Thursday, March 15, 2007

Liberation Music

all about jazz - March 13, 2007

Protest music has a long and honourable tradition in southern Africa. In the colonial era, it began at least as long ago as 1897, when the South African songwriter Enoch Sontonga wrote his classic “Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika” (”God Bless Africa”). The song went on to become the anthem of the country's African National Congress and, translated into Shona and Ndebele, a rallying cry too for the liberation movement in neighbouring Zimbabwe. (Eventually, after the fall of apartheid, it would become part of the South African national anthem, fittingly enough.) Throughout the 20th Century, Sontonga and his successors played an important role in defying, and eventually overthrowing, European colonialism, and music remains in the vanguard of opposition to evil and oppression in the region.

Two outstanding compilation albums—Golden Afrique Vol.3, which collects South African, Zimbabwean and Zambian township music recorded from 1939-88, and Choice Chimurenga, which cherry-picks tracks from six more recent albums by the Zimbabwean singer Thomas Mapfumo—demonstrate different responses to repression by rebel musicians; the first by standing tall and laughing in its face, the second by recording explicit protest material. Both have produced uniquely stirring music.
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