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Black-White Calypso

(Words & Music Jeremy Taylor © 1961 MPA)

The other day reading Drum magazine
I'll tell you some of the things I seen (repeat)
Advertisements for special cream in every section
Give you a soft and pale complexion
Make your black skin lighter creamier and whiter
But when I look in the Star what do I find
But advertisements of a different kind
Because it seems that the white people have a notion
To make them selves black with the Sun Tan Lotion

CHORUS - Tell me, tell me, tell me why I want to know the fact
Why all the black people want to go white and the white people want to go black.

Turning the pages of Zonk I see
A special tonic, which guarantee (repeat)
To make your curly hair straight
And bring you success on every date
Misfortune in love is attributed there
To having such coal black curly hair
But when I pass by the Rosebank Beauty Parlour
I see the women sitting there hour after hour
With a great big thing on their head trying to make their straight hair curly instead
Ain't it ridiculous!

Tell me, tell me...CHORUS -

Now the other day the native girl she say to me
Au! Master, your madam she is very skinny
She say she also is much too thin
She must have some fattening vitamin
She say that it's a fact that
All the men like her bottom to be fat
But in the northern suburbs the women are used
To living on lettuce and orange juice
To be slim is their preoccupation
My god, what a crazy nation - this is so

Tell me, tell me...CHORUS -

I have a simple remedy
For all this frustrated energy (repeat)
If you blacks have too much of this pigment stuff
And the white people say you've not got enough
Don't waste your time buying creams and jellies
Trying to change the colour of your bellies
but follow the example of my brother
He married a black girl, they love each other
And she gives him a little bit of black in the night
And he gives her a little bit of white

That's the solution!

Now I, now I, I know why I can tell you the fact
Why all the black people want to go white and the white people want to go black.

(Words & Music Jeremy Taylor © 1961 MPA)

By 1961, 1 was singing these songs on stage in a show called "Wait a Minim!" Eight of us, all in our early twenties or late teens, had been gathered under the wing of actor/manager, Leon Gluckman, to com-pile a musical revue with sketches, mime, dance, folk song and tradi-tional African music to fill the little YMCA Theatre in Braamfontein for two weeks while his leading lady from another show recovered from a broken ankle.
Johannesburg's theatrical establishment looked on in astonishment as Leon's bunch of amateur loonies cobbled their show together and proceeded to take the town, and subsequently the rest of the country, by storm.
"Wait a Minim!" was a hit.
We sang barefoot and unamplified. We counted fifty-three dif-ferent instruments in the show, many of them homemade. Andrew Tracey, our musical director, couldn't look at a custard apple or a toilet seat without wondering how to get a sound out of it. Andrew had grown up surrounded by African music. His father Hugh devoted his life to field recording and transcribing the sounds of Africa. Today Andrew is director of the International Library of African Music in Grahamstown and leader of the country's only Steel Band.
We couldn't know it then but "Wait a Minim" was to run, in one form or another, for the next seven years.
The last verse of the Black-White Calypso was, at the time, politi-cal heresy and was consequently excised from the LP of "Wait a Minim!" I was not consulted. Composers and artists generally have throughout the forty-year reign of the Nationalist Party been viewed as a slight embarrassment by recording companies who have preferred the "safe" product from overseas and sought to appease the government controlled Broadcasting Corporation by exercising their own censorship. Even without the last verse the SABC refused to play it, so their toadying was to no avail.
To suggest, as the Black-White Calypso did, that people of dif-ferent colour could make love to one another was illegal. Doing it was illegal certainly, so I suppose suggesting it was too.
The Immorality Act reigned supreme in those days though the newspapers were full of stories of hapless dominees and feckless farmers who often committed suicide after committing the act. (Com-mitting a mortal sin after committing a venial one, as the Catholics might put it). Those days are over, and so much the better, but, lest we forget, here is a little speech I recorded in the U.K. in the late six-ties in an attempt to enlighten the ignorant poms about our quaint ways.
RADIO SOUTH AFRICA CALLING - Next edition of the Hidden Years Website.

3rd Ear Music Company est. 1969 (Pty)Ltd.

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