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Music for bullets

Remember Soweto: 76-86
Remember Soweto: 76-86
By various artists

Mordam Records: 1987

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This review first appeared in the Setember / October issue of A Critique of America (later Arete).

While an effective media campaign has succeed in the questionable goal of imposing economic sanctions against South Africa's racist apartheid regime (but how successful have sanctions been in bringing progressive change to Cuba?), the media's attention has turned elsewhere – leaving South Africa's blacks no better off, and perhaps worse.

The injustices of the apartheid system are legion, but not every alternative is an improvement – a point that needs making with the release of this album, the proceeds of which go to Umkhonte We Sizwe, the military wing of the Marxist African National Congress, which seeks to impose a Stalinist totalitarian regime on the country.

Americans are more than eager to buy record albums in order to help finance popular causes – but whether the killing of those unwise enough to be born white in South African, or to be a black South African who believes in democracy and one person, one vote should be such a cause is the real issue here.

A very ugly set of politics and pro-terrorism agenda aside (and that's admittedly a whole lot to set aside), this is a very attractive album musically. It's a compilation of South African and American punk and industrial rock acts. The African music is particularly good. Deezo and the Bananabeats' "Destroy Apartheid" has a lively melody carried by the horn section, a driving Afro beat and beautifully harmonious vocals. "Katawe" and "Sobantu," both by Lebombo, are instrumental African tunes with strong American jazz influences. Z'ev's throbbing drums are likewise outstanding, but Jah Sabi's "Africa" is diminished by a seriously out-of-tune female vocal.

The punk and "noise" tracks (their own description) are adequate, if uninspired in comparison. Ivy Green's "the Bells" is the best of that lot.

If killing your political opponents is acceptable to you, this album is probably worth the price. If, however, you are somewhat hesitant about pouring kerosene on those who disagree with you and fricasseeing them, you might want to consider carefully whether the excellence of Deezo's music is worth the very human cost.