Popular Culture and Representations of Addiction: Understanding Malawi Urban Music in the Narratives of Drugs and Sex

  • Dave Mankhokwe Namusanya


This chapter aims to discuss how urban music fits into the narratives of drug addiction and sex addiction, especially as it relates to young people. The chapter will specifically discuss such narratives in the music of Mafo, who is a ‘celebrated’ producer of urban music, especially among youth. From the early 2000s, a new genre of music commonly called ‘urban music’ started commanding a huge influence among Malawian youth. As of now, it is a celebrated genre with dedicated programmes, concerts that are full of people and celebrated producers. Much as the themes of urban music have been varying, key themes have come to be based on drugs and sex. Urban music has mostly glamorised drugs and sex in its narratives.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ansell, N. 2016. Children, Youth and Development. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ansell, N., L. van Blerk, F. Hajdu, et al. 2011. Spaces, Times, and Critical Moments: A Relational Time-Space Analysis of the Impacts of AIDS on Rural Youth in Malawi and Lesotho. Environment and Planning 43: 525–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barber, K. 1987. Popular Arts in Africa. African Studies Review 30 (03): 1–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carnes, P. 2001. Out of the Shadows. Minnesota: Hazelden Information & Edu.Google Scholar
  6. Chavi, N. 2017. Tay Grin Signs K8 Million Ambassador Deal with Astro. Accessed 20 Jun 2018.
  7. Chirwa, W. 2001. Dancing Towards Dictatorship: Political Songs and Popular Culture in Malawi. Nordic Journal of African Studies 10 (1): 1–27.Google Scholar
  8. Diouf, M. 2003. Engaging Postcolonial Cultures: African Youth and Public Space. African Studies Review 46 (2): 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dolby, N. 2006. Popular Culture and Public Space in Africa: The Possibilities of Cultural Citizenship. African Studies Review 49 (3): 31–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fabian, J. 1978. Popular Culture in Africa: Findings and Conjectures. Africa 48 (04): 315–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gondwe, G. 2017. Turning Hymns into Folly Play. Accessed 18 Jun 2018.
  12. Goodman, A. 1998. Sexual Addiction: An Integrated Approach. Madison: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  13. Good Shudren. 2015. Tetelitete. Accessed 11 Jun 2018.
  14. Hall, S. 1973. Encoding/Decoding. In Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972–1979. London: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.Google Scholar
  15. Herman, M., and M. Roberto. 2015. The Addicted Brain: Understanding the Neurophysiological Mechanisms of Addictive Disorders. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 9: 18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hilton, M. 2000. Smoking in British Popular Culture 1800–2000. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hirschman, E. 1995. Professional, Personal, and Popular Culture Perspectives on Addiction. The American Behavioral Scientist 38 (4): 537–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jacobs, D. 1986. A General Theory of Addictions: A New Theoretical Model. Journal of Gambling Behaviour 2 (1): 15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jellinek, E. 1952. Phases of Alcohol Addiction. Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol 13 (4): 673–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kraftl, P., J. Horton, and F. Tucker. 2012. Critical Geographies of Childhood and Youth: Contemporary Policy and Practice. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kumwembe, W. 2017. Fredokiss Is NBS Ambassador. Accessed 20 Jun 2018.
  22. Mafo. 2013a. Zako. Accessed 15 Jun 2018.
  23. ———. 2013b. Mowa. Accessed 10 Jun 2018.
  24. ———. 2016. Akandipweteka maluzi. Accessed 10 Jun 2018.
  25. ———. 2017. Bawa. Accessed 10 Jun 2018.
  26. Mafo & Lantos. 2018. Okondedwa Merchant. Accessed 15 Jun 2018.
  27. Miller, N. 1989. The Diagnosis of Marijuana (Cannabis) Dependence. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 6 (3): 183–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miller, T. 1998. Technologies of Truth: Cultural Citizenship and the Popular Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mughogho, L. 2017. Urban Music Booming in Mzuzu. Accessed 20 Jun 2018.
  30. Music in Africa. 2015. Top Artists Promote Safe Sex With ‘Safeguard Young People’ Album. Accessed 25 Jul 2018.
  31. Ndebvu, H. 2017. Discussion on Urban Music. [WhatsApp Message to Author].Google Scholar
  32. Newell, S., O. Okome, and T. Forster. 2014. Popular Culture in Africa. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Nichter, M. 2003. Smoking: What Does Culture Have to Do With It? Addiction 98: 139–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Room, R. 2003. The Cultural Framing of Addiction. In Expanding Addiction: Critical Essays, ed. R. Granfield, 1st ed., 42–50. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Storey, J. 2014. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  36. Vail, L., and L. White. 1991. Power and the Praise Poem. Charlottesville: Virginia University.Google Scholar
  37. Zapf, J., J. Greiner, and J. Carroll. 2008. Attachment Styles and Male Sex Addiction. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 15 (2): 158–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dave Mankhokwe Namusanya
    • 1
  1. 1.Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome TrustBlantyreMalawi

Personalised recommendations