The Sound of Black Joy: A New Year’s Eve Meditation

There is a New Year’s Eve I remember vividly like the afterglow of a fireworks display. I was very young, barely five, enjoying the newfound victory of staying up until “Happy New Year”.

I stood in the fog created by the multiple braai-stands, mystified by the happenings of black joy that intensified with every song that played on the chart, counting us down to the anticipated three-two-one and, most importantly, the song that was to carry us into the new year straight after.

The moment finally came. I remember my mother screaming around the yard with her sisters, with 100-if-you-lucky shooters in hand, muting the stars with crickets. I remember blocking my ears to cushion the thundering blows of Ama-Bhomu and I remember the sound of zinc roofs trembling under the terror of Malum’ Mthoko’s Telefunken sound system. I may not remember the exact song that played at midnight that year, but the significance of “Ingoma Ehlukanise Unyaka” was something that stayed in my memory until today.

The space between then and now is filled with many songs that defined the times that never stopped moving. From Brenda Fassie’s ‘Vulindlela’, Mafikizolo’s ‘Bhuti Ngihamba Nawe’, to the more recent ‘Umlilo’ by Big NUZ, and last year’s heavily meme’d ‘Sobulala u Van Damme’. I should also highlight the difference in tastes that resulted in one Metro-FM-listening echelon of our culturally diverse society “splitting the year” to Babes Wodumo’s Wololo, in the same year that ‘Sobulala u Van Damme’ did.

It is now December 2017. The December of the vosho-induced paralysis and Gin salads, amongst many other things. New Years Eve is around the corner and many of us are ritualistically sacrificing the dick that is to stay in 2017, for the sake of our own wellbeing. More importantly though, we are about to find out which song is worthy of carrying us into 2018, the sonic epitome of alrightness in 2017.

There are many contenders. ‘Omunye’ by Distruction Boyz, for one, had the entire nation proclaiming their wig-less-ness since the release of their much anticipated album titled ‘Gqom Is The Future’. If you listened to Gqom 5 years ago, back when The Boyz had their phone numbers at the end of their song titles, when GTi driving bhutis tried to silence Gqom ngoba lento inomsindo, you’ll understand why this moment is so important. The Boyz have worked from the start to carve their own space in an industry that was not really about them. Now they have one of the biggest songs and that kind of impact makes me look at them with the same vicarious pleasures my uncles had when they watched soccer players rise from similar circumstances and make it to some big squad or whatever.

The other big contender is Midnight Starring by Busiswa and Moonchild feat. Dj Tira & Dj Maphorisa (in all honesty). Another Gqom gem. I’ve actually heard more of this song since I have been in Durban and that is very telling. 5-year-olds will scream “please call future baby” with their last niknaks breathe, aunties demand the song like “aw’fake i panty eline lace lapho”. It literally gets more iconic. Those lyrics, those voices, those yebo’s that demand that you agree – it’s all power, with the black femme face we deserve.

When we reach the pivotal three-two-one this weekend, I would be happy if any of these songs took it. It’s not an easy task to get the entire nation gyrating into the promising arms of a new year. And it’s all the more significant now that it feels like it will be one of our own who will define the times that never cease to move.

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