Soweto Blues

Submitted by Matthew on 5 September, 2012 - 12:00

Miriam Makeba's song Soweto Blues, written by her ex-husband Hugh Masekela, is a lament for the victims of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa.

On 16 June, police fired on demonstrations led by high-school students protesting the ban on non-Afrikaans languages. Over 200 protestors were killed and many more were injured. The song's use of the language of black South Africans is itself an act of defiance.

More than thirty years since the massacre at Soweto, the post-Apartheid South African state was complicit in another massacre, as platinum miners striking for decent pay and conditions were gunned down by police.

This song could be rewritten as Marikana Blues.

The Ruby Kid


The children got a letter from the master

It said: no more Xhosa, Sotho, no more Zulu.

Refusing to comply they sent an answer

That's when the policemen came to the rescue.

Children were flying bullets dying

The mothers screaming and crying

The fathers were working in the cities

The evening news brought out all the publicity:

Just a little atrocity, deep in the city

Benikuphi ma madoda (where were the men)

Mabedubula abantwana (when the children were being shot)

Benikhupi na (where were you)

Abantwana beshaywa ngezimbokodo (when the children were throwing stones)

Benikhupi na (where were you)

There was a full moon on the golden city

Knocking at the door was the man without pity

Accusing everyone of conspiracy

Tightening the curfew charging people with walking

Yes, the border is where he was awaiting

Waiting for the children, frightened and running

A handful got away but all the others

Hurried their chain without any publicity

Soweto blues — abu yethu a mama

Soweto blues — they are killing all the children

Soweto blues — without any publicity

Soweto blues — oh, they are finishing the nation

Soweto blues — while calling it black on black

Soweto blues — but everybody knows they are behind it

Soweto blues — without any publicity

Soweto blues — god, somebody, help!

Soweto blues — (abu yethu a mama)

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