Melodies fight xenophobia, apartheid

IS xenophobia rather Afrophobia, which is rearing its ugly head in South Africa not another form of apartheid?

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The effect that the violence has had on Southern African musicians and the condemnation it has received from the regional artistes and the broader showbiz community from around the world is almost the same.

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From Southern Africa to the UK and everyone else who supported South Africa in its fight against a racist regime that created and enforced apartheid — everyone is shocked why blacks are attacking fellow blacks, neighbours for that matter.

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“Gimme Hope Jo’anna” an 80s song by Eddy Grant, which reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart and received worldwide acclaim has even come alive again as radio DJs around the world protest the xenophobic violence in the Rainbow Nation.

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Besides Eddy Grant, protest groups like Artistes United Against Apartheid, founded in 1985 by activist and performer Steven Van Zandt with record producer Arthur Baker, sprung up and used their musical creativity in the fight against apartheid.

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Zandt invited renowned artistes like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Run–D.M.C, Afrika Bambaataa, U2 and many more, to record “Sun City”, a song about freedom and change. These artistes also vowed never to perform at Sun City, because to do so would be an acceptance of apartheid. Artistes have always played a significant role in shaping people’s perceptions and during the apartheid era, many South African and other international artistes used their talent to speak up against the regime, even if it meant doing it in exile.

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The likes of Brenda Fassie, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Miriam Makeba and Stevie Wonder, among others penned anti-apartheid songs to expose injustices in South Africa and to fuel global protests.

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The wave of xenophobic violence sweeping across South Africa has robbed families of loved ones while thousands of immigrants residing in that country have been displaced from their homes.

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This gruesome and inhuman treatment of foreigners has had various effects across Africa, with some countries, institutions and individuals already taking measures to show their displeasure.

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From threatening to boycott South African products to the repatriation of nationals by several countries, the ripple effects of these violent attacks are being felt all over the continent.

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Xenophobia has also affected the entertainment industry from numerous fronts as stakeholders are now resorting to using platforms at their disposal to voice their concerns.

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Many South African artistes like Kelly Khumalo, Bricks, Big Nuz and Black Coffee, to name just a few, have either cancelled or had their promoters cancel their shows around the world in last few weeks.

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A UK based promotion company postponed Kelly Khumalo’s show which was scheduled for next month saying they were sympathising with the victims of xenophobic attacks while Big Nuz cancelled their Bulawayo show last week.

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Local music fans have also threatened to boycott next month’s Green Concert where Ringo Madlingozi and Winnie Khumalo are set to perform, which could lead to them being removed from the line-up.

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Many people have expressed their views on social media — threatening retaliation while some have been calling for artistes to use their influence in addressing the issue.

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It is not just South African artistes who have been affected — last week Zim dancehall superstar Kinna refused to fly to South Africa for his performance at the Uhuru gig because of the xenophobic atrocities.

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Another local musician who also cancelled his South African tour is sungura ace Alick Macheso who said that besides the risk, he could not go to perform where his fans had been displaced and were still mourning.

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Despite all these boycotts, threats and cancellations many African artistes have employed various strategies to support anti-xenophobia campaigns.

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Grant’s anti-apartheid reggae anthem has inspired regional artistes to come together and record songs that denounce xenophobic violence.

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While social media has been awash with numerous South African celebrities pledging their support to stop the violence, others like DJ Tira, Euphonik, Penny Penny and Zakes Bantwini, to mention a few have taken to the streets in protest marches.

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Local artistes have also been using their creativity as a weapon and recently came up with an initiative called “United Artistes Against Xenophobia” in which they have been on a campaign spree to denounce xenophobia.

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Last week the artistes held a free show dubbed “Black on Black Love” at the Book Cafe where the likes of Edith WeUtonga, Cynthia Mare, Bob Nyabinde, Albert Nyathi and Africa Revenge, among others performed.

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At the same show, various artistes also performed a collaborative song that had been recorded earlier which preached the message of love and unity among Africans.

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Other projects are still in the pipeline — with another song titled “Stop Xenophobia” set to be recorded. The song will feature local artistes as well as those from other African countries who will include Albert Nyathi, Suluman Chimbetu, Jah Prayzah, Sandra Ndebele, Mampi, DJ Cleo, Casper Nyovest and Lira, among others.

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All these developments are like a replay of the apartheid era, in which South Africa was faced with cultural boycotts like being barred from the Olympics from 1964 to 1992 while many international artistes were also refusing to perform in the country during this period.

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In an interview with The Sunday Mail Leisure contemporary musician Jah Prayzah said that it was important for artistes to come together and speak out against xenophobia.

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“As artistes we should lead by example and put up a united front to find ways within our means of combating xenophobia. We have been working on collaborations with other artistes but I have also recorded a song called ‘Tsime Remasodzi’, in which I am encouraging Zimbabweans living in South Africa to come back home where they are loved if living conditions are tough that side.”

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Superstar Oliver Mtukudzi, an international cultural heavyweight, has also added his voice to the growing worldwide calls for South Africans to stop xenophobia.