Maputo, 14 Mar (AIM) – The funeral on Tuesday of Mozambique’s foremost rap artist, Edson da Luz (better known by his stage name Azagaia), was marred by disagreement between the mourners and the police over the route the funeral cortege should take.
The religious part of the ceremony took place without incident at Maputo City Hall where the sermon was given by the Emeritus Anglican Bishop, Dinis Sengulane – the same man who, 38 years earlier, had baptized Azagaia into the Christian faith.
Speeches followed from the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Adriano Nuvunga, representing Mozambican civil society, from the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Edelvina Materula, and from a representative of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), the opposition political party with which Azagaia was once associated (though he never seems to have held a membership card).
Emotional tributes to Azagaia were paid by family members, notably his two daughters, before the coffin was carried town the City Council steps to the vehicle that would bear him to his final resting place.
The funeral organisers clearly believed they had agreed the route between the City Council and the cemetery, with the police beforehand. But the police disagreed, and blocked the advance of the cortege.
This was a potentially dangerous situation. Heavily armed members of the Rapid Intervention Unit (the Mozambican equivalent of the riot police) were facing several thousand mourners. The police even fired tear gas into the peaceful crowd.
The stand-off obliged Azagaia’s widow and other family members to leave their vehicles and urge the police to allow the mourners to pass. But the police claim the route the mourners intended to follow was barred to pedestrians (presumably because of its proximity to the presidential offices).
Eventually, a compromise was reached whereby the vehicle carrying the coffin was allowed to use the main road (Julius Nyerere Avenue), but the pedestrian mourners had to march on a different road.
Eventually, the entire cortege met up on the stretch of the main north-south highway (EN1) in the outer Maputo neighbourhood of Zimpeto, where many more people joined the mourners.
The cortege marched on, without further incident, to Michafutene cemetery, where thousands of others were waiting to bid their farewells to Azagaia.
His family issued a brief statement on the circumstances surrounding Azagaia’s death last Thursday, confirming that it was the result of an epileptic seizure. The singer had long suffered from epilepsy, and the disease struck him again on Thursday at his home, in the city of Matola.
At the time, Azagaia was alone in his room, and so there was nobody to rescue him when he collapsed.
Azagaia’s lyrics were frequently highly critical of the ruling Frelimo Party, and its governments – so much so that, in 2008, the Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) summoned him for questioning. His song “Povo no Poder” (“The People in Power”) was supposedly fomenting riots.
This clumsy attempt at censorship did not work. No charges were laid against Azagaia, and he continued to perform.
He was arrested twice for smoking cannabis, but said he took the drug to treat his epilepsy, on medical advice.
In late 2014. Azagaia was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and the campaign “Help Azagaia” was launched to raise money for surgical treatment in India. The campaign raised more than 790,000 meticais (about 13,400 US dollars, at the current exchange rate).
The tumour was successfully removed, and, after two weeks of convalescence in New Delhi, he returned to the recording studios in Maputo with a new song, entitled “Resnascer” (“Rebirth”).
But the underlying problem of his epilepsy remained, and claimed his life last Thursday, at the tragically early age of 38.