Strikes a chord

Book: In Township Tonight: Three Centuries of South African Black City Music and Theatre

Book: In Township Tonight: Three Centuries of South African Black City Music and Theatre

Author: David B Coplan

Publisher: Jacana

Reviewer: Patience Bambalele

South Africa has rich, diverse cultures and an exciting music history.

David B Coplan's latest book In Township Tonight: Three Centuries of South African Black City Music and Theatre confirms that.

The book qualifies as being among the best music books of 2007. The well-researched, ground-breaking book takes you through a thrilling journey of South Africa's music history, apartheid era, theatre and dance.

Local performing arts have come a long way and deserve a big round of applause for their achievement.

Though for three centuries they survived the apartheid odds, today the country can be proud of producing talented musicians.

Times were hard in those days, it was the gun against the drum and eventually, the drum won the struggle.

Once I began reading the book, there were many reasons that kept me glued to the pages.

The first thing was the time invested in compiling the whole book.

Moreover, Coplan has managed to link the founding of Johannesburg and the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley with the history of South African music.

The author explores in rich detail how the struggle has shaped the music industry since 1960 until today.

He gives a comprehensive tour of the origins of orchestras, penny whistlers, composers and gumboots dance.

Coplan has a true understanding of South Africa's rich culture of music and this is reflected in his findings.

Few people can map the history of local music from marabi to jazz, choral to kwela and not forget maskandi, mbaqanga as well as scathamiya.

When musicians such as Bongo Muffin, Trompies, TKZee, Arthur Mafokate, Boom Shaka, Abashante, Mdu Masilela emerged in the late 1990s, a new sound called kwaito was born.

It still rules the dance floor even today.

There is also a unique drama of South Africa's struggle for non-racial democracy and, that achieved, for the very soul of the society in the post-apartheid period.

When times were hard many local artists left the country for greener pastures and to grow musically.

Artists such as Jonas Gwangwa, Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ebrahim, Welcome Msomi, Thuli Duma Kude, Leta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya and many others flew the South African flag.

When it comes to theatre, you cannot record the history of black theatre without mentioning the late Gibson Kente, Sam Mhangwane, Boikie Mohlamme and others.

You cannot afford to ignore groups such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soul Brothers, Mahotella Queens, Isigqi Sesimanjemanje and Phuzushukela.

This book is not necessarily for music fans but for people who are passionate about knowing their music history.

It is a highly recommended read.