ANC govt terrified of music, says Masekela

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 trumpeter said 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 African National Congress 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 2% of the economy, less than 5% 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.

“It’s 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

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