June 3, 2020
#Music | Revisiting SA Township Protest Song 'Jikijela' Amidst #BlackLivesMatter Recent Events

The long history of the black race struggle has taken a significant turn these past few days and it calls for our attention as Africans. In these times of unrest, we are compelled to not forget those who fought the injustice way before us. As the world acknowledges that Black Lives do Matter, Soweto born and raised Letta Mbuli’s “Jikijela” remains a tangible picture of black protest against police brutality and white supremacy. The 80s repetitive chant sets on lamentation undertones and a mid-tempo bluesy vibe. Letta relies on the guitar to follow her voice as she pushes her refrain with passion and grief.

Seeking to capture excessive and oppressive behavior that has become status quo in South Africa, this song marks a particular event in the country’s history when young people of townships retaliated with stones against armed Apartheid police forces. “Throw in the stones/We will stone them” sings Mbuli in Xhosa imposing the obvious irony that a stone compared to a gun is a lost battle. Still the image is powerful, just as black Americans protests are faced with the overpowering police forces. The message is being therefore clearly relayed; the black people have been resilient for centuries and still are for more to come. That is the spirit of hope that will nourish you as you listen to this inspirational song. Hopefully you will feel inspired to take action as much as you can for the Black causes that affect you and yours.

In 2016, a jazzy version of the song was released by rebel South African singer Thandiswa Mazwai on her album Bedele. The refreshed “Jikijela” version successfully featured spoken words that are significant to the theme. At the background you can hear a male voice say, “Police brutality that you can see must come to an end”, then a young lady added, “our future and the future of our children and our children's children is at stake” and we couldn’t agree more.

“Jikijela”  serves as a reminder that our destination is to come and we need to soldier on until our race is finally glorified without question. Let’s shape our destiny forward together.

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