Last week we wrote about legendary musical giant, Hugh Masekela, and the role that his music played in South Africa’s liberation struggle. In fact there are countless musicians who lent their voice to the fight for equality during the dark years of apartheid in South Africa. Packed with emotion, their words served to raise awareness about the horrors of the apartheid system, and to energise people to take action. Who can listen to the lyrics of ‘Senzeni Na?’ and not experience a welling up of emotion? An anti‐apartheid folk song that’s been around since the 1950s, it’s unclear who is responsible for the ‘Senzeni Na?’, although Zimbabwean poet, Albert Nyathi, claims to have written the lyrics on the day that activist Chris Hani died.
Sono sethu, ubumnyama?
Sono sethu yinyaniso?
Mayibuye i Africa
What have we done?
Our sin is that we are black?
Our sin is the truth
They are killing us
Let Africa return
But now, decades later, these struggle songs, many of which are still sung today during political protests, tell a story. As one of the most widespread forms of mass protest, music provides an alternative documentation of the struggle against apartheid. From the early choir songs of the Ohlange Institute to Prophets Of Da City’ 1994 hip-hop number, Never Again, the evolution of protest music follows the path of the struggle.
Below are some of the better known anti-apartheid songs. Follow the links to listen to the story of the struggle for South Africa’s freedom:
- Miriam Makeba singing Khawuleza, 1966
- Hugh Masekela’s Stimela, 1974 (re-released 1994)
- Miriam Makeba singing Soweto Blues, 1977
- Brenda Fassie’s Black President (Aye Nelson Mandela). Originally released in 1983, Fassie added another verse to the song when Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994
- The Special A.K.A.’s Free Nelson Mandela, 1984
- Stimela’s Whispers In the Deep, 1986
- Eddy Grant’s Gimme Hope Jo’Anna, 1988
- Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, Nelson Mandela, 1994