“The thing that saved us was music,” says one of the many activists interviewed in director Lee Hirsch’s Amandla!, “it was part of liberating ourselves”. Ten years in development, this fascinating and compelling documentary tells the story of South Africa’s apartheid regime from the perspective of the musicians who composed, played and sang songs of freedom, revolution and change.
Covering around half a century of apartheid rule, Hirsch interviews musicians, activists, politicians and former protestors in an attempt to discover what influence the songs of liberation had on the anti-apartheid movement.
Vitally important in mobilising a large – often illiterate – mass protest movement, the ballads, anthems and chants of this period were often the primary means of building political consciousness and encouraging solidarity in the face of adversity. Acting as both a documentary about music and a South African history lesson, Hirsch’s film combines archive footage with interviews with now legendary figures such as Hugh Masekela, Mariam Makeba and Abdullah Ibrahim.