Poet Thabiso Mohare explores the musical life of Soweto, South Africa's largest and most famous township. 1/2. Thabiso looks at the musical heritage of the area.
In a two part series Thabiso Mohare explores the musical life of Soweto, South Africa's largest and most famous township, which sprawls over a large area outside Johannesburg. From 1905 onwards Soweto housed migrant black workers and black people forcibly removed from their homes in the city under the Apartheid government, so drew in people, cultures, languages and traditions from all over the country, and became a hotbed of black culture. Townships were supposed to feel isolated - tribal separation was encouraged, while urban mixedness and hybrid cultures were legislated against, but in Soweto (an acronym of South West Townships), certain kinds of music represented defiance against the provincial existence imposed by the apartheid machine, and jazz in particular remained a symbol of black urbanity and of the political influence of black Americans. The unique neighbourhood of Sophiatown in Johannesburg, a mixed area with a vibrant jazz scene, was one of the communities partly dispersed to Meadowlands, Soweto when Sophiatown was razed during the Apartheid era to make way for white housing, but the love of music, and what it represented, survived through clubs and jazz appreciation societies.
In the first programme Johannesburg-based poet Thabiso Mohare looks at the musical heritage of the area, and talks to Sowetan musicians including Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse, Sibongele Khumalo and Jonas Gwangwa, about the intersection in their lives of music and politics, and their memories of streets filled with a rich mix of sounds from gramophones and radios to church choirs, workers choirs, and bands playing music from jazz, mbaqanga and soul to rock.