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 In this song, Tumi tells his version of African history through creative historical references and wordplay.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”


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