Bra Hugh’s Thuma Mina calls to We, The People of South Africa
Hugh Masekela’s Thuma Mina – (Send Me) – The People’s Version will be released across all digital platforms on Friday, September 11, in Heritage month. Thuma Mina is a call to the people of South Africa to stand up collectively for change.
In the song Thuma Mina (Send Me), Hugh Masekela pens the lyrics “I wanna be there when the people start to turn it around”, which rings true to the very first words in South Africa’s Constitution, “We, the People”.
The people of South Africa are facing tremendous challenges in the face of COVID-19, such as severe poverty, a compromised economy, lack of access to healthcare and education, corruption and gender-based violence. Together, with a little help from some friends, Constitution Hill in partnership with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, have joined forces to produce a collaborative re-working –The People’s Version – of the late, great Masekela’s anthemic Thuma Mina. The People’s Version strives to mobilise the citizens of South Africa into action, in support and empowerment of one another.
“It is not the size of the problems we must take into account, but rather our will, the people’s will, to create and manifest solutions, and our preparedness to scale those solutions across our diverse South African communities,” says Dawn Robertson, CEO of Constitution Hill.
A host of celebrated South African musicians, affectionately dubbed The Masekela All-Stars, collaborated on this noble vision to foster social cohesion and empower the people. Vocalists include the legendary Abigail Kubeka and Vusi Mahlasela, with the younger generation of stars represented by Thandiswa Mazwai, Zolani Mahola and J’Something. Bra Hugh’s nephew Selema Writes, adds a new fresh and fitting rap, that calls on South Africans to take action against gender-based violence.
Graced with the talents of Masekela’s last touring band, Johan Mthethwa, Fana Zulu, Cameron Ward, Godfrey Mgcina and Leeroy Sauls, a horn section from the Marcus Wyatt-led Bombshelter Beast, arranged by SAMA award winner Zwai Bala and produced by Grammy Award winning South African producer JB Arthur, Thuma Mina – The People’s Version, brings a vibrant, upbeat, can-do twist to Bra Hugh’s original – a burst of Hugh-inspired energy around which to organize, support and empower each other – South Africans facing forward with indomitable spirit and innovation.
The music video includes a host of local heroes who have already heeded the call and selflessly served vulnerable fellow South Africans through the crisis. The video will go out with a practical call to download, share and live the values of our Constitution.
And now, a movement of active citizens, championed by Constitution Hill and The Masekela All-Stars, is forming under the banner of ‘We, the People’ to motivate, inspire and harness the power of each and every South African to come together and build a society steeped in human dignity, equality and freedom for all.
Rooted in the preamble of our Constitution, Thuma Mina – The People’s Version, is a call to take personal responsibility – to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”, and to stand together as we do it. It is a clarion call to dispel our despondency and disillusionment, and instead stand together and find solutions to the challenges we face.
Dawn Robertson, CEO at Constitution Hill Development Company, explains the significance of the Thuma Mina call-for-change coming from Constitution Hill, “Constitution Hill serves to champion social cohesion in South Africa. It is the home of the voice of the people and the vessel of our beloved Constitution. The call –Thuma Mina – is to encourage our citizens to live the values of our Constitution and come together in the face of crisis with the strength of the culture of Ubuntu. Now more than ever, we need to call out to each other to come together and play our part.”
The ‘We, the People’ movement is inspired by the first three words in our Constitution which is the vision document for South Africa. “It demands of us to roll up our sleeves and to do the work to make the vision real. We must honour those who made the sacrifice by playing our part. Together we can build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations! If not now, when? If not me, who?,” says Constitution Hill Trust trustee Robert Brozin.
This call reflects the original intent of Bra Hugh. At the time of Thuma Mina’s first release, the HIV/Aids pandemic was ravaging the county and the government was in deep denial. This was his call to the people, for the people. The newly added rap lyrics address the other South African pandemic, namely gender-based violence, as prevalent now as it was then.
In its original release Thuma Mina, was Bra Hugh’s call for the people to take charge of our constitutional values and rights – values he was personal witness to on 10 December 1996. As President Nelson Mandela signed our Constitution into law in Sharpeville. On that same stage Bra Hugh performed igniting the South African spirit.
Arundhati Roy remarks, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” Thuma Mina – The People’s Version is but one, powerful, step through that portal into a South Africa we always believed to be beyond our grasp, only because we left it in the hands of others and mistaken our power for theirs.
Together the people of South Africa, with commitment, discipline and love, can create solutions of support and empowerment through, not just the current pandemic, but also an as yet undisclosed future of prosperity, good will and well-being.
The call then, and the call now, is for the people of South Africa to embrace the values of our constitution, step up and be the catalyst for a people’s movement that will “start to turn it around”. Sharing resources, healing, building and nurturing a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. It’s time for each and every South African to ask: “If not now, when? And if not us, who?” It is time for We, the People to take the lead.
The project was facilitated by Flame Studios, the state-of-the-art recording studio hub currently being built in the ramparts of the historic Old Fort at Constitution Hill. Studio director Lance McCormack explains: “This was the perfect inaugural project for Flame Studios, fulfilling our purpose to give new voice and agency to the people of South Africa while transforming a heavy and foreboding space with the power of music, creativity and passion.”
For more information go to https://www.thumamina.today/
hashtags #WeThePeopleSA #MasekelaAllStars #ThumaMina #SendMe
Constitution Hill is not only the home of the Constitutional Court, it is also a living museum that serves as a lekgotla where people can come together to address their concerns and discuss burning issues. It is a global beacon for human rights, a vantage point that gives an understanding of our society in transition and a place to celebrate the diversity of our nation.
Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation
The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation exists to preserve and promote African heritage and to contribute to the restoration of African identity through the creation of cultural information facilities, the support and incubation of heritage arts, and the dissemination of this information and cultural inheritance throughout the African Diaspora and the world.
Flame Studios is a state-of-the-art recording hub being built beneath the ramparts of the Old Fort on Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. These studios are a contemporary expression of the new spirit and direction of the Constitution Hill precinct, a place designed to amplify the voices of South Africa’s new generation of musicians, artists and storytellers. Operated as a not-for-profit, Flame Studios will be available for commercial hire, while focusing intently on developing local talent through accessible facilities and mentorships. Meeting a world-class standard, Flame will also provide a platform for international talent to collaborate with the South African music industry.
Comments from artists
“You can send me. I want to be there for my people. Thuma mina.”
“Josh called me up to collaborate…it was an immediate yes. I said I’ll be there. It was my first COVID flight.”
“You are of this country. You have a tremendous role in making it the country that you want it to be.”
“That hard-fought constitution is alive and well. It’s not just a piece of paper. It’s something that must be lived and breathed by all of us. Standing here (at Constitution Hill), it’s amazing to see how the past, the present and the future are all coming together.”
“I feel like I am part of a long line of really strong people who used their voices. Like Bra Hugh and Mandela who filled these halls. And I’m also connected to these young people who don’t feel like they have a voice, I would like to say to them – you do have a voice – we need you to make this work, to build our perfect vision.”
“He (Hugh) was more about the message than the music.”
“In these times, we’ve got to show empathy and patience to each other. We’ve got to lend a hand, lend an ear. We can be there for each other.”
“We love him (Hugh) and just want to spread love and good vibes.”
“Just like the message, the new arrangement is all about paying it forward.”
“The new arrangement references church songs, struggle songs, marching bands through Alexandra – we want you to get that feeling – to say: ‘Yes, this is our song.’”
“It’s got a very live community song vibe. Makes you just wanna sing and dance along. It reminds us that we are still together.”
“The new energy, impetus, push (of the arrangement) gives you the energy to just go out and do something.”
“(When I first heard the song) I felt like this was a message that I could follow.”
“It’s infectious. Makes you want to be more and do more for your community. Love can change things. That’s what this song is about. If we embody that message, we can be there for one another.”
“All that is bad about the world is coming to a climax now. It’s a moment to reflect and come back to ourselves, and see how we can change the world. New worlds have to be imagined now.”
“This place (Constitution Hill) represents what has happened and what we hope to be. It is so powerful to film our hope of how we want to transform the world here. This is the place that can make that happen. The Constitution lives here. The Constitutional Court lives here. This is the place where we can change the world for the better. Let’s reimagine what these walls can create.”
On discussing the song with Hugh Masekela when it was first released: “It’s about time that you realise that this industry isn’t just about us; it’s about the people. We have to include the people in what we are doing. Something came into my mind to say, we are sending you – to the people to spread the gospel. All these years, we have been doing this for ourselves, for our own enjoyment – now we have to move to the people.”
On being asked what Bra Hugh would think of this new version of Thuma Mina. “He’s smiling in his grave. (Saying:) ‘That’s it. I did it and I’m doing it again!’”
“When you hear the song – know that you can be there for somebody else. What is humanity without connection?”
“A call for us to forget about our egos; stretch out your hand to your sister, brother and ask them: ‘Is there anything I can do for you? I am here for you.’”
“Music should be a tool that eases people’s hearts.”
“People come out for Hugh. That’s one thing I’ve realised.”
“Hughie always stood up for the oppressed. For poor people.”
“Now we can take care of each other.”
“Reach out and be a human being on a round planet – where there is no top or bottom.”
Video director and grandson of Pius Langa – Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court
“It feels like coming home to do this project.”
“Spread the laughter. Spread the knowledge. That’s the way we can empower people. Every day in our lives.”
“Everybody needs everybody now. You need someone to lift you up. You need to lift someone up. We all need to be in the mode of saying – send me.”