SA musicians who were political activists in the 1980s

SA musicians who were political activists in the 1980s

These musicians used their art to change the political landscape.

Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim/ YouTube screenshot

Apartheid destroyed the lives of many South Africans. It was a violation of human rights that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people. 

During that time, politicians fought for the struggle. Artists also used their art to bring about change. 

Let's look at several musicians who used their art to change the political landscape in South Africa: 

Abdullah Ibrahim

Jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim opposed the apartheid regime and used his music to communicate that.  

Ibrahim, alongside other members of his Jazz Epistles band; Johnny Gertze (bass), Makaya Ntshoko (drums), Jonas Gwangwa (trombone), and Hugh Masekela (trumpet), produced music that united all races in South Africa. 

The world renowned singer sang about liberation. 

Ibrahim received an Honorary Doctorate of Music form theUniversity of the Witwatersrand for the role he played in changing South Africa using music. 

READ: Abdullah Ibrahim withdraws from Cape Town International Jazz Festival over Coronavirus fears

Yvonne Chaka Chaka

The Princess of Africa, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, is one of the prominent South African musicians who was very vocal in the 1980s. 

In an interview on 'In Conversation with Trevor', she said she had to change the lyrics of 'Let Him Go' to avoid getting into trouble with the apartheid system. 

She told Forbes Africa how music gave her a great platform to let the world know about her home country. 

"When I completed my matric, I started singing, initially my mother wanted me to go and study law, I wanted to study to be a chartered accountant and when that didn’t happen, and I started singing. 

"That, for me was just a great platform. Because I thought, whoo, this is a great platform to start telling the world about my country, about what inspires me what I’d like to see, you know, in others, and what I can learn from others, and how to make South Africa a better place. So I was quite lucky that my very first debut single, sold about 25,000 brands in a week."

To this day, Yvonne is still releasing music that is enjoyed throughout the world. 

READ: Yvonne Chaka Chaka to receive Lifetime Award at the first Basadi Awards

Mama Africa 

South African musician Miriam Makeba was known as Mama Africa because of how she used her music to fight for the rights of black people in South Africa. 

The singer-songwriter was born in the township and experienced the hardship first hand, prompting her to write about the struggle she personally faced as a black woman. 

In the 1960s, her music was banned after she testified against the apartheid system before the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid. 

She continued to be vocal about the brutality of apartheid and later returned to South Africa after Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

READ: S.African hit 'Pata Pata' re-launched to fight coronavirus 

Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg was one of the musicians who broke down barriers during apartheid and chose to embrace the different cultures that exist in the country. 

Clegg, alongside his friend Sipho Mchunu, formed ‘Juluka’ - the first group in South Africa during the apartheid era which consisting of a white man and a black man.

Together they travelled the world and released music that healed people. 

Clegg's love for music and humans distinguished him from many singers in the world.

He also took the African sound to the different corners of the continent and abroad.

READ: Interesting facts about Johnny Clegg

Image courtesy of YouTube screenshot

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