The musical struggle against apartheid came from outside South Africa’s borders as well as within. In 1988 Guyanese-born British performer Eddy Grant released Gimme Hope Jo’anna, with its hybrid African-reggae rhythms and sharp anti-apartheid lyrics. It reached the top ten in several European countries, though it was naturally banned from airplay and official release in South Africa. This version is from a live performance at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday concert in Hyde Park, London in 2008, and features Afrikaans pop artist Kurt Darren.             

Grant’s title refers to the Johannesburg which, though not one of South Africa’s capital cities, was by far the largest and wealthiest, due to its gold and diamond-rich location. The implication of this, as well as the song’s lyrics, was that apartheid was primarily economic in purpose – and that South Africa’s political inequality, militaristic ventures and contrived philosophies and religious views were all predicated on maintaining white wealth and status. Nevertheless Gimme Hope Jo’anna was optimistic rather than bitter, a plea for change rather than a condemnation.

Well Jo’anna she runs the country
She runs in Durban and the Transvaal
She makes a few of her people happy, oh
She don’t care about the rest at all
She’s got a system they call apartheid
It keeps brothers in subjection
But maybe pressure can make Jo’anna see
How everybody could live as one

Gimme hope, Jo’anna. Hope, Jo’anna
Gimme hope, Jo’anna, before the morning come
Gimme hope, Jo’anna. Hope, Jo’anna
Hope before the morning come


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