Monday, September 12

From Tribe Called Quest to Sweet Honey In the Rock: Steve Biko's story lives

On this day in 1977, one of South Africa's greatest anti-apartheid champions mysteriously died in police custody, but he'll never be forgotten. That's because many of the most prolific jazz, hip-hop, and reggae artists of our time have helped immortalize Stephen "Steve" Biko over the years.

Today, we give props to the diverse array of musicians who have been moved by Steve Biko, and as such, have moved millions with his powerful story worldwide... So much so that eventually, one of the greatest actors of our time, Denzel Washington, brought Biko's story to life in the critically acclaimed film, Cry Freedom.

Some of the timeless music saluting Steve Biko:

* Alto sax man Noah Howard's album Patterns/Message to South Africa was conceived in Paris the week that Biko was killed. The music was recorded two years later with several great South African jazz exiles.

* Reggae legends Steel Pulse released the song "Biko's Kindred Lament" on their 1979 album Tribute to the Martyrs.

Peter Gabriel tells the tale of Biko in the song of the same name on his 3rd self titled album Peter Gabriel (III) (alternatively known as Melt for the cover art) released in 1980. Gabriel sings: "You can blow out a candle / But you can't blow out a fire / Once the flames begin to catch / The wind will blow it higher."

* Sweet Honey in the Rock's 1981 album Good News contains tracks titled "Biko" and "Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto."

* In 1986 Lester Bowie brought his eight-piece Brass Fantasy band to the South Bronx in New York for the first Biko Fest, an all-day music festival. When Bowie took the stage, he announced, "The first song we're gonna do is dedicated to P.W. Botha, president of South Africa. It's entitled `Piss Water, Kiss My Motherfuckin' Ass, Bald-faced Motherfucker.'"

* Simple Minds covered Peter Gabriel's "Biko" in their 1989 album Street Fighting Years.

* A Tribe Called Quest's 1993 album Midnight Marauders includes the song "Steve Biko (Stir It Up)."

Beenie Man's 1998 album Many Moods of Moses contains a track named after Biko.

* In 2000, Dead Prez referenced Biko in a track titled "I'm an African" on the album Let's Get Free.

Steve Biko's contribution to the fight against apartheid is as exalted as former President Nelson Mandela's. So large is this legend that Star Trek: The Next Generation even christened a starship in his honor, the USS Biko (NCC-50331)!

His funeral was attended by more than 15,000 mourners, with thousands more barred from the rites by security forces. Twelve Western countries sent representatives to the service, which was conducted by the Reverend Desmond Tutu.

As we remember Stephen Biko this day, we also reflect on this noble quote of his: "It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die."

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like


Anonymous Bandana Bandit said...

Biko was the man. Deep flick, wasn't it.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't he a racist nationalist? You left that part out :-)

11:39 AM  
Anonymous First Born said...

(I'll ignore the ignorant spam post before me...)

Wazzup V,
Just wanted to ssay that I remember when Steve Biko was killed. A lot of people in my old 'hood (Harlem USA) were talking with my pops about it. There were even brothers who were talking about going over the S. Africa to see what they could do to pressure an inquest into that heinous murder by the so-call authories.

Why don't people get angry at injustice these days? I just have to wonder, if something like this happen to Jesse Jackson, would people get up out there seat and demand somebody be held accountabile? Have to wonder...

Your cuz,
First Born, ATL

8:53 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home