Thursday, August 31, 2006

I (heart) South African music

South African music seems to have become a soundtrack for my life with Ezra. Right now, Ezra is asleep in the sling and I'm listening to the soundtrack of Amandla, a fantastic documentary about the role of music in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. It was one of the cds we bought with an Amazon gift certificate Dave's aunt very kindly gave us for a wedding gift two years ago. I must confess though that we only just redeemed it, weeks before it was due to expire.

I think African rhythms have become a lullabye for Ezra. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I made some cds of South African music and listened to them rather incessantly. (I do that a lot when I like a song or cd - drives Dave nuts.) So I had two cds that I took with me to the hospital when I went into labour; mostly with music by Brenda Fassie, the Mahotella Queens, Vusi Mahlasela, Hugh Masakela and others. They really helped me relax when the contractions were getting too intense. But I remember the nurse commenting that this baby's going to come out singing to the Lion King. I remember I was mildly insulted by this - we are not listening to the Lion King lady; this is quality township music not some children's musical. But not for long because I had other things on my mind.

In the weeks following Ezra's birth, we really did find that he was soothed by those and some other African cds. Especially a trancey cd with lots of drums by Konono N1, which Dave endlessly rocked Ezra to sleep to. It was amazing actually; as soon as we put that cd on Ezra would immediately settle. We got so sick of the cd we were forced to buy the sequel, Congotronics 2, which I actually like better.

When I was about six months pregnant with Ezra, we went to see - oh crap, I can't remember the name. It was a South African musical, tracing the evolution of South African dance and music. It was entertaining but I remember being disappointed that it just skimmed over the political environment. I think Ezra enjoyed it though; his kicks kept time with the deep thrumming of the drums as he danced in the womb. I think it was the most active he ever was in my pregnancy. (It's called Umoja - I googled it.)

So where am I going with this? I dunno... I just love listening to South African music. I find it amazing that apartheid didn't drown the songs; if anything it fueled them. I remember when we were in Johannesburg and watched Amandla for the first time I thought I was coming down with something it gave me such chills. But I didn't get sick. Then when we went to the Hector Peterson Memorial and Musem a couple of days later, I thought I was getting sick again. And at the Apartheid Museum the next day. When we were home we bought the dvd and shared it with my family and again, those chills came on. I don't get the chills the same way now that I've listened to the soundtrack many times but I even got chills watching Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform in Kitchener (why they came to Kitchener I have no idea).

I guess it's just that the music is so upbeat and optimistic despite horrendous oppression. It's a lesson for me I guess.

No comments: