South Africa is incredibly rich in music, traditional as well as modern, pop, classic and a lot of jazz. So please don’t expect me to offer a comprehensive coverage! What follows is completely based on my taste, with a few extras here and there. Some of the things I skip are incredibly important to people here, for instance gospel music. It fills hours on various tv channels. It’s just not really for me. You won’t find South African hip hop, punk and rock music here either, nor the Boyoyo Boys (perhaps to the dismay of a good friend) and similar music – I’m aware of them, but can’t truly count them as part of my musical experience. However, you’ll find some kwaito, maskanda, jazz and other styles for which the international music market has labels that don’t get more specific than “world”, “international” or “ethnic”. For the varieties of music in South Africa and their history, see this Wikipedia article, or check some blogs such as this one or this one on music in Soweto and Jo’burg. UPDATE: and see my posts on the Bushfire Festival in Swaziland and on the Fête de la musique in Jo’burg.
Since my arrival, two of South Africa’s greats have left us – first South African poet laureate Keorapetse William Kgositsile, or “Bra Willie” (d. 3 January), and now the father of African jazz and ambassador of African culture, Hugh Masekela, “Bra Hugh” (d. 23 January). Both were fighters for African freedom, which for both of them meant many years of exile from the South Africa under the Apartheid regime. Their view of African freedom was not only that of politics, it goes deeper, and targets what Frantz Fannon had called the “white masks” in black skin. Needless to mention, the arts, music, all of cultural heritage were, and shall I say, are vital (pun intended) in their fight. Continue reading