Remembering: SABC Choristers.

I would like to think a large part of my music nostalgia and a subsequent influence of my now music taste lives in the stereo of my father’s Volkswagen Citi Golf from back in the day in the early 2000’s. I fondly remember tunes from the likes of Sankomota, Jonas Gwangwa, Dorothy Masuka, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Khadja Nin and a particular Africa by Salif Keita all from this time in my life. To date I do not allow myself to listen to a recording of Caiphus Semenya‘s Matswale if it is not the specific recording of the song from his 1996 album release of ‘Woman Got a Right to Be’ – given this was the CD my dad had in his collection and would play in the Citi Golf.

Another standout from this collection of CDs my dad held – which I should probably look for – was the music of the now defunct SABC Choir/Choristers. He had them all, be it the iconic ‘Bafana Bafana’ album released in buildup to World Cup ’98, The ‘Education’ album or the ‘Ke Kgale’ album released post a unprecedented break and at the height of the ‘HIV and Aids period’ in the country. The former to which I can probably sing every song word for word. I mean, who could forget when the title single began with the choral harmonies of “Neil Tovey, Madigage, Erik Tinkler ba qale Shoes Moshoeu…“.

I’d like to think of the SABC Choristers, it’s initial motives and the contents of the institution as representing a time in our country when we all seemed to collectively care for the issues of our country and seemed to all want to take part in addressing the issues we faced. It seems to me as though at some point along the line we lost the rallying South African nature that quite literally birthed our nation and got us to our now democratic state.

I say this because the SABC Choristers were a State funded institution that acted as a cross bridge for other government divisions and a custodian for whatever trials and tribulations they encountered. The SABC Choristers was at the fore front and rallying when in year 1999 ,Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, made a Call to Action amidst an education problem in the country, they were there to address and advocate during the upsurge of the HIV Aids outbreak, they were always at the forefront cheering on our respective national sports teams and representatives alike.

Where is our choir now amidst the domestic violence crisis we are facing as a country, where was our choir when our Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe, where was our choir with a rendition of “Phakama Mabokke bokke, Phakama Siya Kolisi…” when our boys brought home the Rugby World Cup.

The choir encapsulated our state, our diversity, expressed our joy when need be and likewise our sorrows. They had songs composed in our varying languages, they had reimagining’s of some of our country’s musical prides and compositions. A true symbol of patriarchy in the form of choir and song.

I thought of how I could go about this post, be it a lengthy detailing of how the choir came to be, who can be credited for its establishment, a detailing of the contents of the songs and the music or even a breaking down of how – like with everything else wrong with the current state of the SABC – the Hlaudi era can be pointed to as being responsible for the dismiss of the choir.

But ultimately, I just miss our choir, I miss the unifying spirit it exerted and I miss having a sense of pride for my country.