Found Objects N°21

German singer-songwriter Joy Denalane (born to a South African father who’s a cousin of Hugh Masekela) recorded her song ‘Im Ghetto von Soweto’ twice. I prefer the original, less explanatory, German version (a tentative translation of which I’m including below) to the later English adaptation (rewritten for an international audience, I assume — it has some extra lines at pains to explain why, for example, one of the figures in her lyrics was detained). Masekela himself also contributed to the song and features in the above video they shot in Soweto in 2003, mixing it with archival material.

This is auntie Jane’s house
When the first shots were fired
Come in quickly, my child, and don’t cry
Lie down on the kitchen floor
This is Orlando West
in June 1976
See the school kids run
The boy Pieterson
The police are shooting them

A stone flies, a shoe drops
A car burns, a child runs
Images everyone here knows

When the brown dust settles
What remains is the grey smoke in the air

In the ghetto, ghetto of Soweto

This is auntie Nancy’s house
She wanted to do Karabo’s laundry
He nearly missed the train in the morning
She pulls his pass from his jacket’s pocket
’84 in Diepkloof
It’s already been a week
Did anybody see whether they took him
To prison at John Vorster Square?

They stopped him, he doesn’t have a pass
They took him, and put him in jail
Only now did she find out

When the red dust settles
What remains is the brown smoke in the air

In the ghetto, ghetto of Soweto

It should have been a day of joy
At auntie Eve’s house
The daughter gave birth to a child that night
But both are lost
They are positive
In Moroka, Pimville, Dube…
No house is safe
They battled apartheid but then came Aids
And they fight it in 2002

It used to be TBC from the mines
Today they’re infected with HIV
I’m talking about every second pregnant woman

When the brown dust settles
What remains is the grey smoke in the air

In Soweto

Stands Auntie’s house…


3 thoughts on “Found Objects N°21

  1. Nice reminder of her phantastic 2003 debut album! I also recommend the track “Vier Frauen” (4 women), a multi-lingual collaboration with Sara Tavares (Cape Verde), Chiwoniso (Zimbabwe) and Deborah from Sens Unik (Switzerland) based on a Nina Simone song.
    Unfortunately, her follow-up album was geared towards the US market and sung completely in English, which for me took away most of her unique approach and made it just into a below average RnB album measured by US standards.
    Great translation, just change “underground” to “mines”. 🙂

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