A Reggae Memory

While growing up there were not many raggae songs I listened to. There was one artist, though, whose songs I enjoyed: Eddie Grant. I remember singing (especially the chorus!) and dancing to the song I don’t wanna dance: 

There was one song, however, that was not played over the airwaves in South Africa because of its lyrical content: Give me hope Joanna. The song refers to the Apartheid regime that was in place at that time in South Africa (Joanna being a reference to Johannesburg). I first heard the song when I was in Mauritius and we were dancing in the evening at the hotel. We had so much fun dancing to the rhythm and, of course, singing the chorus. What was ironic is that most of the guests at the hotel were South Africans – the very people that the government did not want to hear the song.

This Eddie Grant song holds many memories for me: the time spent with people I love in Mauritius, the fun we had dancing the nights away while we were there, the parties we had at home with family while singing and moving to this beat (of course we brought a copy of this song home).

A-Z blogging challengeDo you have any reggae memories?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was inspired by Frizz’s A-Z Challenge. This week R has been tagged)

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31 thoughts on “A Reggae Memory

  1. Colline, I remember this song as a youngster. Back then, I had no idea what this song was about. It sounds so happy and hopeful. And it seems that those listening to the music are oblivious to it’s message just as I was as a child. I wish that as a child, we had been taught more about civil rights and the effect segregation has on all people. I now want to read the lyrics to see what Eddie Grant was trying to say – you know, music as poetry.

    What also struck me is that all the back up dancers and band were white, except for one dancer. What a shame! What I enjoy about listening to and experiencing reggae, is the authentic representation with those who have lived and experienced the ideas expressed within the music.

    Just as white men can’t jump…white people can’t dance. Hee, hee, well I mean not exactly like black people can. Love reggae, BTW!

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    1. This was shot at a concert in France – which is probably why the dancers, etc are white.
      Many people who listen to pop songs do not really listen to the words. We, of course, picked up on the words in this particular song as we were from South Africa and as we were no longer children we were more politically aware than children. Having said that, the political awareness of a child does depend on the environment in which they live. I taught children during the apartheid era who were 13 years old and were more politically aware than I was at that age.

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        1. Thank you for finding this for me Frizz. It must have given him a lot of satisfaction to perform in front of South Africans during the post-Apartheid era.

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        2. Thank you so much for sharing this Frizztext. What a treat this was to see a celebration of South Africa’s hero, freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela’s birthday and to see black and white standing side by side enjoying the music. I believe that music, art, laughter and enjoyment will help to remove barriers between cultures and unite all of us together as one.

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      1. And of the culture to which you belong, I think. As white people, do we really know and understand the struggles that other cultures endure? I was stunned to realize when I began writing my blog and journeying through its many posts and speaking with many black people, that I really did not know much of their experiences at all even though I had always had an interest in this area since I was young and was introduced to these concepts on a very basic level. I thought I had at least a minor grasp of the civil rights movement.

        Much of what I thought I knew, was not universal and shared by all. And much of what I have come to learn is heartbreaking and raw. So much so, that I have taken a break from researching and writing the blog for a while to re-ground myself. When I really looked at the issues that other people faced and continue to face and began to really learn and understand them on a personal level I began to feel quite vulnerable and found myself in somewhat of a mourning process. I was not expecting this experience of grief and it really took me by surprise.

        Perhaps grief, for some, is the road to authentic compassion and empathy. It has been an achingly difficult road to travel.

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        1. It certainly depends on what your own experiences are (no matter what your race) and with whom you work, as well as what type of job you do. It definitely take a certain type of person to work with the disenfranchised – one who is able to feel empathy yet not let pity and emotional responses take over the way way in which you help people.

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  2. It is easy to believe that this is their problem (black peoples), but if we think about these words and apply them to any other political situation in any country where freedom is threatened for any member of that country, we realize that this is our collective problem. Together as a collective group, we are stronger fighting for the same issue. If we choose to stand together rather than apart, we can fight what is right and best for all of us – our freedom.

    Below are the haunting lyrics to the song, ‘Gimme Hope Joanna’ by Eddie Grant.

    Well Jo’anna she runs a country
    She runs in Durban and the Transvaal
    She makes a few of her people happy, oh
    She don’t care about the rest at all
    She’s got a system they call apartheid
    It keeps a brother in a subjection
    But maybe pressure can make Jo’anna see
    How everybody could a live as one

    [chorus:]
    Gimme hope, Jo’anna
    Hope, Jo’anna
    Gimme hope, Jo’anna
    ‘Fore the morning come
    Gimme hope, Jo’anna
    Hope, Jo’anna
    Hope before the morning come

    I hear she make all the golden money
    To buy new weapons, any shape of guns
    While every mother in black Soweto fears
    The killing of another son
    Sneakin’ across all the neighbours’ borders
    Now and again having little fun
    She doesn’t care if the fun and games she play
    Is dang’rous to ev’ryone

    [chorus]

    She’s got supporters in high up places
    Who turn their heads to the city sun
    Jo’anna give them the fancy money
    Oh to tempt anyone who’d come
    She even knows how to swing opinion
    In every magazine and the journals
    For every bad move that this Jo’anna makes
    They got a good explanation

    [chorus]

    Even the preacher who works for Jesus
    The Archbishop who’s a peaceful man
    Together say that the freedom fighters
    Will overcome the very strong
    I wanna know if you’re blind Jo’anna
    If you wanna hear the sound of drums
    Can’t you see that the tide is turning
    Oh don’t make me wait till the morning come

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  3. hi Colline,
    thanks for your interesting words about the political background, new for me!
    “There was one song, however, that was not played over the airwaves in South Africa because of its lyrical content: Give me hope Joanna. The song refers to the Apartheid regime that was in place at that time in South Africa (Joanna being a reference to Johannesburg).”

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  4. It’s so long since I heard this song and all I remembered was the chorus; I must not have noticed the other lyrics, thanks so much for telling us the history.

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