Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gimme Hope! ~ Forgotten Song Remembered

Music and songs have the almost unworldly power to arouse old memories.  
Sometimes it happens the other way around - the "man bites dog" effect. For some inexplicable reason a memory from the early 1990s surfaced from the depths the other day, and set me on a search for the related song.

We (late partner and I), sometime in the early 1990s, on an annual jaunt to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, were walking along the sea front area one evening on our way somewhere. We spied a colourfully dressed African guy singing and playing guitar in an open-fronted bar. The music was infectious. We sat down, ate, drank and listened for hours. The evening ended with the singer encouraging (actually forcing) us all onto our feet to form a chain and dance around the bar to a song I'd never heard before. That song was the one bugging my memory. I had to be a bit creative on the Google, I couldn't remember any detail, only the feeling, but after many attempts I eventually found the song on YouTube, with lyrics.

Eddy Grant, it turns out, was the composer and original vocalist. He was born 5 March 1948, in Guyana but as a child he emigrated to London, England with his parents. He had hits in the 1980s with I Don't Wanna Dance in the UK, and with Electric Avenue in the UK and USA. Many of his songs were politically slanted, especially against the apartheid regime then existing in South Africa.
The song bugging my memory: Gimme Hope Jo'anna was one of these ("Jo'anna" = Johannesburg, South Africa). It was a song about apartheid, and banned in South Africa. The line: "The Archbishop who's a peaceful man" is a reference to Desmond Tutu, first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town who received the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid.

All of that was unknown to me as we danced and enjoyed the infectious rhythm. Why this song should surface from the depths of memory just now I don't know - except that the message, minus names and places, remains relevant:
"Gimme hope!"

More wise words on HOPE:
"HOPE has a cost. Hope is not comfortable or easy. Hope requires personal risk. It is not about the right attitude. Hope is not about peace of mind. Hope is action. Hope is doing something. The more futile, the more useless, the more irrelevant and incomprehensible an act of rebellion is, the vaster and more potent hope becomes.
Hope never makes sense. Hope is weak, unorganized and absurd. Hope, which is always nonviolent, exposes in its powerlessness, the lies, fraud and coercion employed by the state. Hope knows that an injustice visited on our neighbor is an injustice visited on all of us. Hope posits that people are drawn to the good by the good. This is the secret of hope's power. Hope demands for others what we demand for ourselves. Hope does not separate us from them. Hope sees in our enemy our own face." ~~~ Chris Hedges.

"Hope is a straw hat hanging beside a window covered with frost."
― Margaret George, "Mary Queen of Scotland & The Isles".

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