Written on September 22nd, 2009
Do you ever sit and wonder what music will sound like in 10 years from now? 20 years? With all the talk that television and cinema are going to dwindle in popularity, do you ever wonder what you will be watching in the future? Do you ever look at your parents and wonder what they really think about the music you are passionate about today? If your parents are over 50 years of age, they were probably born into an Africa with no (or very few) cars, no television, no telephones (let alone cellphones), no computers, no electricity, no running water in homes, etc. And now they function without too much drama in what is becoming an extremely digital world.
I am sure, though, you have had the occasional look or comment when it comes to the music you listen to. Every generation seems to look at the music of following generations and declare it non-music. I used to be extremely passionate about my music, fervently defending it in the face of criticism by those older than I was. They obviously didn’t get it. They were too old and too set in their ways to understand the genius in the music that was created for my generation. Yet, I grew up with my father’s extensive record collection and had found a way for his music and my music to live side by side in my heart and mind.
There was nothing I enjoyed more than spending my Sundays digging through his collection playing everything from Marvin Gaye, Louis Armstrong, Bob Marley and Bing Crosby to Nat King Cole, Quincy Jones, Babsy Mlangeni and Dark City Sisters. On radio and television, it was Lionel Ritchie, Michael Jackson, Brenda and The Big Dudes, Kamazu, Condry Ziqubu, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran and later, through music sent through by friends in the US, the hip hop of Run DMC, Whodini, Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, etc.
On the visual side, I remember when we got our first television in the mid-1980s. Growing up in Lesotho, all we had was South African television and I spent considerable amounts of time staring at the screen, regardless of what was happening and whether I understood it or not. Steve Austin: Die Man Van Staal (Six Million Dollar Man), Rabobi, Di A Rora, Mind Your Language, Knight Rider, Airwolf, The A-Team, Spencer, Magnum PI; these served as the backdrop to my adolescence, each leaving residues on my subconscious memory that continue to be felt even today.
For someone looking back at them now, they may not seem like much, especially with the technological advancements in production as well as the gradual death of anything even remotely taboo – kissing was a big deal – but they were strangely reflective of how we learned to view the world.
Nostalgia has a funny way of coating history with a soft yet colourful palate that hides the darkness, the less than joyful moments, only to leave good memories. Actors, musicians, television shows and music carry with them those wonderful adolescent moments that you yearn for now that you don’t have to worry about homework and the like. When you hear a particular song or see a particular actor, it is quite possible to be transported back, albeit briefly, to a moment in what seems like a lifetime ago when things seemed much simpler.
Sometimes that is why I think I struggle with a lot of music coming out today. The context I have is the music of my father’s generation and my generation. It is music that is directly connected to my life’s experience. It served as the soundtrack to both joyous and painful moments and events in my life. It was this music that allowed me to wallow in teenage self pity after a break-up when I felt like the world was going to end and it was this music that often kept me sane and helped me move on.
The first time I ever kissed a girl was at a birthday party, in a closet, with my friends all standing outside timing us. The game – three minutes in a closet. In the background, Bra Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse’s Burn Out. Or, the first time I went to a school party that required dancing. I didn’t know how to dance so I spent the two weeks before it watching the Michael Jackson Thriller video over and over again. For years following that, my friends teased me about how I did the MJ non-stop, regardless of song or tempo.
Time has filled in the cracks and taught me that this thing called life is a marathon. Each experience has contributed to the person I am today and so I can look back now with a smile. In some instances, it may be bittersweet but it is a smile nonetheless. There is a song for every occasion and I am grateful to the creators for creating the soundtrack to my lifetime.