South African musical culture enjoys long-time and well deserved recognition both on the African continent and all over the world. But "Amandla" Cultural Group holds a special place among the South African groups because its members live outside.
South Africa and their music, full of deep political content is banned in their native country. "Amandla" is an outstanding phenomenon in South African art because it uses an extraordinary broad range of creative means — from traditional dances to modern rock music, from drama and poetry to jazz. This is a kind of "political theatre" where dances and songs are the main means what helps increase its value.
"Amandla's" popularity is now rapidly growing both in South Africa, where its records are spread despite all the bans, and the world over.
Both audiences and experts highly appreciated the art of the group. A musician of world fame, a famous Soviet conductor Niyazi called "Amandla" "a unique phenomenon".
Though "Amandla" is playing mostly modern music its members representing various nationalities of South Africa — Zulu, Khosa, Shangaan, Venda, Pedi and others, display great respect for traditions of peoples' art.
The strength of "Amandla" is based on solid foundation of cultural traditions, on songs and dances created during several centuries of struggle against colonialism. This defines creative outlook of the group as a mouthpiece of ideals and aspirations of opressed peoples of South Africa, whose liberation struggle is led by a recognized and tested vanguard — the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. The name of the group is a symbol in itself. "Amandla" in Zulu means "power" and its political content is "Power to the People". It is one of the most popular fighting slogans of the ANC.
"Amandla" was founded in 1978 in the period of preparations for World Festival of Youth and Students in Cuba. After the Havana festival where "Amandla" enjoyed great success the ANC decided to preserve its cast on permanent basis.
Members of "Amandla" took part in events of 1976, known as the Soweto uprising. They were forced to leave the country as they were facing inevitable detentions. And today far from their motherland young ANC activists are creating a new culture which has a deep political content and is founded on splendid cultural traditions of peoples of the South Africa.
"Amandla" started with a new concept after Jonas Gwangwa, a renown trombonist and a musician of international class joined the group. He helped transform "Amandla" performance into a theatre-type show with a clearly expressed political content and thus acquire the style that earned it a well-deserved reputation.
In 1980 "Amandla" toured Scandinavian countries, FRG and West Berlin. In 1981 they performed with a great success in Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. In 1982 "Amandla" was warmly received in GDR, USSR, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.
This disc, which follows the first one released in 1981 in Sweden, demonstrates a variety of forms in which "Amandla" is able to perform. It includes a jazz composition "Soweto by Night" and "Penny Whistle Song" played in best popular traditions. But songs undoubtedly have the leading place in "Amandla's" performance. Songs go through the entire show at times functioning independently, at times supporting drama and dance.
"Amandla" is full of creative plans and those who saw and heard its performances rest assured that it is "Amandla" that will create a core of the National theatre of the free South Africa.
Oh! Oh! We will get home, however difficult it may be
Your words are enlightening, comforting and give us courage
Go well, child of Africa
Our nation in its entirety, remembers you
We have wondered around the world for too long
In search of means of freeding ourselves in our land
EMBERS OF SOWETO
Out of the crucible
Warrior army of new age
Despising gas, batons, bullets
Defying centuries of slavery
Advancing without care on armoured cars
Striking metal with clenched fists
Warrior cry "Amandla"
Rising in every throat
Under muzzle of machines
Under muzzle of butcher
Teenagers and the eight-year-oids
Advance into the hail of lead and weight of centuries
And tumble — in an instant tumble
Freeze tumble and sprawl Like rag dolls in the dust
Collapsing under barbed wire eyes
Butchers chorus baying "Vrystaat"! "Vrystaat"!
These the embers of Soweto
Igniting the eyes of Mamelodi
Enflaming the heart of Gugulethu
Burning like flowers in Bonteheuwel.
Winging with the incadescent embers
Warrior cry whirls and soars with collapsing child Ignites the triumphant freedom gun
Mother! children! father! People! Listen! The cry "Vrystaat" dries on assassins' lips.
2. WHAT COULD HAVE GONE WRONG
What could have gone wrong countrymen? (2)
What could have gone wrong that we die like dogs? (2)
Awake! Cast away the veil of darkness (2)
Awake! In this year of the youth (2)
The hour is come for heroes and heroines
Pack up your belongins! Go, join MK. (2)
Come all for training against these disrespectful boers (2)
These disrespectful boers kill heroes of our motherland (2)
This year we mean to fight the boers
with the Spear of the Nation
We might get killed, but we will fight for our land
That land in the South
Do not despair, unite Africans — together
We shall triumph over the boers
Persevere, black brothers, we are almost there
to free you with the Spear
Any time now we shall liberate you
Cowards give way
This is our war
We who are united.
Away is Malebane, he went to Johannesburg
Only to meet a homeless thug
Who assaulted him, knocking him against walls
Walls in utter darkness
Malebane went to Johannesburg
Malebane left by train
The millipid, the train
Because there is no money
And hunger devours all
Back home the wife laments
The children weep from hunger
5. WE WILL LEAVE OUR PARENTS
We will leave out parents
We will leave our parents home
Where both mother, father and our brothers
do not know: have never been
In search of freedom
Leave them alone, we shall get them, we shall revenge
In the evenings, in the dark
They spending sleepless nights because of "umkhonto we sizwe"
They have no peace of mind because mkonto will exterminate them
They have no place to hide, because we are everywhere
This "mkonto we sizwe", we of "mkonto we sizwe"
Everybody knows about mkhonto, wherever they go
They spend sleepless nights because of Sasolberg
Vorster is ill as I am talking to you now.
7. LEAD US, TAMBO
Tambo, lead us,
Lead us, Tambo
Lead us, Tambo,
Let us repossess (2)
This is our year
(It is our year,
The year of the spear) (2)
The spear of the nation) v
(Lead us, Tambo, let us repossess (2) our country)
8. THE CALL IS HEARD
The call from our leadership is heard
Calling countrymen to unite against National Genocide (2)
Calling all African Nationalities
Of all languages
To meet in Bloemfontein for Congress (2)
To meet for a tenacious Union
The day long spoken about has come
Leaders of the masses of our people were there
Men, and you young women give reverence to this day
Remember Sems's rhetoric words on this day
Sung in Zulu and Kosa languages
Recording Engineer R. Raghimov
Editor B. Tikhomirov
Cover design A. Grigoriev
Made in the USSR
This LP was the first of two Russian releases featuring Amandla, part of the ANC's cultural arm in exile. Shirli Gilbert has an excellent essay on Mayibuye and Amandla in the book COMPOSING APARTHEID—Music For and Against Apartheid, edited by Grant Olwage.
View Matsuli's listing here for more information about the group.