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’.
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’.
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’.