African Work songs I

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African Work songs I

TENNYSON MAKIWANE

South Africa

At a Johannesburg timber yard a white foreman took on a job to ‘’ supervise’’ the hundreds of

African Laborers employed there. After watching the routine for hours the new ‘’baas’’ shouted out to the workers to halt and gather round him.

He was boiling with rage when he said: ‘’you keffirs, do you think have come to a picnic here? Come on, get on with your job and stop that singing.’’

The workers were silent robots as they off-loaded logs of wood from trucks and went about doing their work. Only the sound of the electric saws could be heard as they went ‘’ terrrrr… ‘’slicing the timber.

Within a forthright. However. The foreman found himself in the manager’s office. And this time he was on the receiving end as questions were fired at him as to stop singing?’’ dropped. ‘’Did you say you ordered them to stop singing?’’

That was not the only time the work songs triumphed. There is another episode.

Some railway workers had to remove a heavy steel block. A batch of white workers who were who were at the job battled for a long time but in vain. A squad of Africa workers was then brought up to give it a go. Seeing this, passers-by stood around to watch what would happen now.

The worker stared a song and reached for the load slowly, moving with the rhythm of the song. Whilst the soloist completed his part, the rest remained glued down on it. Completed his past, the solid steel moved as the workers thrust forward amidst cheers from the onlookers: ‘’Hurray Hurray’’

Our new foreman could not understand a simple principle. That a group of workers performing heavy manual labor require the maximum co-operation amongst them.

One day South Africa will be like the other advanced countries and unskilled labor will be mechanized. Then work songs will be heard no more. Something must be done now to preserve this wonderful heritage of the working people.

 

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