I was listening to some songs from '60s and '70s West Africa when I again thought about how different Africa would be today if the same amount of genius that went into producing these wonderful pieces of music could had been put into governance at that same time.

Creativity is a strange thing. Its results are everywhere we look; however, only a few are ever truly able to create (I have an idea why this may be so but, that will be a subject for another day).

Of those who create, the ones who can repeatedly find new sources are a rarity. Often, what happens is that a person finds one source and mines from that for the rest of his/her life. As for the majority of humans, we take what has already been created - either by other humans or by nature - and, depending on our inclination, we add to or remove from these things.

Creativity, as already said, is everywhere. It is found in the most revered places and, it is also found in the mundane. Our religions are a result of creative intellectual and spiritual striving and, many of our pastimes like music, graphic arts, and dancing are based on creative efforts.

The creative dancer will never dance the same way to every piece of music because for this person, each dance is a process through which he/she becomes a part of the music. This is what differentiates the creative dancer from the manufactured dancer: The integrated body and spirit of the creative dancer is an instrument that seeks to harmonise with the other instruments whose playing make up a specific song. In comparison, the manufactured dancer has learned dance steps - sometimes hundreds - and, as long as the music is of the genre for which the dance-steps were once created, the manufactured dancer will go through the same basic sequence of movements and gestures for every song...

While observing such may be greatly entertaining, it is as nothing when compared to watching a dancer who creates each move and gesture for specific components of the song that is playing at the moment.

To witness this is a magical experience: You see the drum patterns you are hearing in the way the feet shuffle, the wind instruments in the way the hands glide through the air and, you see string chords in minute gyrations of the body. Also, on occasion, the dancer will improvise upon the music - a lift/turn of the feet or, a flick of the fingers could be all it takes to show you what fits in the hole between the notes the guitar is playing..

The mechanistic movements of ones who dance as they were taught, no matter how diligently they attended to their lessons, cannot compare to this.

However, in a world where modesty and self-effacement are the characteristics of muguns, a person's status will more often than not be directly proportional with an ability to claim value for the self and its products - regardless of if these products are original creations, or adaptations of what others had previously done. Regardless also of if the products are even suited for (or relevant to) the environment into which they are being introduced.

A corollary to this dispensation is the consensus that the product is a lot more important that the process through which it came into being.

Which means that in too many instances, the ability to create is given equal value as the ability to adapt what has already been created - in other words, the process of manufacturing is seen as being no different from the process of creating.

And since it will always be easier to manufacture based on what has already been created - especially if the base object is one that has great popularity - then it should be expected that all market-places will contain a larger proportion of manufactured objects than they would the fruits of actual creative processes.

This is detrimental in the long run because the more the distinction between creative talent and an ability to manufacture is narrowed, the less likely it is that creative talents will be nurtured. Which in turn entrenches the position of re-cycling the favoured order of things. The present will therefore increasingly look back into the past for sources that can be cannibalised. And even those few objects that are the result of genuine creative efforts will themselves soon be over-subscribed to by suavely desperate manufacturers looking for a new product to put their names on.

I should now point out that while it would be easy to accept a description of the the act of creation as genius, what may have been obscured by my general tone so far is how the ability (and the will) to adapt what has been created in a beneficial manner also requires some genius and often, an equal amount of hard work.

The society only stops reaping the full benefits of both abilities (i.e. creativity and adaptability) when the process of recycling what already exists becomes the sole method of bringing new products into the market-place.

Unfortunately for us, aside from the arts, there is little else from what was created in the recent past that is still of use today. And the times that we live in now ask us about how much longer we will remain content with patronising the same vendors who are presently only capable of re-packaging products whose basic components have been re-cycled so many times that whatever nutrients the originals once contained have now been lost.

We are required by the times we live in to seek creativity - as a necessity. We are required to no longer compromise with vendors of stale products. We are asked just how far down the road to cannibalism we wish to travel.

At the beginning of this essay, I wondered what Africa would be like today if those governing during a recently past era had been as creative in their field as their contemporaries had been in the arts. The answer is of course obvious. Those works from long ago are still capable of sustaining the spirits of audiences today and, many have served as sources from which some of those making music today get their inspiration from. So, had Africans in government (and other vital areas of human endeavour) been as equally creative, there is no doubt that we would today be benefiting from what they had created.

We have to do for those coming after us what was not done for us. We are not required to adapt or modify, we are required to turn our backs on the systems created by and nurtured by demonic entities (whose names we know too well) and instead to call upon the same spirits that inspired great artistes 4 decades ago. We are required to create.

Bembeya Jazz National - Beni Barale

Zaiko Langa-Langa - Ma Ma

Fela Kuti & Afrika 70 - Fogo Fogo