One of the major selling points in my appreciation of any art form, is the extent to which the work reflects the world within which the artist lives or lived. The questions that I ask myself is; if that song or book or picture was placed in a time-capsule which is found after 50 years, will people get a sense of the artist’s world at the time of creation?
At a time when South Africa faces an unemployment rate of 25-40%, depending on your definition. A time when inflation tracks on the upper end of the 3%-6% target range. A time when over 43% of the country’s population is living below the poverty line. When junk status has investor confidence tumbling; and a 25 basis point reduction in interest rates leaves the rich letting out a wince of relief, while the poor look on with a smirk of indifference. I cannot think of a single song which reflects our world as South Africans, as precisely as does Team Mosha’s Sofa’slahlane.
I like the song, largely because I am a Tshwanetorian through and through. As my hood is built in a valley where my home is located at the lowest point with houses built on miniature escarpments on either side. On cold winter nights when sound travels further, you can hear any loud noise within a three kilometer radius.
So every week starting Sunday till about Tuesday, there is a stokvel called Di-Spin. This is where people finish off their weekend set, which would have started on phuza-Thursday. So Di-Spin is designed for the Barcadi connoisseur who is uncompromising on his appreciation for this genre of dance music. It doesn’t matter if Black Coffee is winning awards overseas – you will never hear any of that there, for this is an uncompromising bunch.
Anyway. Over and above my gluttonous tendencies when I am stressed, I struggle with bouts of insomnia. And when Team Mosha’s Sofa s’lahlane, is played on repeat until the wee hours of the morning; it without fail manifests into an ear-worm that has me hooked for most of the week thereafter. True to the Barcadi genre, the lyrics aren’t verbose; but they do require Galileo-like patience to decipher. And when Barcadi goes romantic, what you get is a song like Sofa s’lahlane.
The message in the song did not land with me until I saw a bride and groom open the dance floor at a wedding in Soshanguve with this song. Like a cold morning breeze, it hit me. This is a love song, where in two people confesses an unwavering commitment to each other until “death does them part.”
But, what makes the song even more special is the revelation in the second verse. The lyrics go “re babedi fela, tima lebone futswetsa.” (translated: it’s just the two of us, put out the light). They then go on to add the onomatopoeia, Fo fo fo futswetsa which mimics the sound one would make when blowing out a candle.
That in itself locates the couple in an un-electrified dwelling, which immediately sends the mind wondering if these two could be living in a shack, or squatter camp somewhere. So fundamental message in the song is this; even in the face of poverty, love exists. That two people are able to make a commitment to each other with nothing but each other’s love for one another. In a world driven by the desired to get as much material wealth as possible – isn’t that message powerful?
What I love more about the song is the reference to alcohol. Because if I take you back to the time-capsule notion, you will understand that the reference is an indictment on the state of the our present day society. That quite often in our communities, the use and abuse of alcohol can be so rudimentary to everyday living. That a sip of the devil’s tears can be such a refuge, that this couple finds solace in using it as a crutch upon which to stabilize their relationship.
Just let that simmer for a bit.
The third thing that gives me goose-bumps about this song is the final verse. The verse goes “ongwan’abo mang? Ngwan’abo Sophie, Ngwan’abo Dorah, Ngwan’abo Tshepo…” (translated: whose sister are you, Sophie? Dorah? Tshepo?) This to me speaks to something that eludes many people who are in a long term relationship. And that is, even though this person may have committed themselves to sharing their life with you; do remember that if you mistreat them or disrespect them in anyway – they still remain someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s son or someone’s brother. Perhaps if you did consider their family, you might feel persuaded to afford them the same love and respect that their own family would. Just think, could it be that as simple consideration as that might be, it may very well be the antidote that helps rid us of such diabolical social ills as domestic abuse; or dare i say femicide.
So I ask again, if people listened to this song in 50 years’ time, will they not get a sense of the life South Africans lead today?
Team Mosha take a bow Sofa’slahlane is a masterpiece.