Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My people, wake up

It was in the 1970s and 80s that Sonny Okosuns achieved his greatest success, forcefully projecting through his music a message of African unity, pride, resistance to oppression and sympathy for the struggles for independence raging across the continent. The repressive apartheid policy in Southern Africa was the central target of his attacks, so much so that in 1978, his Fire In Soweto LP was officially banned by the government of South Africa.

Over the years, various critics (myself included) have occasionally questioned whether his persistent railing against repressive governments in South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, etc. might have been something of an opportunistic publicity ploy. After all, Naija was not exactly the New Island of Utopia either, but Sonny never went out of his way to indict any of Nigeria's brutal military dictators or civilian kleptocrats on wax. If anything, he was pretty chummy with a lot of the leaders.

But regardless of all that, Okosuns' music did do a lot to raise awareness among the masses as to what was going on in Africa. Speaking for myself, being a kid at the time, I didn't know anything about the situation in South Africa. Hell, I didn't even know that there was a situation in South Africa until Sonny told me. First time I heard the word "apartheid" was in the song "Fire in Soweto." I didn't know where the hell Soweto was or why there might be fire there, didn't know that there was any sort of unpleasantness going down in Namibia--I found out about all that stuff because Sonny Okosuns' sang about it. I'm sure many people my age (and even older) might offer a similar testimony.

Okosuns' music was the rallying call for the groundswell of support for South Africa that swept across the continent, so much so that in 1978 his Fire in Soweto LP was banned in South Africa. His songs stayed on repeat as Nigeria, at great expense, took the leading role amongst African nations in advocating for the end of apartheid and the liberation of black South Africans.

Today, thirty years later, black South Africans are free... Free to kill immigrants from other African countries, with a special emphasis on Nigerians.

Ain't that a bitch?

"Tell My People"
"Fire in Soweto (original version)"

Please wake up.


Gam said...

Rest in peace, brother.
Beautiful music for a beautiful continent. African joy. African pain.

Anonymous said...

thanks for your posts - and this one in particular - I have cut and pasted it into a mail list of fellow south africans here and in the diaspora ... a sad south african - chris a

Comb & Razor said...

thanks a lot, Chris... here's hoping things get better soon.

keep ya head up!


Anonymous said...

When apartheid ended, I was one of those that wondered where Okosun was going to get his hits from. He did well after that though. RIP Sonny.

Agnespalm said...

I stumble into your blogs today and my joy was fulfilled knowing that there are still music lovers like me out there. Thanks for your great collection.

I tried downloading Dizzyk's Sweet Music and windows media player kept poping up why?

Comb & Razor said...

glad you could join us, Agnespalm!

ummm... what application do you play mp3s with? is it Windows Media?