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Pantsula - A Dance of Perseverance

Updated: Jan 19

Every month I curate a Fabulous 5 playlist: 5 songs that support positive self-regard, inspire movement, or invite rest. The songs this month meet these criteria and also feature artists from South Africa. (If you're reading this blog post outside of January, I list the songs below.)

Why South Africa? Two reasons, one is person and one is political.

The political reason

On January 11th, 2024, South Africa charged Israel of genocide against Gaza. They also brought the practice of Nakba into an international court for the first time since it's beginning in 1948; naming the nature of Israel's occupation of Palestine equal to apartheid.

South Africa is in a unique position to bring apartheid to international court. You may be familiar with South Africa's history and its famous president, Nelson Mandela. If not, the brief summary is that South Africa was under a state of apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation, from 1948 until it was overthrown in 1990. Nelson Mandela was a lawyer committed to overthrowing apartheid and served 27 years in prison before he was released in 1990 and voted president in 1994.*

The personal reason

Since November 2021, I have been taking an Afrobeats Dance class in Seattle that breathed life back into my mind, body, and spirit after over a year of quarantine. Part of the reason for this is the social connection innate in the dance. Afrobeats is a street-dance that was born and continues to evolve from people connecting with one another. Without vibing with those around you, the movement is incomplete. (This is a foreign concept for many people who have spent most of their dance experience in studios.)

While we learned many modern Afrodiasporic dance movements; from Azonto (Ghana) to N’dobolo (Congo) and many more, our instructor began specializing in Amapiano from South Africa. Over the past year, I have been expanding my appreciation of Amapiano as a dance genre, music genre, and its roots in resisting apartheid. I've had the privilege of seeing 3 out of 5 of the artists featured in-person, even though visas make it incredibly challenging for these artists to enter the States.

This is where the personal meets the political. Back in 1950-1960's, apartheid in South Africa was forcing black South Africans to live in designated townships. Suddenly there were people from different communities living together. Pantsula was a movement created as something they could all share and build together.**

Connection in the face of displacement is at the heart of Pantsula.

As you listen to this playlist, I invite you to do so with reverence for the commitment to unity and perseverance through play, collaboration, and community. It’s also worth acknowledging that many music genres from the US share these same roots of surviving colonial oppression; particularly of slavery and genocide. As we draw inspiration, comfort, and emboldenment from these songs and artists, may we also commit to fighting for their causes, which are also our causes. For as long as oppression is tolerated, no one is free.

Without further ado, the Fabulous 5 Playlist from January 2024 featuring artists and music from South Africa.

1 Long Walk to Freedom by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

2 Nana Thula (feat. Njelic, Young Stunna, Nkosazana Daughter, Xolani Guitar) by Kebza de Small and DJ Maphorisa

3 Saudi Sync by De Mthuda, Da Muziqal Chef, and Eemoh

4 uMalume Wako by Uncle Waffles, DJ Stressor, and Given Kau

5 Sukakude by Kelvin Momo

*For more information about the rich and important history of South Africa, Palestine, and how these histories connect to continued oppression in the United States, consider the following resources: Orientalism by Edward Said, No Easy Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, and Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis.

**To learn more about the history of Amapiano and Pantsula, I highly recommend:

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