Analyses the role music played in bringing an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. After watching the film ‘Searching for Sugar Man’, directed by Mali Pendulous earlier this year I was intrigued and inspired to look further into the role music played in ending the Apartheid regime in South Africa. ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is a critically acclaimed film, winning an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, which tells the story American musician Sixth Rodriguez role in introducing the people of South Africa to anti-establishment ideas and his eventual role in bring the Apartheid regime to an end.
Background Segregation and cruel inequalities imposed on the native black population had been deeply rooted in the South African psyche since it was first colonized. South Africans had a long history of living under white rule, the Dutch East India Company landed in South Africa in 1652 to use using the Cape of Good Hope as a base for ships traveling trade route between Europe and Assail and where followed by the British. The Boer Wars, fought in the late 1880 and early sass show how for the South African nation the main international concern was it’s wealth of materials, not the people itself.
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The Boer wars also show the dominance of whites within South Africa and the disregard and the disrespect with which they treated the natives. Segregation was intensified when the Nationalist Party introduced Apartheid in 1948. Through a series of laws the Nationalist Party made inequality not only permissible, but actively encouraged. 2 The Nationalist Party forced indigenous South Africans to reside in impoverished townships where they where denied even their most basic human rights and where exploited by the white minority.
These townships where separated into tribal groups and were situated on the outskirts of towns. South Africans who lived in these townships worked as mainly miners and servants, for white superiors, and received very small payment for their work. Introduction Plato once noted that at times music can carry meaning that goes beyond purely musical level and enters the political spheres This notion was evident in South Africa during the period of Apartheid.
Apartheid, which literally means ‘apart’ in Afrikaans, was implemented by the National Party in 1948 and was enforced through legislation until the end of the Apartheid regime in 1990. Music played an extremely vital role in ringing Apartheid to an end as it brought native South African communities together, gave a voice to the voiceless, gave hope to those oppressed by the Apartheid and those fighting it and made the international community aware of the plight of South Africans, Musician Spills Intuit states “At the height of the South African madness…
Others were engaging Apartheid with the guns. Others were Role of music in ending Apartheid By giddied how we managed to turn the tide of the world. “4 Music as means of protest before Apartheid (before 1948) South African music in the sass and early sass was heavily influenced by American audible shows, as well as by church choirs due to musicians and audiences valuing close imitations of American musical styles. By the mid sass South African musicians began to integrate African elements into music with the aim of making a political statement against the unsympathetic white rule. The content of the shift was to assert the belief that there was intrinsically a value in the adoption or incorporation of music materials that where African”. 6 The integration of South African elements musical elements into Western’ styles of music was the first real protest in South Africa against white rule. The music of the mid sass early sass foreshadow the political protest movement to come using music and was adopted by groups such as the African National Congress (NC) as a means of fighting the Apartheid regime.
Music as means of political protest during Apartheid (1948-1990) During the late sass and early sass many popular songs started to reflect the current events within South Africa. Mary Dhobi, a recording during the sass explained “Our songs all had meaning. They reflected what was happening right now Cutout used to listen the news, you see. Then he would come there and say, ‘Did you hear about in he news they said this and that and that? ‘ It ended up we are going to record that”.
Musicians after the sass Joined in on the open political opposition to the implementation of apartheid recording songs such as Dorothy Mask’s ‘Udder. Milan Motherhood Amazonian’ (Dry. Mammal’s governed is Harsh). One of the most famous songs from the sass, released in August 1956, went ‘Hey Stardom, Hatpin’s baize, way thingamabob’s guffaw’ which translates to ‘Stardom, now that you have touched the women, you have struck a rock, you have dislodged a boulder, and you will be crushed’. This song, like Mask’s ‘Udder.
Milan Motherhood Amazonian’ and other popular songs of the sass such as ‘Nondenominational, Overpower basso, nondenominational’ composed by political activist Visible Mini and later recorded by Miriam Make translates to ‘behold the advancing blacks, Overpower. Beware of the advancing blacks the politician is addressed directly, a common feature of songs during this era. These songs aimed to get the politicians they where addressed towards attention and reflect the fact that ordinary people where becoming more politically conscious. During the sass songs took on a mournful tone. ‘Sensei An? s a typical example hat demonstrates the desolation that characterized the sass. The accusatory and confrontational tone of songs written before 1960 is abandoned, as is evident in the lyrics of ‘Thin Size’; ‘Thin Size, thin size sinusoid/ Skeletal, skeletal cellulite/ Leather, leather unmanageable/ Maybe, unfathomable wet’ which translates to We the nation, we the black nation/ We mourn, we mourn for our land/ Stolen from us, stolen from us by the white man/ let them leave, let South Africa with the intensification of Apartheid causing amplified feelings of discontent.
On the 21st March, 1960 sixty-nine unarmed protesters, who where retesting against the change pass laws, where shot dead during the Shriveled massacre. The sass also saw the African National Congress (NC) and the Pan Africans Congress (PACE) outlawed and 169 black political leaders put on trial for treason. This, alongside the Shriveled massacre, left the anti-Apartheid community shaken and the future of the movement was questioned.
These feelings only intensified with destruction of the creative community of Aspiration and the following Jazz exile hushing the music community and the South African Broadcasting Cooperation (SABA) preventing anti-Apartheid music being aired. However, Hugh Maskers believes that “music became an even more important weapon in the struggle as any possibility of open legitimate protest had to come to an end after the Shriveled massacre”. Through out the sass musicians protested and sparked rebellion through hidden messages in their songs and leading to social demonstrations such as the uprisings in Sweet on June 16, 1976 caused by students protesting the introduction of teaching in Afrikaans. Songs context was almost always political and frequently contained a metaphor that allowed musicians to hide the true meaning of their ones. With the government censoring anti-Apartheid music, music spread through bootlegging and people singing music they had learnt at demonstrations, churches and in social gatherings and in live shows.
Many of the songs sung at demonstrations and meetings were so widely known that that they functioned in a way similar to folk songs and enabled performers to “take refuge, like the originator of a rumor behind this anonymity. “10 The importance of music in ending Apartheid was known to the musician of the time, with Miriam Make commenting “l could not afford the luxury f Just being a singer who sings about happy things and love. 1 1 By the time the sass came around musicians where ready to challenge the state directly and move past the subtle way of undermining Apartheid used in the past. The songs of the anti-Apartheid movement took on a new militancy as students and youth took to streets with the aim of making South Africa ‘ungovernable’. Manila Amazing, an anti-Apartheid activist, points out that “these songs expressed not Just the mood, but the political momentum of the time. The more radical the situation was becoming, the more militant many of these songs became”. August and September of 1984 where filled with protests against the inauguration of the trim- colored parliament, with representation for Indians, ‘closured’ and whites, but none for blacks). These protests caused violent confrontations between the police and members of the African youths. The government responded to these clashes by deploying large numbers of troops into townships and on July 1985 declared a State of Emergency, giving security forces even greater powers.
The fact that “earlier songs anticipated a vaguely defined victory; mass singing now quite openly acknowledged he young people who have left South Africa since 1976, to train as guerrillas” shows how music reflected the changing political system and encourage youths to take on a that aim was to undermine the state and reflected the growing confrontational approach of the anti-Apartheid movement. Through music musicians and individuals sought to advance political change within South Africa and to construct an alternate reality to the harsh and prejudicial one they lived in.
South Africa music played an extremely important role in uniting the many different tribes of South Africans under one goal- taking back their homes. Prior to its European Colonization, South Africa had been a tribal nation,13 meaning it was never united, that is until Apartheid was implemented. The native South Africa became compelled to strive for unity to overcome the hardships, brutalities and injustices that came with Apartheid. South Africans tribal past reinforced disunity and their identity was disjointed, something that can be seen through the languages that where spoken. 4 Despite lingual, cultural, economical and political differences that divided South Africans indigenous population they found common ground and united to fight and ultimately end Apartheid. Music played a central role in everyday life within South Africa and provided a way for people to connect and share their experiences. 1 by listening to music from other tribes in South Africa people from other communities where able to see that they experienced the same racial vilification and segregation. These similar experiences also allowed South Africans to understand the meaning of songs, even if they didn’t speak the language it was sung in.
A popular folk song during this time with the lyrics ‘Let’s unite, Let’s unite/ Let’s unite fellow Africans/ Down with inter fighting/ Up with ace’16 shows how music became a way of expression that unified the native South African population and gave them a way to overcome the polices of Apartheid which where aimed at disintegrating the native population. 17 The lyrics directly tell South Africans to resist the chasm that the Apartheid government where trying to create within the anti-Apartheid movement.
Due to music being universal and something that South Africans could understand it was inherently unifying. Music, acting as a from of communication, spread new ideas, connected individuals and brought a nation together against one common thing- Apartheid. Songs not only promoted unity within the anti-Apartheid movement but also promoted a sense of resonance and endurance. With many members of anti- Apartheid groups such as the African National Congress (NC) being imprisoned and others being executed, music became a way of giving hope and lifting the spirits.
Nelson Mandela recalls singing ‘Nondenominational, Overpower basso, nondenominational’ with Visible Mini during the treason trials at Johannesburg prison, commonly know as ‘The Fort’. “Everyday Visible Mini, who years later was hanged by the government for political crimes, led the group in singing freedom ones… We sang at the top of our lungs and it kept our spirits high”. 18 During trials in court as well as facing police at protests songs promoted a sense of unity and endurance, and gave individuals the hope and courage to keep on declaring their opinion.
Bleak Member, a speaker of parliament stated, “Music had played such a role that I Just don’t see how we would have pulled through the many years of struggle, at Music as means of protest during Apartheid (1948-1990) outside South Africa The outrage the international community felt towards the moral injustices caused by Apartheid became part of Western pop culture. Artists released songs such as ‘Bike’ by Peter Gabriel and ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ by The Special A. K.
A aimed at bringing the realities of the brutal Apartheid system to light and giving people an individual’s story, which they could relate and empathic with. Peter Gabrielle ‘Bike’ bring attention to the police brutality in this lyrics, “September ’77/ Port Elizabeth weather fine/ It was business as usual/ In police room 619/ah Bike, Bike, because Bike… / The man is dead” Musicians also released albums with the same intention, to bring the realities of the brutal Apartheid to the attention of Western culture and the spark outrage and protest that would hopefully lead Western government to denounce Apartheid.
This can be seen in albums such as ‘It Don’t Bother Me’ by Bert Jansen, ‘From South Africa to South Carolina’ by Gill Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson, ‘Resistant Vibration’ by Bob Marled and Peter Tooth’s album ‘Equal Rights and Heroes’. The Anti-Apartheid sentiment outside South Africa reached a peak in 1998 when the ‘Mandela’ concert was held at Humbly. Musicians brought people together to protest one common thing, Apartheid. These songs, albums and concerts reflected the growing anti-Apartheid sentiment in Western culture and informed its citizens of the trudges and racial vilification people in South Africa faced.
In the United States American citizens, made aware of the plight of South Africans through music and other forms of media, where able to put pressure on the US government to change it’s policy towards the Apartheid regime from playing a role in it’s initial survival to aiding in it’s eventual downfall. 20 Due to the South African government being an ally against communism in North Africa, during a time of immense fear caused by the cold war, United States president Harry Truman didn’t speak out against Apartheid and behind closed doors supported it,21 all the while actively trying to eliminate racism within the United States.
Due to mounting pressure from U. S musicians and the public and the end of the cold war the United States government put in place trade embargos and cultural sanctions which lead to South Africa experiencing significant loss in revenue, security and international reputation in the sass and ultimately played a part in ending Apartheid. Role of Western’ music in ending Apartheid within South Africa Western’ music also played and extremely crucial role in introducing South Africans to new, anti- establishment ideas, and telling South Africans it is okay to be angry with the society o live in.
This idea was evident in musician Sixth Rodriguez and his album ‘Cold Fact’. In the film Searching for Sugar man Stephen Germans explains how Rodriguez songs became anthems for the countries white youth who began to stand up against Apartheid, “To us it was one of the most famous records of all time. The message it had was ‘be anti-establishment. ‘ One song is called ‘The Anti- Establishment Blues. We didn’t know what the word was until it cropped up on a Rodriguez song, and then we found it’s K to protest against your society, to be angry with your society. ” 22 The film also states “Any revolution needs an answer and in ND start thinking differently. “23 Afrikaans musicians such as Willed Miller, Kooks Cambiums and Johannes Caretaker, who are regarded as icons of the Afrikaans music revolution, where all inspired by Rodriguez and released songs such as ‘Set It Off which encouraged people to turn the television off when P. W. Booth came on the television. 4 “Out of the Afrikaans community emerged a group of Afrikaans musician and song writers and for the when they heard Rodriguez it was like a voice spoke to them and… That’s where really the first opposition to Apartheid came within the Afrikaans community”. 25 Conclusion Music played a pivotal role in ending Apartheid in South Africa. Inside South Africa music developed from having subtle political undertones and being a means of expression and sharing stories to a weapon used to spark protest and attack members of the Apartheid government directly.
Music also played an extremely important role in unity the different South African tribes and giving people hope and the courage to voice their opinions. Outside South Africa people became aware of the situation within in South Africa through songs and where able to protest the government. Like Sixth Rodriguez said in the song ‘The Establishment Blues’, “This yeast’s goanna fall soon, to an angry young tune” . And fall it did.
In the year 1990 Apartheid officially came to an end and in 1994 Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, making him the first black South African to hold the office. South African is now a place of unity and equality between ethnic groups, as can be seen in the National Anthem that was changed in 1997 to contain five different languages within one song. The National Anthem, like music did during Apartheid, shows the political situation of South Africa, however unlike the Apartheid regime the political system now is fair and equal.