Hugh Masekela and AKA Images via Instagram @hughmasekela @akaworldwide

#UnrestSA: What would Bra Hugh say? Power of music past and present

One thing that has the power to unite South Africans has always been music. We have a look at times when local artists spoke out against unrest and political wrongs in our country.


Hugh Masekela and AKA Images via Instagram @hughmasekela @akaworldwide

In the past, South African greats like Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa have spoken up against political unrest in song and aimed at uniting the nation with their provoking lyrics and sounds. 

Speaking out against unlawfulness, corruption, unrest and other social issues is something that is still very much present in our local music today. 

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This past week has been marred by looting, unrest and death in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The unrest sparked heavy conversations on social media. Many reverted back to music for comfort and peace. As much as political instability is addressed through print and online media, it is also widely addressed in music both old and new school. 

From jazz to hip-hop and from amapiano to gqom, most artists have addressed their thoughts about South African politics in song. We round up some of the greats.

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South Africa has come a long way transitioning into a post-apartheid society after Nelson Mandela became president in 1994.

Music — from the legendary Brenda Fassie, Miriam Makeba, Chicco Twala, Hugh Masekela and many more — filled the rooms of jazz lounges and bars in the 60s, 70s and 80s and is still a top choice for many South Africans.

Hugh Masekela: ‘Thuma Mina’

A significant song in the conversation of politics in music is Hugh Masekela’s Thuma Mina. Although the song was first performed in 2002, it speaks to all South Africans and references a number of social issues that South Africa has faced over the years. 

Masekela opens the song and sings:

“I wanna be there when the people start to turn it around, when they triumph over poverty. I wanna be there when the people win the battle against aids. I wanna lend a hand.”

The song further speaks to individual responsibility and fighting for the greater good of our country. 



Kiernan Forbes known popularly as AKA has addressed politics a few times in his music. The first notable mention is in the intro to his album Touch My Blood in which he raps:

“Pre ‘94 I was laanie. Post ‘94, kwenzakalani? Grand folks voted the party. Even threw us in the garbage.”


The second is his verse in his collaboration with YoungstaCPT Main Ou’s that pays tribute to coloured street culture.

In the verse AKA raps: “Madibs is in the grave, the streets is in a mess. Where the real ANC youth league at? Find them right there where the cheese at”. 

It might be safe to say that AKA is calling out the ANC for the multiple allegations against the party for corruption. This is thought-provoking because the rapper has publicly voiced his support for the ANC but also criticised the party for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Sama-winning rapper Kwesta addressed a few social issues in his song Fire in the Ghetto from his latest album, g.o.d Guluva. His main message is in the title of the song. 

Kwesta has always been passionate about his hometown of Katlehong and has expressed the wish of wanting to empower his people through his music. 


As much as there is frustration on social media, there is a similar frustration that South African musicians share through their music. 

As the events of the past week start to calm down, many South Africans are still left heartbroken while others are left without homes, food and clothing on their backs.

Will our local musicians come together to comfort through song or are these events something that should simply be left in the past?

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