “plenty time for good romance”. Indeed, the only reference that can be possibly interpreted as political, is that the country is inhabited by “lovely people living free”.
As a single, ‘Mozambique’ reached 54th place in the Billboard Hot 100, giving passing popularity to a country that had just won its independence but was soon to be embroiled in a 16-year civil war that cost the lives of about a million of its citizens.
Unlike Mia Couto, Aurélio Le Bon argues that the Nobel Literature awarded to Bob Dylan should “certainly be a source of pride” for Mozambique.
“Few enough people in the world knew that there is a land called Mozambique, and here was Dylan singing about the charms of the country,” the showbusiness entrepreneur who brought Eric Clapton to Maputo in 1989 for a memorable concert in the Mozambican capital told Lusa.
At a time when Mozambique is in the world news over financial scandals and insecurity, having the name of a Nobel laureate associated with the country should build self-esteem, the businessman said.
“Mozambique has never been a country with only negative aspects, but the connection to a star like Bob Dylan reinforces the image of a hospitable and pleasant country,” Le Bon thinks.
He recalls that when ‘Mozambique’ came out in 1976, music lovers, especially in the main Mozambican cities, saw the benefit of Dylan’s mention of the country, helping galvanize the local music scene.
“What I would really like is to see Dylan play here, to give physical form that emotional connection,” Le Bon says, alluding to the common notion that the song’s writer never actually visited the country, and indeed wrote ‘Mozambique’ for reasons uncertain.
According to the Swedish Academy, Dylan, 75, won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature for “having created a new poetic expression in the great tradition of American song”.Source: Lusa