The Secret Of How We Used Reggae Music As A Survival Tool In Africa

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A major figure in world music, Jimmy Cliff has painstakingly crossed many rivers to become an international superstar.

Life is very tough and full of lessons. In Africa, during our school days and darkest periods, to avoid social problems we fought to stay focused. On Sundays, we listen to whatever the preacher tells us, but away from the pastors sight, we used the reggae music as a tool to direct us on the right track and expressed our emotions.

In the sixties and seventies in Ghana, we listened to the songs of reggae pioneers, such as John Holt, Desmond Decker etc, but the musician whose songs played a significant role in our lives is Jimmy Cliff. His music was encouraging and inspiring.  It educated and made us tough in our environment with the desire to succeed in life. Below are some of the selected tunes of Jimmy Cliff we dwelled on.

Hard Road To Travel

We listened to reggae from dusk till dawn and the lyric encouragement helps us let go of suppressed feelings.

“It’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go, but I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed, my mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through,” sings Jimmy Cliff. The hope and faith we had from such songs became our tool for survival.

Struggling Man

Everyman has a right to live, Love is all that we have to give, Together we struggle by your will to survive, Then together we fight just to stay alive, Struggling man has got to move
Struggling man, no time to lose, I’m a struggling man And I’ve got to move on.

Born To Win

I am born to win, Been lost and found, turned upside down, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Been cast aside and been despised, uhm, uhm, uhm, But I’m Daniel in the lion’s den, and Jonah in the belly of the whale, I’m not alone so I cannot fail, no, no, no. And I’m born to win.

Sitting In Limbo

Sitting here in Limbo, Waiting for the tide turn, Yeah, now, sitting here in Limbo, So many things I’ve got to learn, Meanwhile, they’re putting up a resistance,  But I know that my faith will lead me on.

You Can Get It If You Really Want

You can get it if you really want, You can get it if you really want, You can get it if you really want, But you must try, try and try, try and try ,You’ll succeed at last.

While we listen to such encouraging lyrics we are inspired in such a way that we don’t feel the pain we go through in our daily hustle, often eliminating the boredomness and depression. Even though Reggae music is not much promoted commercially by MTV, the power of the music can’t be denied.

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Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh were both against Apartheid in South Africa. In the picture, Jimmy Cliff wears T-Shirt with the picture of murdered South African hero, Steve Biko

Synthetic World

Your world is plastic; Can see through to the other side, Your cities are made of wood, Antiques are what you’ve got inside, Houses are paper but folks don’t hear a word you say
Friendship’s like acid, It burns, burns, burns as it slides away.

House of Exile

There’s a day of feasting and a day of famine, Day of sadness and a day of joy, You could see in the day of feasting, Life isn’t just a little play-like toy., So the day arrived when you least expected, Cos you always thought you were well protected, Now you feel like a fish out of water, So now you’re wondering what’s the matter.

“You can change the style, Of playing reggae, You can change the Rhythm of playing reggae, But never ever, Change the message,” sings Lucky Dube in Reggae Strong, because it’s a music that carries the message of truth and the light. If you don’t like the truth, you can never be a friend of reggae.

The Amazon page of Jimmy Cliff:

In The Shoes Of Steve Biko: I Write What I Like

Steve Biko sacrificed his life to make what South Africa is today

Steve Biko was the father of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. In 1977, while in custody, he was severely beaten to death.

During the Apartheid era, the Dutch government through legislation came up with laws that restricted the mixing of non-white South Africans and whites. World leaders, including Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, and the foreign media kept sealed lips and watched the crimes, atrocities, discrimination, grim terror and repression against South Africans.

The saddest part of the story is the imprisonment of some of the ANC members, including Nelson Mandela for 27 years, at the notorious Robben Island prisons, for his efforts to end Apartheid in his country, and the brutal murder of Steve Biko, whose articles against Apartheid he named ‘I write what I like’ were considered a threat to national security.

Despite Mandela’s legacy in fighting apartheid and helping South Africa seek healing and forgiveness, nothing has changed significantly in South Africa and around the world in regards to racism and discrimination against blacks. During the Apartheid era the foreign media failed the entire Africa, including South Africans, history has repeated itself again as we see the incompetence of the foreign media again on African issues.

In journalism, the foreign media think there are certain facts about diseases, such as Aids, Ebola, Lassa fever etc, which needed to be hidden from the public, as a measure to protect the image of their country. America, Belgium, France, Holland etc, had a hand in the Aids and Ebola medical crimes against Africa, but they continue to enjoy impunity and the support of the foreign media.

Just imagine, Belgium is now at war against terrorism, fighting hard against crime, yet the media has failed to address Belgium as a country supporting crime. If there is no statue of Hitler for killing six million Jews, why should they erect a statue of a king that maimed and killed over 10 million Africans, including women and children? Are they not supporting crime? Journalism without integrity and honesty is similar to a country ruled by a corrupt politician. 

As an African writer, I take a serious look at the setbacks and flaws of the foreign journalism. When it comes to issues pertaining Africa, there is always partiality in the foreign journalism.They find it very hard to write the truth and it will always remain the same as long as they can’t write the truth of the origins of Aids and Ebola.

There are codes of ethics governing journalism but it’s completely abused. One can hold a degree or diploma in journalism, but once you are not obeying the rules of journalism, means you are not a qualified journalist. I like what I write even if it generates hate. That will not change my style of writing because I’m proud to be a true born African and I will continue to defend my continent against lies and injustice.

Life in Apartheid-Era South Africa