Society of African Journal Editors

South African Journal of Sociology

Satirical opposition in popular music within Apartheid and Post-Apartheid South Africa

Authors: Michael Drewett

Journal: South African Journal of Sociology

Within the constraints of apartheid censorship of popular music, some musicians used satire as a means of expressing their opposition to prevailing inequalities and contradictions in society. This paper explores the approach and selected songs of David Kramer, James Phillips and Warrick Sony, analysing the extent to which, by adopting different persona and voice, these musicians were able to challenge audiences and bypass censorship. Simon Friths analysis of music as ‘words in performance’ offers a useful insight into understanding the problem of musicians conveying meaning to an audience. The stance of the musicians, together with an analysis of some of their music, indicates that satire was used more for its aesthetic appeal than as a means of evading censorship. This has certainly been the case with South Africa's major post-apartheid proponent of the satirical form in music — Matthew van der Want. The paper explores the changed meanings and circumstances of post-apartheid satirical music. Brief mention is made of works by Mzwakhe Mbuli and David Kramer in the 1990's, to emphasize the difficulties involved in satire as a means of conveying critical or scornful messages. It is argued that satire continues to be a complex format to use in post-apartheid South Africa.