Out of this World

POSTED ON February 5, 2013 BY admin



Welcome to the third serving of CLP’s “Padkos – food for the journey”. This one’s a CD of music, a collection that we’ve called “Out of this world” – and the attached PDF-file of song notes and lyrics are in the booklet that accompanies it.

We would like to make sure that all of our Padkos subscribers get their own CD – just make sure we have your postal address (email your details to padkos@churchland.co.za ), and we’ll start sending them to everyone straight away. You can also listen to (and download) the music from our website at:www.churchland.org.za.

In the introduction to the CD notes, we make the point that art expresses and feeds our human spirit on the journey we make struggling for justice. We selected the music on this CD as a companion to CLP’s earlier written piece: Finding our voice in the world.

While finalising the text of Finding our voice in the world, there was a discussion between the contributors about what we meant by locating our politics and praxis ‘at a distance’ from the world as it is. Surely we don’t want to give the idea that we find truth and beauty at some safe distance from the world that is lived by the poor?; so, “how much is a distance?”. In the end we thought perhaps it is simultaneously and paradoxically both zero and infinite:

  • zero (in terms of the concreteness and particularity of actual struggles) because it’s right there/here where people make their lives ;
  • infinite (for the politics/thinking) because really emancipatory possibilities can only come from a complete fundamental break from what exists/what’s known/what’s expected.

The point is not to imply that ‘struggle’ and its ‘politics’ are separate but to recognise that any emancipatory politics must attempt to hold this distance question in tension. Only by holding that tension (and refusing temptations to resolve it in a decision for one or other) do we properly affirm and strengthen humanity in life and in struggle. As the radical writer Arundhati Roy said in a speech entitled “Come September”:

… To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget. …
G R Naidoo’s photograph on the CD cover was taken in Mkhumbane in 1956 and holds a moment of joy in the saddest of places. In an essay called “A Rough Guide to Commons, Enclosure & Popular Insurgency in Durban” , Richard Pithouse writes:
Places like Umkhumbane, District Six in Cape Town, and Sophiatown in Johannesburg gave rise to vibrant and cosmopolitan urban cultures in which local practices mixed with appropriated and reworked imported cultural idioms such as jazz… Well-known contemporary Durban musicians such as Madala Kunene and the late Sipho Gumede have often spoken about their musical roots in Umkhumbane. Many people loved these places – they became themselves precisely because of the urban cosmopolitanism of these ‘slums’. Bloke Modisane’s novel Blame Me On History begins: “Something in me died, a piece of me died, with the dying of Sophiatown… In the name of slum clearance they had brought the bulldozers and gored into her body.” In places like Sophiatown and Umkhumbane people did not achieve the right to decent housing but they did achieve the right to the city, “the right to an urban life” and they created an urban intellectual, cultural and political commons for which there is considerable popular nostalgia to this day.
“Out of this world” plays on this tension too. Often used to describe something that’s just unbelievably good (which this music is), we think it also carries the suggestion that the good and the true don’t fall mysteriously down from ‘heaven’ but emerge precisely ‘out of this world’ (which this music does).

Read the Attachment – Out of this world notes