Masekela!

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Masekela continues on with the revolucionary African music theme. The back of the record says it all ‘The music contained herein speaks for itself. Nothing more need be added. All there remains to do is to do.’ There are so many strong stongs on this record. It starts with Mace and Grenades, which talks about the harsh realities of the times (1968) and says ‘It looks like It’s be safer to be in Jail…I’m in jail out here’. ‘Gold’, which you already heard on Bobbito’s mix cd, is about the oppression during the apartheid, and how South Africans are essentially forced into slave labor mining for gold and diamonds, and see nothing in return. Even the instrumentals have incredible titles…’Blues for Huey (Newton), and Riot. The record ends with the incredible. ‘If There’s Anybody Out There’.

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BBE just released ‘The Chisa Years (Rare and Unreleased 1965-1975)’. I can’t recomend it enough. If you don’t know BBE(Barely Breaking Even) is an ill label out of London, and they’ve been putting out solid releases for a minute, so support them! They’re selling the cd for 5 pounds, or you can get it on itunes, or of course on vinyl. When this came out over a year ago, Wax Poetics hosted a remix competition for the song Mahlalela, and of course, being a trumpet player who does remixes, I did one. It didn’t get picked…I like to think that it’s because they didn’t get it in time. (I sent it the night before the cutoff day, went to sleep, woke up to see that it didn’t get sent. So I wrote a letter, re-sent it sucessfully, but never heard from them.) Either way, I play it out on a regular, and I always get people running to the dj booth ‘Where’d you get this remix?!’ So here it is…

Hugh Masekela was close with Fela, and he actually wrote ‘Fela’ in tribute to him. The two were very similar in many ways. Hugh was exiled from South Africa in 1960 during the Apartheid for 30 years, along with many other musicians from South Africa. (Among them his wife, Miriam Makeba) There is an incredible documentary that I urge all of you to check out called ‘Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony’.

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In short, it talks about how music was instrumental (excuse the pun) in lifting the Apartheid. In one point of the film, they actually talk about how they weren’t able to post notices around town or announcements with directions to the next protest/demonstration. So they would actually sing in Zulu the directions to the protest, and the song would get sung throughout the country. The British had no idea what they were singing, and this was one way that they would communicate. Many of the musicians would regularly visit and write to Nelson Mandela while he was in prison and write lyrics based on that. This is one of the reasons so many musicians were exiled. Years later Masekela wrote ‘Bring him back home’ and was the anthem of the Free Nelson Mandela Movement in the 80’s. There were a ton of other huge songs written for him as well such as The Specials ‘Free Nelson Mandela’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’, among many more. It became a trend in the 80’s and all the songs, tribute concerts, and press shined a huge spotlight on what England was doing. It essentially shamed them into lifting the apartheid. Hopefully this model, now being used to shine a light on the genocide in Sudan, will continue to work. (A huge Sudan post is coming, don’t worry)
It is a perfect example on how music is, as Fela said ‘The Weapon’.

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6 Comments

  1. Fantastic job on that remix my friend!

  2. Well, another great collection of music, thanks for the sharing. I watched the “Amandla” movie some time ago, very, vrey interesting and strongly recommended!

  3. Wow, this is fascinating stuff, thank you very much!

  4. This is a fantastic blog. Thanks very much for the heads up about ‘The Chisa Years (Rare and Unreleased 1965-1975)’. I ordered a copy and it arrived very quickly, and for no more than 14$, which is pretty great cos it is a fabulous record. Now I’ve just gotta track down all of the Letta Mbulu releases I can find, not to mention Baranta & Miatta Fahinbulleh…. Best of luck with this. I’m a huge Eddie Palmieri fan and think Revolucion, No? is tops.

  5. Masekela feels unwelcome in SA
    August 08 2007 at 08:39AM

    Legendary South African musician Hugh Masekela believes he is no longer welcome as a performer in South Africa, The Times Online in London reported on Wednesday.

    The virtuoso trumpeter told The Times that many talented musicians whose voices became symbols of protest against white domination found it hard to get bookings in South Africa because the ruling ANC was “terrified” of music as an agent of change.

    Masekela, 68, who has written the score for Truth In Translation, one of the most talked-about shows on the Edinburgh Fringe, argued that mediocrity was being promoted in the arts in South Africa, the report said.

    He said this was because music and theatre were seen as “catalysts” in the destruction of apartheid, and might equally shake confidence in the present regime.
    “The administration of South Africa today are terrified of music. They deny it,” Masekela told The Times.

    “They know that a musical commentary can put them at a disadvantage. They are not afraid of print and journalists, that is considered freedom of speech, but they are very comfortable with the absence of music.

    “I am not bitter. I am disgusted. And I am lucky – I can work all over the world. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim, they spend most of their time abroad, because they can hardly play at home.

    “What about those other musicians in South Africa? How do they make a living?”

    Masekela accused the ANC and opposition parties of bringing an end to all-white rule through conniving in a “business deal” which entrenched the power of the elite, but left the bulk of the population in poverty.

    “We ended up with less than two percent of the economy, less than five percent of the land. We are a free but poor people,” he said.

    Truth In Translation was a dramatisation of the lives of the young translators who revealed the crimes of the country’s former rulers to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Its American writer, Michael Lessac, said the show demonstrated South Africa’s ability “to forgive the past, to survive the future”, the report said.

    Masekela, however, argued that neither the play nor the political reality in South Africa had achieved any such reconciliation.

    “At the end of the play you still wonder whether reconciliation is going to work. What is amazing is how the perpetrators almost reluctantly apologised – ‘I am sorry, forgive me’ – because a deal was there.

    “Its the same old story. After the Allies overran Germany you couldn’t find anybody who supported Nazism. It’s the same thing in South Africa. You can’t find anyone who supported apartheid.” – Sapa

  6. hi i think it is time for music and the arts to be revolutionary. the world is slinding toward an oppression that is insidious and theatens the existence of humanity art is and must be the counter power against this. many of the artista have bought into the status qua and are nopw a part of the problem. thjs is people power and the stuff true revolutions are made of – great stuff
    regards
    rassool snyman
    Social Movements Indaba kzn


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