Thursday, January 30, 2014

South African Struggle Songs (protest chants)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part II of a two part series on performance elements in South African protests.

This post provides information and video examples of South African struggle songs. In the United States the struggle songs that are the focus of that post would be referred to as "protest chants".

Click for Part I of this series.

Part I provides definitions, information, and video examples of South African "toyi toyi".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, historical, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Amandla is a Xhosa and Zulu word meaning "power". The word was a popular rallying cry in the days of resistance against Apartheid, used by the African National Congress and its allies. The leader of a group would call out "Amandla!" and the crowd would respond with "Awethu"[1] or "Ngawethu!"[2] (to us), completing the South African version of the rallying cry Power to the People!.[3] The word is still associated with struggles against oppression.

Mandla, which is derived from "amandla", is also a common first name in South Africa. It is also the name of a leftist NGO that publishes a magazine by the same name.

Current use in South Africa
The word "Amandla" is also used when people make a bet, deal or promise, they say the word and hold up their hands with their thumbs up.

After Apartheid ended, people have begun to use the rallying cry 'Amandla' to express their grievances against current government policies including those of the ANC. Trade unions still use it at mass meetings and protests.

The use of the term has also become popular again during recent service delivery protests and among poor people's movements. South Africa's independent social movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Mandela Park Backyarders use "Amandla Ngawethu!" during their anti-government and anti-political party protests.[4][5][6] The chant is often used by the movements as a way of beginning or ending a speech as well as quieting down a crowd when a speaker has something important to say.[7] The Anti-Eviction Campaign also uses the phrase "Power to the Poor People" as a variation on "Amandla Ngawethu" and "Power to the People" to denote the need of poor people's movements to control and speak for themselves and not have wealthy leftist NGOs speak for them."

"Against Apartheid
The toyi-toyi* combined song and dance to come up against what was at the time, the world’s most oppressive apparatus of State. “Amandla!” the people shouted, “Amandla! Awethu!” – meaning “Power to the People!” It rallied everyone who cared to show solidarity against a powerful oppressive force. Because of its anti-Apartheid nature, the toyi-toyi* is considered an ANC vehicle for an expression of freedom. This famous dance has changed the lives of many political figures and has been used to celebrate those lives too. The most famous example being when Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa and declared the nation “Free, at last!”, and his supporters began to toyi-toyi in celebration and joy. He couldn’t help himself, but join in.…
*From the other uses of the word "toyi toyi" that I've read online, that word is usually used without the prefacing article "the".

From Amcu strikers sing songs as talks resume
January 27 2014 at 10:35am By SAPA
“Johannesburg - Striking mineworkers at Rustenburg platinum mines were gathering on Monday morning for a briefing, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said.

“We are gathering to brief workers about what transpired at the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) meeting on Friday and the continuing talks,” said Lazarus Khoza, branch shop steward at Amplats Khuselela mine.

He said the strike would continue until a resolution had been reached.

“Our demands have not changed,” he said by phone.

Workers singing struggle songs could be heard on the background”...
(Italics were added by me to highlight this sentence.)

These examples are presented in chronological order with the oldest dated videos posted first.

WARNING: The viewer comment threads for these YouTube videos may include racist language and profanity.

Example #1: SA [South African] Struggle Songs

nocoolspot, Uploaded on May 16, 2010

In 2010 Walter Sisulu University students use 80s struggle songs to raise awareness about gender-based violence.

Example #2: Amandla! Awethu!

djlightbolt, Uploaded on May 18, 2011

The call & response of the anti-apartheid movement ["power"... "is ours" in Zulu]. Amandla!
It should be noted that in the United States the very similar chant "Power to the people!" might be the source of this South African chant but it isn't done in call & response.

Example #3: Struggle Songs for Mandela - Outside Heart Hospital Pretoria. South Africa

Josh Goodman, Published on Jun 30, 2013

Scenes form out side the Pretoria, Heart Hospital this morning. where Nelson Mandela is currently in a critical but stable condition.

Song and dance in Mthatha as Mandela makes last journey home

sabcdigitalnews, Published on Dec 14, 2013

Thanks to all those who are featured and quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

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