Songs now more about psychotic ambition than social harmony

It has been almost 12 years since the release of struggle documentary Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony. Sifiso Ntuli, a cultural activist and the prime figure in its conceptualisation, said he had just been thinking about it when I called him to discuss the changing meaning of the struggle song in South Africa’s political landscape.

"In Tanzania, when we were in the [ANC training] camps, a younger friend of mine, Jackie, who was a communist, used to watch us singing as we worked and say: ‘I won’t do that. Only the hungry sing, and they sing for their supper. I’m only interested in fighting the boers.’

"What is happening now is literally that and the flip side of it [is that] people are literally singing for their supper. The freedom song now is used as a weapon against particular individuals. The stomachs are full now, so why sing about Mandela?"

Ntuli believes we are witnessing the watering down of the struggle song as people have come to believe that apartheid is dead. "When we sang then, we saw the freedom song as being about who we were, our traditions, you know … about Shaka and Sekhukhune and so on. It was about passion. They say in times of social crisis, culture best expresses itself."

Asked whether he considers the current sociopolitical climate to be a social crisis, Ntuli said: "We are in a social crisis, yes, but we lack the conviction to stand up collectively. So the songs no longer express who we are as a people. They are now based on psychoses.

"I was at an ANC rally the other day and there was a DJ spinning freedom songs, which basically sounded like gospel songs. I thought to myself: ‘It’s not about machines.’ There is a reason why Jewish people still sing their prayers. It’s about memory, and not everything is about an iPad.

"[The EFF’s] idea of economic freedom, for instance … we have hardly achieved real freedom and they are already jumping the gun. At its core, it’s about who is going to drive what Merc and who will occupy which palace. Look at how obese they are. Have they ever followed the agenda of the leaders who came before us? I mean, is it really all about Zuma?" 

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.
Advertisting

South Africa has been junked

Treasury says the credit ratings downgrade “could not have come at a worse time”, as country enters a 21-day Covid-19 lockdown with little money saved up

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories