Dama do Bling, born Ivannea Jose in Maputo, Mozambique, is the queen of Mozambican hip hop and may be one of the best female rappers from Africa. Dama do Bling, born as Ivannea Mudanisse in 1979, started her career featuring on two tracks of the second album of Mozambique’s Queen of Reggae, Lizha James, in 2005. The next year, she released her debut single called “Haterz”. Her self-titled album followed soon and featured artistes like Catya, Denny OG, DRP, Hernani and Lizha James of course. She released her second album called ‘Chamades Para A Blin’ in 2007.
She has been referred to as Mozambique’s Lil’ Kim. Dam do Bling music can be classified as hip hop but has elements of crunk as well as local Mozambican music. Called a lusophone Queen Latifah and Mozambican Lil Kim, Dama do Bling (“lady of bling”) has become the Queen of Mozambican hip-hop, and through her collaboration with Pan-African superstars like Nigeria’s Sasha P, Kenya’s Yvonne, and Bleksem from South Africa she has become well-known all over the continent.
Before she became Mozambique’s queen of hip-hop, though, Dama do Bling was the queen of scandal. Standing for a new, younger generation of Mozambican musicians, she offended the “old guard” in several ways. Her sexy clothing and provocative moves on stage became the target of fierce critique, in particular when, despite being pregnant and starting to show, she continued to perform. One commentator in the country’s independent newspaper O País called Dama do Bling’s shows an “attack on moral decency and a crime” since she disrespected moral values of proper female public conduct and violated the dignity of the child in her womb. In another article, the same journalist called Dama do Bling’s way of exposing her body “anti-African” and a consequence of non-African influences that don’t value the female body. He called on the government to devise rules for musicians’ proper behavior on stage.
Dama do Bling’s law degree from Mozambique’s national university in Maputo, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM), made some commentators ask why she preferred appearing scantily clad in public, if she could help solve the country’s problems. Her music was accused of lacking a message. The need for well-educated people in Mozambican society and the fact that Dama do Bling received her education at a publicly financed institution made people strongly criticize her choice of pursuing a career in the music industry.
Maputo-based sociologists discussed the “phenomenon Dama do Bling” widely as a symptom of change in Mozambican society (e.g., Carlos Serra from UEM on his blog). The sociologist Patricio Langa spoke of a “silent revolution”—a change of social values, disguised in a debate about what Mozambican music should look like. Carlos Serra, sociologist at the UEM’s African Studies Center, ridiculed the debate about Dama do Bling’s “untraditional” style by posting pictures of traditional dances featuring women in short skirts with uncovered breasts. Serra argued that behind the discourse on what is (and should be) Mozambican was a deep concern over men’s loss of control over the female body. Langa called out for diversity in Mozambican music: “Just let people be!”
This was also Dama do Bling’s reaction to the whole polemic. Asked for her response to the wide-spread accusations, she pointed out that she wasn’t scandalous, but “irreverent” and just said and did whatever she liked. “People tend not to receive new things well since it’s something that they have never seen,” she explained in response to the public outcry. Justifying doing things differently, she said: “We the young can’t build on those things from 20 years ago, because [if we did so], we would die.” Her first book, hence, was an autobiography with the title O Diário de Uma Irreverente (The diary of an irreverent woman). Beyond acting as she likes and defending the young’s inventiveness, though, her attitude didn’t seem to have much of a political or feminist message.
“A young person with a university degree can’t sing, but a minister with a 6th grade education can legislate?,” Dama do Bling sang in her 2007 song “Sai,” a musical response to inquiries why, in spite of her law degree, she chose a career in the music industry. This statement is exemplary of Dama do Bling’s provocative personality that has sparked much debate, at least in the early years of her music career in her native Mozambique, where she’s a big star.
A regular on South Africa’s video channel ‘Channel O’, she was the winnder for ‘Best Female’ and ‘Best African Southern’ awards (for ‘Danca Do Remexe’) on October 2007.
Currently recording her fifth studio album and writing her third book, she is “one of the female voices to watch in 2013.”
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