South Africa’s long history of liberation art and music dates as far back as the 17th century when the Minstrel troupes, comprising slaves from South and South East Asia, East and West Africa, Madagascar and Mozambique, began the annual Tweede Nuwe Jaar tradition, a street festival that still takes place every year on 2 January (F. Inglese, 2014). With songs and performances that recalled “the worst that could be done to people by other people” (N. Worden, 2009), the “Struggle” landscape evolved over the following decades as composers and musicians responded to prevailing socio-economic and politically oppressive circumstances, their work reflecting protests against land dispossession, the pass laws, the enforcement of callous curfews and inhumane forced removals, among others.
Against this backdrop, this dissertation explores the role of revolutionary songs in both the battle to end apartheid in South Africa, and their contribution to its ultimate demise. It foregrounds the critical role relevant music and lyrics have played throughout history in raising political awareness and uniting both minorities and majorities doing battle against brutalising, and racially oppressive regimes. It argues for the importance of preserving this element of South Africa’s historic memory, including when the contents make certain sectors of society uncomfortable. While accepting the ruling by Equality Court in 2011 on the matter between Julius Malema and Others against Afriforum and Others that deemed the song commonly known as dubul’ ibhulu (shoot the boer) as hate speech and serving to incite violence, the study will include it as an example of the deep complexity of retaining oral literature as a “collective expression and a celebration of communal, culture specific related experiences which enhance values in traditional societies’’ (A.M. van der Wal, 2009).
This dissertation used an oral history research design in order to locate actual human experiences that are related to specific historic events. This required the completion of interviews with fifteen (15) subjects, along with the deployment of secondary sources, including published dissertations, journal articles, newspaper articles, books, websites and interviews.
The paper reveals the integral role of revolutionary songs in adding impetus to the struggle against the racist and oppressive system of apartheid, and argues for continued interrogation and critical thinking to be applied as the country and its legislative structures provide space for individuals to talk simultaneously about their present experiences of needs, wants and desires (A.M. van der Wal, 2009). It is therefore inevitable that these will – and should – continue to have relevance as a means to pass on knowledge about the past, while helping inspire younger generations to continue their present-day struggles to secure a better future.
Dissertation (MSoSci)--University of Pretoria, 2020.