Old saffa songs that speak to us in 2020
As the global situation continues affecting the world economy and the emotional well-being of people around the globe, it may be a good idea to reflect on old South African songs that we can resonate with in current times. Why not? The local and international music industries have been brought to their knees due to show and tour cancellations. Supporting them in any way is simply the right thing to do.
It has not been easy to distance ourselves from the people we love. And by love, we mean the embraces and the energy–something our saffas abroad will understand.
In South Africa, we’ve had to part with our vices too. What do our people do in times of trouble? We drink, we braai, we smoke (or at least it seems that more South Africans smoke than had been previously assumed) and we are merry.
Afrikaners is plesierig
Karen Zoid re-enforced the adage a couple of years ago. ‘Afrikaners is plesierig’, meaning Afrikaners are happy, good-natured people, thereby confirming that, not unlike the majority, Afrikaners are for the most part easy-going people with a passion for life. Until 2020…
And we’re not just talking about the Afrikaners here; we’re talking all countrymen and women. As a country we are disgruntled, but we are also jolly. As a global populace we are concerned–we insist that matters be taken serious but are famished for humour. What a dichotomy!
When lockdown was announced in South Africa in March, many of us were impressed by our president’s call to protect the people of our country. Little did we know that our vices would be taken away from us, and what would feel–to many South Africans–like the end of the world.
Koos Kombuis wrote this song mainly to illustrate his passion for music; Ek’s verslaaf and Ruk en Rol. However, many South Africans have been humming along to this tune as they frantically searched for ‘illegal’ ciggies, tobacco, rizla and filters. Even tannie Sarie of the burbs with her curlers and Mr Dlamini of Sandton jumped in to sign petitions. South Africans were told this was for their own good, that cigarettes are in fact a catalyst in the spreading of the ‘Ronas. To quote Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma verbatim: “When people zol, they put the saliva on the paper.”
Indeed, no one can deny the negative impact of cigarettes, but something profound happens when you challenge a nation to quit bad habits impromptu…and some great parodies also sprout from such repression and statements. Just wander over to The Kiffness on Facebook to see how ‘plesierig’ Afrikaners can actually be. It gets us into trouble, but we’re cool with it.
Ek’s ‘n Afrikaner in die stad, ek dra my masker soos ‘n kat
Koos Kombuis’s song ‘Boer in Beton’ was released in 1995 but instead of waning, its relevance seems to have amplified. Whatever he meant back then, with the mask-wearing business, we surely can relate to it today. There was a time when you only saw people sporting these in the Far East. It seems to be the norm now (or the ‘new normal’, although we try to steer away from that statement for our own sanity). It’s for our own good, we are told, and it makes perfect sense. So we wear them.
But be sure to remember to brush your teeth before setting out to run some errands and breathing in your own breakfast. Many people have swapped the routine “fish paste on toast” for something that does not quite repeat itself so dramatically within the confines of their masks.
Urban Creep gifted us with this song in the nineties and with lockdown protocols in place, many services were considered ‘non-essential’, such as a visit to the hairdresser. A quick early-morning glance through your Facebook timeline, will present you with an array of selfies featuring yetis, Neanderthals, Vikings and the odd Rasputin. The Karens had turned into Mathildas and Oom Jan’s beard had been–to his great dismay–trimmed to near caricature by his daughters and grandchildren cooped up with him in the plaashuis.
People have been left to grow their hair au naturel, and while a lot of us could pull it off, there were many of us that should have refrained from allowing the world to see us in that state. Protruding greys, bustling afros and aspiring mullets: they were here to encumber us in our lockdown blues. Unless of course, you felt compelled to do a home job. Some not so bad, and some really bad. But hey, viva to the flamboyant colour jobs, the hip-hop self-shavers and the two tone “oh-to-hell-with-it-all-just-let-it-grow-out” folk. It was kind of nice not to have to fret so much about those things.
Ek is stoksielalleen, stoksielalleen…
David Kramer was singing about his urge to go dancing on a Saturday night, but struggling to find someone to join him in his shenanigans. For us during lockdown, we kind of wish we said yes to everyone who invited us to something, anything. Oh, those Tinder dates! As the days go by while we are locked in and staying safe, we miss being around our friends, or surrounded by laughter in a bar, or the loving touch of a friend who sees you.
It has forced us to be by ourselves, to cope with our own company, to introspect and reflect on what is most important to us. We have learned not to take friendships for granted, to appreciate the freedom we do have in this world and that the threat of imminent death can be an invisible one. Many have succumbed to depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide and through this we have learned that some of us are better off than others and the constant need to complain about our shoes when there are people who have no feet, has to be reconsidered and taken back to the drawing board.
Luckily, we’ve all taken to reaching out in the online sphere and connecting with those afar via clicks and calls.
En die soldate kom al aangemarsjeer, en elkeen dra ‘n gelaaide geweer
Johannes Kerkorrel was a fond favourite to many of us who fought against an oppressive government. An integral part of the Voëlvry Movement (a genre of anti-apartheid music sung in Afrikaans. The term Voëlvry meant ‘outcast’ or ‘free as a bird’) partially and passively driven by Johnny K (a term of English endearment), led the way with songs like “Donker, donker land”.
The moment an army was deployed during lockdown in South Africa, everyone reminisced on the apartheid days and had visions of a civil war on the horizon–reminding us of the uprising in the eighties. To be honest, many South Africans have been waiting for some kind of civil war to break like a strained tectonic plate through the strange landscape we’ve navigated for the last 20 odd years. Conspiracies have been the order of the day, and people have started stocking up on more than just toilet paper.
Damn you, Paul Simon. Why do you make us love this land so much, when all we want to do is hate it right now? Buzz off. And you too, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Honestly though, we need to listen to this more often and remember that we were never supposed to give up the fight to do what’s right. It is, therefore, heartwarming to see South Africans all over fight to feed, home, and clothe those most vulnerable, to share a dop and a skyf, to help each other stay afloat in business and life.
Let’s face it: the Covid-19 pandemic was not exactly the apocalypse we expected. Where the heck are the zombies?
Maybe the zombies are those people out there who mask themselves with tinfoil hats. Perhaps the zombies are those guys who think 5G’s is the gateway drug to the apocalypse. Maybe the zombies are us and we just don’t know it yet. We certainly act that way sometimes; just spend a day on Twitter. One thing’s for sure: 2020 is a twilight zone. 2020 is the dark corner on a busy street where the dealers and the ladies of the night hang out, but it’s also a sunlit intersection where charity is handed out and recipes shared.
We’ve Netflixed and binged on tunes. We’ve baked banana bread and brewed pineapple beer. We’ve learned macramé and origami and we Zoom and we Skype. Some zol and saliva, and others feed the hungry illegally. Gosh, we live in a moment in time where smoking cigarettes and feeding the poor is illegal, but smoking weed is okay. What a remarkable time to be alive.
And we’ve created playlists. Oh man, have we created playlists!
Asimbonang’ u Mandela thina
Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water
In the shake of a lamb’s tail, the entire world was turned upside down. One enemy, one people. We are all in this together (no, but really). A common enemy for the first time in a long time. It’s probably overdue. Either way, there seems to be an underlying emergence of human spirit. There lurks an ubuntu dying to be released–no matter your location on the world map. And if that’s not hope, then kill us dead.
Give, give me the good news
Does this song pop up often? Oh yes, it does! We patiently waited for our president to give us some positive news, whatever that positive news meant to us as individuals. Please can I drink? Please can I smoke? Please can I run? Please can I surf? Please can I breathe? Crocodile Harris sang of a different conflict, but the message remains the same.
It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack
Indeed, all you Jacks and Jills. Every single breathing soul on the planet can say they lived through some serious life-changing stuff in their time and this one undoubtedly takes the cake. One can only hope the amount of free time was spent learning a new skill, or even learning to make beer. Lockdown has made us teachers, gardeners, artists and creatives.
We live in hope from day to day awaiting the end result of this thing we can’t explain without it resulting in an argument. It’s perhaps a grand idea to raise the spirit of ubuntu and maybe, just maybe we can eliminate the small things that irk us.
Viva Johnny Clegg. You were right. We are Scatterlings of Africa. Or at least we try.
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