Union Songs

South African Freedom Songs

Review by Mark Gregory

south african freedom songsSouth African Freedom Songs is a wonderful 2 CD set. One is an hour long radio documentary and one a CD of 25 South African freedom songs.

The documentary alone is a fascinating overview of the songs, who wrote them, how they evolved, what influences they show.

Where else but South Africa would the major commentators in a documentary about any kind of music be high ranking members of the government? Here we have interviews with:
A Deputy Speaker of Parliament (Baleka Mbete)
A Deputy Minister of Defence (Ronnie Kasrils)
A Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (Pallo Jordan)
Also interviewed are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, veteran ANC leader Walter Sisulu, Actor/writer/producer John Matshikiza. An historic recording of Nelson Mandela speaking after the Sharpeville massacre is here too.

Produced by Lucie Page and narrated by her with Shad Twala, the documentary places the songs in the context of the long struggle against apartheid and against a seemingly unbeatable military might.

South African Freedom Songs brings together the recordings, made with the help of the anti-apartheid movement, recorded outside of South Africa. Songs that were used to gather support for the struggle, that were sung at mass rallies in South Africa, at the training camps for the armed struggle, in the prisons in South Africa, and at anti-apartheid meetings, fund-raising concerts and anti-apartheid demonstrations around the world.

toyi toyiThis is invaluable source material for the study of musicology and the way music and dance (in this case the Toyi Toyi) is used in struggles against repression.

In the era of "War against Terrorism" it naturally raises many questions about all who continue to promote war and violence to cling onto oppressive power!

South African Freedom Songs is dedicated to trade unionist, freedom fighter and song writer Vuyisile Mini who went to the gallows in South Africa singing his song "Naants indod emnyama Vervoerd" in 1964. As he and fellow activists walked through jail to their execution, the prisoners took up the song.

You can get a copy from Amazon

Return to top of page