Tumi Molekane-Once Upon A Time

Tumi Molekane is a South African hip hop artist who mainly performs in Soweto, South Africa. He is originally from Tanzania, a country where his parents exiled to escape the apartheid in South Africa. However, Tumi went back to South Africa when he was 11 years old. He is now a prominent hip hop artist, known for producing songs with conscious lyrics. For example, in a song called Once Upon A Time, Tumi collaborates with Chinese Man, a French hip hop band. In this song, Tumi tells his version of African history through creative historical references and wordplay. For example,

“Once upon a time in this great land
European settlers would set off on a cave man quest
Dutch king summoning Jan Van Beek…
The rest was Queen Elizabeth conquest
As portrayed quite well by Cate Blanchett
Great actress, wait I may digress!
Before that was pyramids and villages where pigmy little man and other such denizens rest”

In the above lyrics, Tumi is referring Jan van Riebeeck, who is a Dutch explorer who went to Cape Town to establish a Dutch Cape Colony in the 17th century. In the next line, Tumi is referring to how the British Empire colonized South Africa on the behalf of Queen Elizabeth I. He then references Cate Blanchett for playing Queen Elizabeth I in the film Elizabeth. The question is why might he say the actress’ name if he knows he is digressing? This is because the word “Blanchett” and the word “conquest” are slant rhymes. Moreover, on the last two lines, Tumi refers to the indigenous population as “pigmy little man” and “denizens”. The words satirically reflect what the Europeans had viewed of the native population when they first came to South Africa. In the next verse, Tumi says

“Break a law, take a farm you get our your acres I’d sooner root for
That than a handout with arms embargo
 It’ll be my own Zimbabwe so Colin Powell will swallow my bow
And arrow and follow that”

Through these lyrics, Tumi touches upon a land appropriation issue in South Africa and says it could be radicalized like Zimbabwe.  He then says how Colin Powell, which represents the U.S., could impose arms embargo on South Africa by “swallowing bows and arrows”.

Tumi through the two verses, touches upon the past and present issues of South Africa. He then ultimately pays homage to his country as he sings,

“Bring out the marching band
Let’ em play an anthem for our continent”


Prophets Of Da City-Neva Again

Prophets Of Da City was a Hip Hop group in South Africa from 1988 to 2001. The group consisted of three rappers, Ready D, Shaheen and Ramone, the three black South Africans who lived in the discriminatory apartheid era.  The rappers, having been social outcasts during the apartheid era were renowned for producing songs with lyrics which commentated social and political conditions of South Africa. For example, one of the songs the Prophets of Da City produced was Neva Again, a song which produced in 1994, a year in which the apartheid regime collapsed. As such, the lyrics of the song are full of hope. The song begins with Nelson Mandela, proclaiming the end of the apartheid regime by saying in his speech, “Never and Never Again shall it be that this beautiful land shall again experience the oppression of one by another”. The song congratulates Nelson Mandela, calling him “Excellent, Finally a black president” and commemorates revolutionaries all over the world who continue to fight against the oppressors by saying it is dedicated to those “who are down with the revolution, all over the world  and never snoozing…who are down with a struggle G,even when things got ugly”. After this reflexive tone, the song changes to hope. It jubilantly exclaims

“Africa rejoice, raise your fists , raise your voice.

Africa bring the noise cause you’ve gotta make THE CHOICE.

Cause ever since the oppressor came here he messed up Azania

Made ya slaves and he even  raped ya,

But I made my x on the paper, so mr oppressor I guess I’ll see your ass later alligator.”

The lyrics here are noteworthy because of three reasons. First, the content is jovial and hopeful as it tells Africa to be happy, to rise up and to make a strong presence because “the oppressor” is gone. Second, the lyrics rhyme; rejoice-voice-noise-choice, Azania-ya, oppressor-alligator, making the song catchy and rhythmic. Third, the artist mentions the word “Azania” in the song. This is actually what the Ancient Greeks had called when they referred to parts of Southern Africa. The word Azania may have been used to vividly portray the time when Africa was under the European subordination.

Prophets of Da City through the song Neva Again says how South Africa is liberated from the European oppressors and declares that the country would not be oppressed again.

Neva Again!