On 27 April 1994, South Africans took to the polls for the first democratic election. This was the election that brought the late President Nelson Mandela into power.
Today, South Africa celebrates Freedom Day to mark the liberation of our country and its people from a long period of colonialism and white minority domination, apartheid.
To commemorate the day, Midday Joy with Unathi compiled a playlist of freedom songs:
Miriam Makeba – Ndod’emnyama (Beware Verwoed)
Mama Africa didn’t mince her words when it came to colonization and Apartheid. “Ndod’emnyama (Beware Verwoed)” was a warning to the architect of apartheid Hedrick Verwoerd that a black man was on his way to rule the country that white people had colonized. It was sung with the legend’s effective trademark soul and verve.
Hugh Masekela – Stimela
Hugh Masekela’s “Stimela” is a vivid picture of what it was like to be a black man during apartheid. The song is about the black men who were used as cheap labor in the mines of Johannesburg, where they worked long hours for peanuts to mine gold and other valuable minerals. Masekela told this story of the train that all these men took from different parts of southern Africa.
“Stimela” almost teleports you into that steam train–you can feel the pain in Bra Hugh’s voice, through his poetry you can see the hoards of unhappy men who miss their families, anxious for the drudgery that awaits them.
“There is a train that comes from Namibia and Malawi
There is a train that comes from Zambia and Zimbabwe,
There is a train that comes from Angola and Mozambique,
From Lesotho, from Botswana, from Swaziland,
From all the hinterland of Southern and Central Africa.
This train carries young and old African men
who are conscripted to come and work on contract
In the golden mineral mines of Johannesburg
And its surrounding metropolis, sixteen hours or more a day
For almost no pay”
Stevie Wonder – It’s Wrong [Apartheid]
Over a funky percussion-blazing instrumental, Stevie Wonder called out the apartheid government in his 1985 song, “It’s Wrong (Apartheid).” The artist was straight to the point: apartheid was wrong, and the people who were responsible knew it deep down. Of course, the apartheid government banned his song.
“The wretchedness of Satan’s wrath,
Will come to seize you at last
Because even he frowns upon the deeds you are doing
And you know deep in your heart
You’ve no covenant with God
Because he would never countenance people abusing”
Brenda Fassie – Black President
On one of the most popular struggle songs, Brenda Fassie sang with an effective vulnerability that portrayed how a lot of South Africans were feeling at the time. The song spoke of Nelson Mandela’s arrest, and somehow predicted his eventual release, which would take place about a year later after the song’s release.
“The year 1963
The people’s president
Was taken away by security men
All dressed in a uniform
The brutality, brutality
Oh no, my, my black president”
Prophets of the City – Never Again
One of the first South African hip-hop acts, POC used their music to fight for justice under Apartheid. As a result, most of their songs were banned on national radio and TV. But their impact was never perturbed. They got to perform their song “Never Again” at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as the first black and democratically elected president of South Africa. Who can forget the song’s iconic opening lines, “Excellent/ Finally a black president!” Monumental.
Eddy Grant – Gimme Hope Jo’Anna
In 1988, Guyanese-British musician Eddy Grant released “Gimme Hope Jo’Anna,” a reference to Johannesburg, the country’s economic powerhouse. Grant personified the city, which, just like the whole country, was under white minority rule, and called her out her ills. The song, just like many anti-apartheid songs, was banned in South Africa, but made waves across the globe, reaching #7 in the UK Singles Chart.
“Well, Jo’anna she runs a country
She runs in Durban and the Transvaal
She makes a few of her people happy
She don’t care about the rest at all
She’s got a system they call apartheid
It keeps a brother in a subjection”
For the full playlist listen to Midday Joy with Unathi from 12h00 to 15h00 today.