Sounds of Democracy – featuring exciting, young performers Bo Manamela, Brian Temba, Malik, Max-Hoba, Presss and Samthing Soweto – forms part of this year’s Standard Bank Joy of Jazz which takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 25 to 27.
As well as performing their own compositions, the Sounds of Democracy artists will do their versions of songs such as Not Yet Uhuru (Letta Mbulu); Jikela Emaweni (Miriam Makeba); I Got You Babe (Lucky Dube); Life Saver (Ozila featuring Nana Motijoane); Baby I’m Missing You (Blondie Makhene) and Now Or Never (Sankomota).
Leading the pack of these remarkable compositions is the famous Xhosa ditty, Jikela Emaweni, which brought international recognition to the late Miriam Makeba (1932-2008).
It was composed by Joe Mogotsi, Nathan Mdledle, Rufus Khoza and Ronnie Sehume – all members of the trailblazing Manhattan Brothers. It was first recorded in 1954 and went on to become a popular standard in the great South African songbook.
Makeba recorded the song in May 1960 in New York with The Belafonte Folk Singers under the English title ‘The Retreat Song’. With lyrics couched in metaphorical language and steeped in the Xhosa folk tradition, it is a song that advocates freedom but at the same time tells of subjugation in a country under the grip of apartheid rule.
It gave voice to liberation movements around the globe.
Another of these celebrated songs was composed and sung by Nana ‘Wild Dog’ Motijoane, popularly known by his stage name, Coyote. Titled Life Saver – I Am Suffering; he sang it with a pop group called Ozila. It was cloaked in metaphorical language, but in the politically charged climate of the State of Emergency in the mid-1980s, its powerful appeal for personal redemption resonated with the disenfranchised majority.
Sankomota’s Now Or Never track from the 1987 Dreams Do Come True album is a clarion call for Africans to stand up and do things for themselves if they hope to achieve self-reliance. The album’s theme of hope and black aspirations in the face of unrelenting racial oppression struck a chord with a young audience of firebrands in the townships and villages across the country – this despite their banned status in South Africa.
Reggae music is essentially about redemption songs, in the words of one of its pioneers and brightest stars, Bob Marley. When Lucky Dube switched from maskanda and embarked on a glittering career as a reggae musician, he stayed true to the genre’s mission as music of freedom. His third reggae album, Slave (1987), which contains the smash hit, I’ve Got You Babe, recorded unprecedented sales of 350 000 in South Africa alone and over half a million worldwide.
Letta Mbulu’s message came through her 1991 album, Not Yet Uhuru, a phrase borrowed from Kenyan politician, Oginga Odinga’s autobiography of the same name. It is a powerful, prophetic album whose message is still relevant 20 years after the dawn of democracy.
In Sounds of Democracy, a new generation of South African male singers who have emerged in the past 20 years will celebrate these remarkable chapters of the South African songbook alongside own compositions that made them household names in the neo-soul, R&B and Afro-soul genres. Musical director is Alexis Faku.
Sounds of Democracy takes place on the Mbira Stage on Friday, September 26, and on Saturday, September 27.
Malik, Presss and Samthing Soweto headline on Friday with Bo Manamela, Brian Temba and Max-Hoba the performers on Saturday.
For more info go to www.joyofjazz.co.za