Supporting our local singers—celebrating the music of Reuben T. Caluza (Journal of Visual Culture & HaFI, 17)
This is the seventeenth instalment of a collaborative effort by the Journal of Visual Culture and the Harun Farocki Institut, initiated by the COVID-19 crisis. The call sent to JVC’s editorial board, and a wide selection of previous contributors and members of its extended communities, described the task as follows: “There is a lot of spontaneous, ad hoc opinion-making and premature commentary around, as to be expected. However, the ethics and politics of artistic and theoretical practice to be pursued in this situation should oblige us to stay cautious and to intervene with care in the discussion. As one of JVC’s editors, Brooke Belisle, explains: ‘We are not looking for sensationalism, but rather, moments of reflection that: make connections between what’s happening now and the larger intellectual contexts that our readership shares; offer small ways to be reflective and to draw on tools we have and things we know instead of just feeling numb and overwhelmed; help serve as intellectual community for one another while we are isolated; support the work of being thoughtful and trying to find/make meaning…which is always a collective endeavour, even if we are forced to be apart.'” TH
Influenza 1918 (collaborative music and video project, initiated by Philip Miller)
Supporting our local singers—celebrating the music of Reuben T. Caluza
Choral music notation for the song “Influenza” (courtesy of Howard Phillips, In a Time of Plague: Memories of the ‘Spanish’ Flu Epidemic of 1918 in South Africa, 2018)
I am a South African composer who has embarked upon a project to assist funding singers and musicians who are currently unable to work and earn money during this period of the COVID 19 lock –down.
After recently reading an article written by Mark Gevisser (The Monthly Review, Business Day, April 7, 2020) I discovered the song “Influenza” from 1918, composed by Reuben T. Caluza, during a period when the Spanish Flu had taken the lives of so many people in South Africa and the rest of the world. After much research, I tracked down an old recording of the song, which was made in 1920. In the past few weeks of South Africa’s lock-down, I transcribed it and made an arrangement of this song for voice, piano, and brass.
Zulu choral conductor, composer, and teacher Reuben T. Caluza (1895-1964), photographer unknown
I brought together a team of young vocalists, with whom I have collaborated over a period of several decades. They have recorded the song in Zulu, each vocalist recording in their own home and then sending these as voice-messages for me to incorporate into a new rendition of the song. It is my response to the Covid -19 Pandemic.
Assembling all these voices and musicians together, I produced this song as an audio mp3 and music video available to download via many different social media platforms, including; Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, Soundcloud and Spotify.
Highlighting the interesting parallels between the origins of the song during the Spanish Flu epidemic in South Africa in 1918 and the Covid 19 pandemic, I am also focusing on creating awareness of the difficult financial circumstances which freelance musicians and singers are currently facing. The ensemble of singers who participated in creating this song, rely entirely on live musical productions and gigs to support themselves and their families. This stream of income has abruptly stopped, due to productions and performances being cancelled or postponed, leaving them with no income.
The eight singers who participated in the recording of the song are based in the areas of Masiphumelele, Gugulethu, Langa and Soweto:
Ann Masina (soprano)
Thuli Magubane (soprano)
Lydia Manyame ( alto)
Lulama Mgceleza (tenor)
Masibulele Malima (tenor)
Lubabalo Velayi ( bass)
Bulelani Madondile ( baritone)
Reuben Mbonambi (bass)
The Campaign went live on May 1, 2020 using the on-line platform, BUSQR, where donations can be made into the relief fund #MusoReliefSA. All funds raised will be distributed amongst the community of local South African singers and musicians, who I have worked with over many years.
Philip Miller is a South African and international composer and sound artist based in Cape Town. His work is multi-faceted, often developing out of collaborative projects in theatre, film, video and sound installations. Miller is currently an honorary fellow at ARC (The Research Initiative in Archive and Public Culture) at the University of Cape Town
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Vasyl Cherepanyn about the “inertness, hiding behind the European Wall” (via L’Internationale): “Many Western institutions that have been claiming ‘radical political engagement’ for years, have simply resorted to a white cube radicalism and self-satisfying humanitarianism, too afraid of acting politically beyond their comfort zone and unsettling their publics and authorities by attempting to affect the decision-making process regarding the Ukrainian cause.”
May 28th, 2022
Tatsiana Shchurkoon the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”
Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”
An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”
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Vasyl Cherepanyn (Visual Culture Research Centre, Kyiv) on Putin’s “World War Z” and the West’s deadly “foot-dragging”, viaProject Syndicate: “The main feature of this Western condition is constant belatedness. The West has always been too late, incapable of acting ahead and instead just reacting to what has already happened. As a Ukrainian joke went at the time, ‘While the European Union was taking a decision, Russia took Crimea.’ Then as now, Ukrainians wondered, ‘What is the West’s red line? What will compel the West to act instead of waiting and discussing when to intervene?’”
Barbara Wurm on Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, killed in Mariupol, via Die Welt: “Kvedaravičius unfolded a whole spectrum of visual anthropology over a decade with only three films [Barzakh, Mariupolis, Parthenon]. It now awaits evaluation and exploration. The time will come. The films themselves make possible an infinite immersion in the matter of the world, between dream and reality, horror and everyday life, facts and phenomenal imagology.”