Johnny Dyani Quartet – Song for Biko (Steeple Chase,1994)
Recorded July 18th, 1978
Johnny Dyani (bass)
Dudu Pukwana (alto saxophone)
Don Cherry (cornet)
Makaya Ntshoko (drums)
Amália Rodrigues sings the fado “Barco Negro” in a scene from Henri Verneuil’s 1955 film LES AMANTS DU TAGE.
Translation of the French conversation in the scene (which paraphrases the Portuguese lyrics of the song being performed by Amália behind it):
Child — Do you like it?
Woman — Very much. I’m sorry I don’t understand Portuguese. It must be beautiful.
Child — It’s the wife of a fisherman who died at sea. She goes down to the beach every night and talks to him as if he were alive. She tells him… She tells him… love things.
Man — [paraphrasing the singer] “I woke up this morning trembling next to you, afraid that I was less beautiful than yesterday. But your eyes told me, ‘No.’
“When you opened the door, the sun was gliding along the sea and your black boat was dancing in the light. Standing on the rocks, I saw you hoist sail and turn towards the open sea, while waving happily.
“The women praying at night along the shore say that you never returned. Madwomen, my love, madwomen! You never left. You’re everywhere around me, as always… In the wind, throwing sand against the windowpanes; in the water, singing on the fire; in the empty chair, staring at me; in the dark of the hearth; in the warmth of the bed; in the crook of my shoulder… You are there always. Always there. Always.”
I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep she dreamt Life stood before her, and held in each hand a gift – in the one Love, in the other Freedom. And she said to the woman, ‘Choose!’
And the woman waited long: and she said, ‘Freedom!’
And Life said, ‘Thou hast well chosen. If thou hadst said, “Love,” I would have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. In that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand.’
I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.
We have left the land and have embarked. We have burned our bridges behind us—indeed, we have gone farther and destroyed the land behind us. Now, little ship, look out! Beside you is the ocean: to be sure, it does not always roar, and at times it lies spread out like silk and gold and reveries of graciousness. But hours will come when you will realize that it is infinite and that there is nothing more awesome than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt free and now strikes the walls of this cage! Woe, when you feel homesick for the land as if it had offered more freedom—and there is no longer any “land”.
~ From Friedrich Nietzsche’s Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (The Joyful Science) (1882/1887); translation by Walter Kaufmann.
“I knew Steve Biko,” I say again, thinking no one has heard me.
“We heard you the first time,” you reply. “So you knew Steve Biko – who is dead. We are looking for someone who knows Julius Malema – who is alive. The dead are of no use to budding entrepreneurs – except if you are inheriting from them.”
“Malema thinks only of himself,” I say. “Steve Biko thought of everyone except himself.”
“That’s why he is dead – and you are poor,” you reply. “The good disciple mirrors the master. So before you become a disciple, choose the right master.”
“What about the master?” I ask. “Can the master be good, if his disciples are poor?”
“Ah!” you say. “That’s a trick-question. If you give me some silver coins I might answer that.”
“Where will a poor man find silver coins to pay to learn whether his master is poor if he is poor?” I ask.
“Why does a poor man ask such a question when he cannot afford to know the answer?” you say.
“On reflection, I may be able to help you,” I say. “I may already be Malema’s disciple. The Imam at my mosque says we are all corrupt if we do not fight corruption.”
“I don’t have time to help you resolve your confusion,” you say.
“I prefer to confuse my enemies; not my friends.”
~ Shabbir Banoobhai
(thanks to Mphutlane wa Bofelo for sharing this on Facebook)
“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
~ Bantu Steven Biko
It’s 35 years today since Biko was murdered by apartheid security police. The cause for which he died has been sold out by the very leaders who should have been at the vanguard of change he speaks about in this interview from German TV:
Simphiwe Dana sings about the tragedy of the lack of material change for the majority of South Africa’s poor since the transition to “democracy” in 2004:
“All of us exist in a swarming, pulsating world, driven mostly by an unconscious that we ignore and misunderstand. Within the framework of “civilisation” we remain as savage as possible. Against the dense traffic of modern life, we fortify our animal selves with video violence, imaginary sex, and music… but our inflamed and disoriented psyches smoulder on beneath the wet leaves of habit.”
~ from the sleeve notes of Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians’ 1988 album, Globe of Frogs.