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A Political Soundtrack

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A Political Soundtrack

“Musicians Don’t’ Die, They Decompose.”

The power of music is a secret to no one. You can find the manifestations of this power everywhere. Just observe the impulse you get when you hear a strong base in the background of a new track, or the tired feeling you get when listening to something slow and melodic, or the passion felt through an A’Capella group. There is no doubting the roots of music and the ability it has to impact your mood/emotions.

What is even more fascinating is seeing the power of music extended and connected to political movements. In South Africa music is the backbone of social mobilization. And it is a powerful backbone; one that brings people together, gives hope, inspires, and creates an artistic expression that simply cannot be articulated outside of a musical context.

In the organization structure of Equal Education, one can see that they have not abandoned their historical roots. Music once again takes on a lead role in a movement for equality. And more importantly, the role of the musician becomes redefined and changed into an ambiguous more inclusive activity.  At Equal Education, (a movement that brings students, teachers, NGO’s and parents together to fight for quality and equality in education) young people create, remix, and perform songs that relate to their struggles. This political music has reminded me of the possible political gaps that need to be bridged in the communities that I grew up in.

I know that during the American Civil Rights Movement, music played a key role in bringing people together and expressing culture. Songs Like, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody, Turn Me Around” or “We Shall Overcome” or “Lift Every Voice and Sing” are several classics. I also know that political expression through music cannot be discussed without including the early Hip Hop, Poetry and Rap Movements, which in the 70’s and 80’s became new forms of expression. If you lookup groups like the Last Poets (who some consider to be the founders of hip hop) you will find a rich political and musical discourse that I am afraid is simply lost or underground in contemporary music.

Few will deny that we still have inequality that needs to be organized against, but why the sudden absence of struggle music among young people? If marginalized groups have a tradition of political action with a musical background, what has ended that tradition. And most importantly, should we be encouraging this next generation to create their new 21st century political soundtrack?

Here are the lyrics to songs remixed and created by Black Youth in South Africa. Listening to them sing these songs led me to ask questions about political music within communities that I came from (The Lyrics are mostly in Xhosa and English):

-Tshona Malanga (we’ll meet at the sunset)-
(Leader): Tshona Malanga [The sun is setting]
Tshona…Tshona Malanga Tshona [The sun is setting] (x3)
(Leader): Sesizo [We Will]
Dibana, Dibana, Kwa EE Nabafana Bam [Meet at Equal Education with friends] (x3)
 
-My Mother, My father-
My Mother is a Kitchen Girl
My Father is a garden boy
That’s Why I’m an Equalizer
Im an Equalizer, An Equalizer (Repeat)
Umama Wam Wayesebenza E Khitshini
Utata Wam Wayesebenza e gadini
Yiyo Lento Ndiyi Equalizer, Equalizer
 
-Ama ye ye ye (Stop The Fight)-
Izo-lo Be-si-la-pha [Yesterday we were here]
Nam-bla Si-se-la-pha [Today we are still here]
Sin-qan-da Mayeyeye [Lets try to stop this fight]
Amayeyeye Amayeyeye, Amayeyeyeye (x2)

-Poor and Painful (Siyasishiya)-
Siyasishiya, Sikolo Sethu [we are leaving our school] (x4)
Our Education, Is very poor and painful (x4)