My dad was poisoned when I was one years old. He was soldier in the underground — an uMkhonto we Sizwe soldier — and was basically assassinated. I wrote a song called Son of a Soldier [which contains the lines] ‘Son of a cadre / Only one of them made it / Some agent laced my daddy’s whiskey with some foreign agent’.
In the song I also speak of my mom. Both my parents were very active politically. I’ve written several songs about my mom’s life throughout my career, but never captured the idea of her as a soldier. Or as a fighter. Having kids now, all they know is a grandma who buys them McDonalds and gives them loads of attention. But as you get older, you realise that this is a woman who is delicate as a petal but able to really fuck shit up.
My father’s death was something I’ve learnt to live through. I had time to process it, so writing it was not really very emotional for me. But the first time I played it for my mother, she cried. I went and visited her at her home, gave her a set of headphones and said, ‘I’ve just recorded this song’. It was really heart-wrenching for her. She just cried.
So for me, the emotional part of that song comes when my mother hears it and cries. Or when my wife hears it and is like, ‘dude!’ Or you see the audience’s reaction to the lyrics. Only once you see those reactions, do you think, ‘ok, maybe this is bigger than you thought’.
I suppose what lives in our hearts comes to life when we create music or art. It transcends just a sorrow; your sorrow. It becomes collective. And you own it.
Tumi Molekane, AKA Stogie T, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian