Rodriguez, Rhythm & Resistance

Don’t sit and wait
Don’t sit and dream
Put on a smile
Go find a scene

Throughout history we have seen innumerable occurrences of resistance to political policy, and apartheid is certainly no exception. Enforced by the National Party of South Africa from 1948 to 1994, apartheid was a system of racial segregation which saw the lessening of rights and movements of the black majority, and a subsequent maintenance of white minority rule. Fathomably, apartheid South Africa bore witness to significant bouts of violence and internal resistance, with “its methods of governance defined by efforts to contain the tensions, upon which the existence of the state, and the shite society on whose behalf it ruled, depended” (Samara 2011)

Sugar Man: The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez – a man who unknowingly became the soundtrack for a revolution half a world away” (Source:

As with many periods of resistance, music befitted a major portion of such conflict, and in the case of Apartheid, the music of Rodriguez became the soundtrack for revolt. Or rather, the figure of Rodriguez became a representation of a much broader set of issues, shown in the film ‘Searching for Sugarman’ (Hylsop 2013, p.493). In fact it was when the government started banning the music of Rodriguez that his true popularity prospered. His music became an anthem for young white activists, and hence “the counterculture fed into a weakening of the ideological commitment of the apartheid regime’s support base” (Hylsop 2013, p.495). Willem Möller, of the band ‘Big Sky’ recalls in the film that “for many of us in South Africa he was the soundtrack to our lives.”


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Great lengths were gone to in an attempt to censor Rodriguez’s music (click for video)

Today, examples of resistance or challenge through music are still highly prevalent, even if not in direct response to exaggerated political movements. L-FRESH The LION is one example of an artist who presents a strong message of love and respect for culture. Originating from India’s Punjab region, Sukhdeep Singh tells the Sydney Morning Herald of how the Hip Hop genre of music is imperative in self-expression and the creation of an environment of acceptance. “Once I started writing my own raps, I started making sense of who I am and what I meant to myself. I realised that I did have a place in Australian society and I had a role to play like everyone else.” (Mathieson 2016)

L-FRESH The LION has become a modern day image of resistance, using music to “put all the social and political and cultural barriers to one side so we can just share our experiences” (Source: Sydney Morning Herald 2016)


Jonathan Hyslop (2013) ‘“Days of Miracle and Wonder”? Conformity and Revolt in Searching for Sugar Man’, Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, 14:4, 490-501

Michael Titlestad (2013) ‘Searching for the Sugar-coated Man’, Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, 14:4, 466-470


Mathieson, Craig. “L-Fresh The Lion: They Haven’t Seen Someone Like Me In Australian Entertainment Before”. The Sydney Morning Herald. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 Sept. 2016

Samara, T 2011, Cape Town After Apartheid, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis

“The Soundtrack To Anti-Apartheid: ‘Searching For Sugar Man'”. PopMatters. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 Sept. 2016.

Featured Image: “Protest” by Roscoe Myrick (, licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


Published by susiealdermann

Fifth Year Bachelor of Communications and Media/ Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar) student

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