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 Black & White Calypso’s Piece of Ground

Black & White Calypso’s Piece of Ground

If one needs to drop a name of a Pale SAfrican Folk Singer Songwriter whose music did indeed move ‘n motivate SAfricans – this despite being heavily banned from State Radio Controlled airplay - then it’s Jeremy Taylor. Gallo Records, to their credit, did issue JT’s satirical antigovernment songs on record -desk-mix live concert recordings. Jeremy is an internationally renowned ‘contemporary folk singer & songwriter’ only known in his adopted country for composing satirical ‘underground’ (banned) hits such as Ag Pleez Deddy or The Black & White Calypso (1959/61), among many. But, it was JT not the Sugarman who really did inspire a nation (moving underground); he wrote & sang Piece of Ground in 1960;it became an ‘underground struggle song’ in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s, when the UDF & ANC (& later the PAC, we are led to believe) adopted & adapted Piece of Ground -recorded by Miriam Makeba & produced by Harry Belafonte in New York in 1964; eliminated from the South African issued LP by Gallo Africa - that Ivory ‘n Ebony Tower of post 94 revolutionary & struggle credentials based in down-town Johannesburg!? Seriously! ...check out Piece of Ground >>

As with any musician, poet, author who ‘chirped’ and publically aired alternative views & antigovernment feelings, Jeremy was watched, as they would say, and then eliminated from history. He didn’t seem to fit the post-’94 PC profile; he had so-called ‘credentials’ -banned from re-turning home after a UK trip in the 70’s, for 9 years. But given how little South Africans know (or care?) about musicians & music from this Silent Revolution, now & then, history is there for the taking.

Inziles Exiles it’s the Branding What Counts

In the newly liberated SAfrica we were extremely polite (sensitive& careful?) not to de-glorify the returning home of our ‘popular’ Exiled Musician Heroes in Arms whose music, for better or worse, was at least recorded while they were out there in the political wilderness. Filled with admiration & awe for their contribution to our freedom, but to throw Rodriguez into the same struggle-story mix, is a bit much, if not a slap in the face (or worse) for those who really did have a hard time because of what they had to say, play and sing; opposing oppression & injustice. Certainly Rodriguez now gets credit where it’s due. But, as tough and as admirable as it was for our Musician’s in Exile to make ends meet, there is another important hidden historic cold fact; the missing words & music of those who stayed to face the music here at home. Their contributions, so to speak, could only be captured in concert, via word of mouth or the odd reel-tape desk-mix recording… the sort of ‘stuff’ that may well be ‘hidden somewhere’ in the ‘contextual’ HY Music Archive Collection.

Lest we forget! Indigenous musicians, who dared to chirp, were avoided / ignored / censored by the very same commercial labels that made their fortunes by recording ‘revolutionaries’ in-exile. With the political publicity generated by the international cultural embargo against South Africa, these major labels turned it into a cash-cow for the local commercial record & pop music industries, at the expense of our own indigenous contemporary musos. Themajor record labels took full financial advantage by visibly & vocally supporting the anti-apartheid movement in front of the cameras; and yet, not allowing their revolting musicians to tour the RSA (way too costly anyway)? This they did while flooding the SABC & the segregated hit-target markets with imported product. And, there was the bonanza bonus of free-publicity, local & international, whenever a band or song was banned by the SABC or the government of the day. Isn’t it play back time?

Unknown musicians became pop heroes overnight, thanks to the wild imaginations of our censorship board and the paranoia of the white regime under siege. If the record companies and the foreign pop stars were serious about apartheid, and if they really wanted to punish& boycott South Africa, why then did they allow the racist and segregated, anti-local-musician State Controlled Airwaves (SABC), to program the records?

3rd Ear Music was vilified at the time (1970 / 1971) for suggesting this in copious (verbose & long-winded Hermes typed & roneod ‘news ‘n muse letters’) sent to most major commercial record labels in the US and UK. They must have thought we were mad of course! We were… charging around on our political high-horses thru’ the Purple Haze... Ready, Aim, Sing! We didn’t even notice how self-serving those attempts at trying to get record companies to avoid the SABC, were.

Point being, if the Beatles or Elvis or whoever were not allowed to tour how come the records got aired? We later figured out, that if the SABC could not play that stuff, perhaps they may focus local? What else were they going to fill the vacuum with? But where would they get the music material from? In the 70’s Radio 5FM banned bands such as The Police, because of the name; seriously! The Rolling Stones because they were (quote) a bad influence, and the good old Beatles for John Lennon’s honesty. A bit of studious, loving HY research will also show that local bands – that is ‘English’ music… ha ha! -were encouraged, some say forced, to ‘cover’ major label international hit songs, if they wanted to be considered for programming on the SABC... and this was by order, in writing, from a few Record Company CEO’s. The odd exception only proved the rule.

So-called ethnic, Bantu, Afrikaans, Indigenous musicians had their own Radio Stations (there was no TV in the RSA back then) and even then, there were deals within deals that were struck between the ‘programmers’, record labels and publishing houses. What ever happened to straight, good old fashioned payola you may well ask? The sweeteners, as they are referred too today? Well, that’s about the only thing that’s still in place… sort of a ‘custom’. Like it’s my culture and tradition China, so don’t mess with us! Anyway, prove it!!??

What we know now, in the New South Africa – without trying to inflate our importance, status or potential IP worth (we’re just lucky to have been in the right place at the wrong time, recording this ‘stuff)’ -is that the major commercial record labels & the entertainment industries (SABC etc.) would prefer to avoid our Hidden History. They’re in business to capitalise, cost effectively, on this country’s ignorance of the past! Cultural boycott, protest-movement, and other civil-society endeavours created or formed to combat injustice here at home, is not, in their view, entertainment; its ‘stuff’ that just won’t sell as easily as the video-clips of the good- looking perfect 10 vocal gymnasts; gyrating hips, tits ‘n slits. There’s just not enough (fair air) time to share with our indigenous contemporary Hidden History… unless it’s imported. More Amandla?

To try & recap: A lot of South Africa’s missing hidden indigenous contemporary music history (Folk ‘n Jazz, Rock, Maskandi, and so on -mid ‘60’s to 1994 & beyond) is ‘contextually’ contained in the 3rd Ear Music / David Marks / Hidden Years Music Archive & those other collections mentioned; as these music collections now stand, they cannot speak for themselves; the news- cuttings, posters, programs, diaries, journals, are all part‘n parcel of those Hidden Years. There’s no way that we can compete in this glossy, glitzy, murky music mainstream with pop-idols. This ‘contextual collection’ would be of tremendous and unique benefit not only to scholars, researchers and musicologists, but for sociologists, historians, cultural tourists and education departments as well. Let’s try not to leave this HYMAProject to the archaeologists.

I may have convinced myself -however unfairly -that this HY collection may mean nothing to anybody involved in the current glitz ‘n glamour of the SAfrican commercial music & media industries or within the dozen or so arts, culture & heritage departments? Well that’s because the New South Africa, unlike the Old South Africa, is there, in boxes & cupboards and it just needs to be heard & seen & told. And once again… as happened when we recorded, produced and presented this ‘stuff’ – and this is no big deal or complaint - we seem to be on our own! Now let’s define ‘we’!?

David ‘Groucho’ Marks (Without the “X”)

Psss -Briefly FYI – For whatever reason… certainly not by design, if perhaps coincidence…. being in the right place @ the wrong time and so on?? -I was lucky enough to have my fingers on the buttons – pressing pause, play ‘n record – collecting ‘n hoarding most of this Hidden Years ‘stuff'... at least 85 to 95% of what I wanted to share with those who weren’t there at the time; so now I've sort of been left with the 'custodianship' as it were, of this ‘stuff’. Who’s gonna press pause, rewind ‘n play again? Am I solely responsible for what happens to the HY Archive collection / HYMAProject - the IP & material reel tapes, cassettes, posters, programs, photos? It’s a responsibility I (and Master Jack) can no longer afford and, sadly, do not need.

BTW -most of the recorded tapes are so-called non-white / black / township music events... so the ‘official Archive & Heritage’ whispered mantra that this 3rd Ear Music / HY Archive is an elitist, exclusive and / or political pale male collection of struggle material, is a crock of PC codswallop.

Time Out! We have been unable to use the R4.6 Million NRF grant raised back in 2005, allocated to the UkZN & DISA, whose task it was to help me catalogue, index, digitize this unique HYMAProject -but as of 2012, this grant remains largely unaccounted for. Ho hum! What’s new in the New South Africa!? Besides… what’s 4.6 Mill in the wider scheme of things? It’s only so-called Arts, Culture & Heritage… so who cares? Besides, that’ll take more than 500 words to explain – no matter who the crafty scribe may be.

But still, who knows; this ‘stuff’ may one day speak for itself, and to the people who matter most? New generations of Southern Africans! Let them know that we also had a life out there (way outside of the shallow murky SAfrican music mainstream); and just because most of our HYMAProject recorded music is studio-production imperfect -live desk-mix audio recordings, accompanied by long-hand torch-lit scribbled notes with shot-from-the-mix-pix, in grainy black & white & no-flash -doesn’t mean we cannot compete, as such;but to do so, let’s be fair, we do need (excuse me again) work to level that playing field. ...see also >>
‘We’ now have less than 2 months to get 7 tons & 45 odd years of collected ‘stuff' out of SAMRO, Joburg.


3rd Ear Music is a member of the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) P. O.
Box 50633 Musgrave Road 4062 Durban kwaZuluNatal South Africa.
Cell (083) 359 -5610 Office: (039) 684-6148 Fax: 086 648 1074

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