The party is over and a revolution is brewing

Great songs are like trees; they live for a long time. Patty and Mildred Hill’s song Happy Birthday is more than 125 years old. It’s wrecked all records and is the most recognised song in the English language.

The internet is the greatest pollinator of songs.

It brought us the South Korean sensations Gangnam Style and Baby Shark. It also exported our music to the world.

There is even a YouTube video of members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army doing the Idibala.

Sho Madjozi has become one of the most recognisable South African music exports.

There was a time when songs travelled mostly via the wireless – they took long to travel and, like trees, did not reach certain countries.

But there will always be a defiant tree. There is a lone jacaranda tree in the Magaliesberg mountains.

It blends in with the rest of the trees for most of the year until spring, when its colours can be seen from afar.

When I see it, I wonder if it laments its permanent exile or if it revels in the attention it gets from tree-huggers who pass by.

The Party’s Over is one of those American songs that travelled and found a niche among jazz lovers all over the world.

Back then, music was deeply divided along what was called the colour line. Jazz pianist and vocalist Nat King Cole made it cross over to black listeners.

A couple of years later, the fabulous Shirley Bassey, now a great-grandmother, gave it a lift in the UK with her rich voice and big orchestra.

Cole’s voice is mocking and sounds like someone who feels vindicated after things have gone sour for his ex.

Bassey sounds more understanding: “It seemed to be right just being with him. Now you must wake up.”

It is time to wake up to the reality that when South Africa first won the Rugby World Cup against New Zealand in 1995, the rand was at R3.64 to the dollar.

When we won again in France 12 years later, it traded at R6.82.

This year, it was at R15.06.

“All dreams must end,” Cole sings.

It’s going to be a bleak Christmas for the 16 million South Africans who are unemployed, and getting children stocked up to go back to school will be worse.

If you look into the yonder, the conditions for a revolution are brewing.

Firstly, the economy is depressed.

Secondly, there have been sporadic acts of looting and violence.

Thirdly, except for a visit to Japan to watch the rugby final, President Cyril Ramaphosa has been mostly invisible.

When times are tough, the people need someone who can say to them: “I feel your pain,” as former US President Bill Clinton famously said.

Some of the president’s ministers are, rightly or wrongly, unpopular in certain quarters, and such people always become the easy targets for revolutionaries.

In Russia, the leader of the country, Tzar Nicholas II, was away leading the war his country could ill afford against Germany.

He went to the frontlines to boost troop morale. South Africa is not at war, but, as stated earlier, the president is hardly visible.

In Nicholas’ absence, Grigori Rasputin was rightly or wrongly seen to have an uncanny influence over the tzar’s wife, Tsarina Alexandra.

Xenophobia swept the country and because Alexandra was German, it was easy to mobilise against her.

Rasputin was eventually killed – not by the Bolsheviks, who were their sworn enemies, but by noblemen he trusted because they felt threatened by the rising discontent.

Hopefully someday our politicians will learn that one can win without fighting, and that crushing one’s enemies is best left to the military and not policymakers.

The looming retrenchments in government will most likely make workers feel betrayed by Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe and the president, who were unionists.

The party is over. Could that be the governing party?

Muzi Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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July 2020

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