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December 13, 2003

Nelson Mandela on stage with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in a scene from Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony

The Guardian (UK)

Archive footage shows a South African crowd in the 1980s singing the anthem Senzenina. Over and over they repeat the title in those inimitably moving harmonies, as the subtitles translate for us: "What have we done?" The second verse suggests an answer. "Is it because we are black?"

Not even the American civil-rights movement of the 1960s could match the anti-apartheid movement for the power of its music. But the thousands who packed the Free Mandela concerts or who bought the Indestructible Beat of Soweto compilations will have little idea of the depth and power that the music has in situ. The hymns and chants that underscored the movement come from a long history of Zulu, Xhoza and Sutu singing. At its most complex and sophisticated, it has given us the harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the elegant piano pieces of Abdullah Ibrahim. In its most vividly political form, toyi-toyi dancers mime movements from the hunt as they chant joyful threats at police holding sjamboks and machine guns.

These scenes are part of Amandla!, a prize-winning documentary by Lee Hirsch. Hirsch and his producer Sherry Simpson spent the better part of a decade putting it together, and the result is not just revelatory and moving, but also a consummate piece of documentary film-making. More

Posted by acapnews at December 13, 2003 9:38 AM


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