The ‘Totsi’ is in Town
By Guy Mulvaney
Surviving extreme adversity in life is commendable- turning the pain into triumph- is miraculous. Face facts -one would think that a diminutive Black man landing up in the Old Fort Prison on the outskirts of Hillbrow to serve a 10 year sentence during the apartheid era- had almost zero chance of survival.
Caught between carefree prison guards and the brutal and violent gangs-Freddie Gwala turned to the only weapon he had at his disposal- his God given musical genius.
The grandson of the famous ANC activist- Harry Gwala dispels rumours that he intends to ride on the back of his family name in order to climb the political ladder. He cites that his mission in life is ‘to discourage disaffected youngsters-through his music- from turning to a life of crime.’
His strategy in prison bordered on genius.
He told me that he went on an ‘aggressive recruitment campaign’ and instructed the worst offenders to join his newly created ‘gang’ called Amadamara-little did these violent offenders know—he had no intention of engaging in heinous criminal activity which is endemic in South African prisons . His ‘new recruits’ were flabbergasted and mesmerized by his charisma-he can’t be an inch over 5.3 and weighs in at about 9 stone. Soon the criminals found themselves engaging in entirely different activities-singing and jiving to Zumba music-a combination of township and traditional Zulu music.
A remorseful Gwala-a deeply devoted Christian-was convicted for car theft [he prefers to call it repossession] then introduced his new friends to Christianity. Very soon the prison was a place and harmony- Gwala’s prize - his prison sentence was halved. Ever since he has devoted his life to the cause.
Today Gwala is one of South Africa’s best known musicians. His lyrics that eminated from that dark depressing cell many years ago are now rocking audiences around the globe. When I attended his concert dubbed the ‘totsi tour’at the Rex bar on Saturday night- I experience what those prisoners did several years ago-the incredible power of his musical genius. Instead his music does all the talking.
Go and experience his unique brand of African ethnic music. Freddy will be appearing in Birmingham and Bradford on the 15 & 16th December.
Log onto www.Ticketmania.co.uk
for further details.