Sibongile Mafu

For the love of theme songs

2013-10-03 15:45

Change is difficult and something I consciously and subconsciously avoid as often as possible. It shakes me from my comfort zone. It makes me do work my brain hasn’t had to do or hasn’t been required to do and it mostly makes me start analysing what I’ve thought I’ve enjoyed, when I’ve really just grown used to it.

South Africa’s number one soap opera, Generations, has had a bit of revamp. The show introduced a new theme song to viewers recently. The song is collaboration between renowned South African composer Trevor Jones, and features legendary saxophonist and recent matriculant Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse.

This is not the first time Generations has changed their theme song, because a soap opera can run for hundreds of years at a time, it shouldn’t be surprising that change happens. The characters have changed, the writing has changed. The only constant is Queen. I just struggled to accept this one.

Some of my favourite theme songs growing up ranged from the fantastic cartoon Animaniacs, to teen, angst drama Dawson’s Creek. I knew all of the lyrics and sang along, not caring who was around me. They got you excited to watch a show, and also gave you a warm place to escape into for some time. To this day, I still know the lyrics, and the nostalgic and gooey feelings I felt about the shows still remain.

There have been some iconic theme songs of shows long gone, that have successfully entrenched themselves in our psyches and made the viewing experience that much more exciting.

Mediocre shows were given weekly new leases on life just from the strength of their introduction. I’m looking at you Big Bang Theory. Music just has that power and when it is paired correctly with the right show, created magic. The perfect supporting act. They have the power to lift a show to a palatable level and draw viewers in.

So this week when the long-running soap Generations and “mandatory 20:00 weekday viewing because I am in South Africa” debuted their theme song, there were a lot of rumblings of, “How dare they?” and “Why change it?” While this particular change did not jolt me into a unadulterated rage and a first of disbelief, I did feel for those who it did affect. If that happened to my favourite show (Generations is someone’s favourite show, scary, I know) I’d be livid. You do not mess with the theme. You fire actors and change writing staff before you mess with the theme song. And in the fortunate event that the characters do not change, you have the magical experience of seeing it grow with the characters, even in it staying the same.

One of the best examples of that is the series Friends, which I’ve watched and rewatched too many times to admit. One of things that always brought me back was the theme song, “I’ll be there for you” by the Remembrandts, their biggest hit and also one of the greatest theme songs of all time. Join a high school debating team if you want to debate this, because no one is listening.

New life was breathed into the song each week, as the dynamics and relationships between the friends changed and adapted. When the friends were falling in and out of love with each other and when the friends were falling in love and out of love with people outside the circle, the song was always there.

And maybe it’s too much to ask of a soap opera, the ugly step sister of a television series, but the fact that soap operas are created to never have an ending means that they constantly have to move with the times. But we do not budge on the music. Think long and hard on the music.

Besides that, I’ll see you at 20:00. Because what else is there to do in this country at that time?

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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