As we celebrate Freedom Day, let us walk you through the role of music in South African Freedom Day.
Today, 27 April, is a very special day for Mzansi. It has been exactly 26 years since the first post-apartheid democratic elections were held in South Africa, and the entire nation is celebrating. As much as it is a very exciting and memorable day for us all, it is also a very emotional one. On this day each year, every Mzansi citizen gets to look back at the reasons for which we celebrate, the pain our people were subjected to, and how far we have come to become a democratic nation in its own might.
Freedom day reminds everyone from Mzansi the purpose for and results of a unified voice. Of course, today we get to rejoice at how that came through for us, and also celebrate everyone in the past who fought for our freedom. We also remember all that the late Madiba had to go through at the hands of the white government. It is obvious that we are all yet to recover fully from the effects of apartheid, still we have reasons to rejoice and celebrate. Even though this year’s celebration is different from the previous years due to the Coronavirus epidemic, we are presenting a unified front to the world from behind closed doors.
Looking back at the fight to get to where we are now, it is clear that it was one which didn’t only involve organized protests, music also had a huge part to play. As we know, some of Mzansi’s most iconic musicians including Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie and more are celebrated today because of the music they made which helped the fight against apartheid. The history of how music played a huge role all through the years of apartheid is something we all will never forget.
History recognizes that the apapartheid regime began in 1948 and lasted till 1994. It also states that our people resisted the rules of the racial segregation and white supremacy by boycotting the laws, hosting non-violent protests, and also engaging in armed resistance. That wasn’t all, songs with both obvious and subtle meanings (hinting at resisting apartheid) were composed spread across the country and the world like wildfires. Although they weren’t as popular outside Mznasi as they were within, they still proved effective. It helped the fight because it moved artists of other nations to join the protest against the inhumanity Mzansi’s black locals were subjected to.
The lyrics and tone of the songs particularly reflected the atmosphere they were composed in. Some of them had blatant lyrics that addressed the laws our people were subjected to which lead to an increase in the censorship of those songs. Later on, new songs with more subtle hints were composed and they also still had the same effects in the fight as the previous ones. History also reveals that apartheid music in Mzansi faced censorship from the government, both directly, and indirectly through the SABC.
Of course, this didn’t stop the various musicians in the country who composed the songs although they faced a lot of harassment, threats and even arrests. Several artists outside Mzansi also joined in the fight, releasing music opposing apartheid. Some of them include “Sun City” by Artists United Against Apartheid, “Biko” by Peter Gabriel, “It’s Wrong (Apartheid)” by Stevie Wonder, “Gimme Hope Jo’Anna” by Eddy Grant and more. It is clear that the songs put great pressure on the government to give our people their freedom.
Iconic Mzansi artists including the late Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie and more will forever be remembered for their contributions and activism. Masekela and Makeba were both exiled from South Africa but still released music which had a huge impact on popular culture. Some of the memorable songs which remind us of the fight for freedom are “Stimela” & “Bring Him Back Home” by Masekela, Makeba’s “Ndod’emnyama (Beware Verwoerd), “Black President” by Brenda Fassie and many more. Mzansi truly has many reasons to always celebrate Freedom Day.