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Masiphumelele, South Africa
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About their culture
It may be argued that there is no “single” culture in South Africa because of its ethnic diversity. Today, the diversity in foods from many cultures is enjoyed by all and especially marketed to tourists who wish to sample the large variety of South African cuisine. In addition to food, music and dance feature prominently.
South African cuisine is heavily meat-based and has spawned the distinctively South African social gathering known as a braai, or barbecue. South Africa has also developed into a major wine producer, with some of the best vineyards lying in valleys around Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Paarl and Barrydale.
There is great diversity in music from South Africa. Many black musicians who sang in Afrikaans or English during apartheid have since begun to sing in traditional African languages, and have developed a unique style called Kwaito. Of note is Brenda Fassie, who launched to fame with her song “Weekend Special”, which was sung in English. More famous traditional musicians include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, while the Soweto String Quartet performs classic music with an African flavour. White and Coloured South African singers are historically influenced by European musical styles including such western metal bands such as Seether (formerly Saron Gas). South Africa has produced world-famous jazz musicians, notably Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba, Jonathan Butler, Chris McGregor, and Sathima Bea Benjamin. Afrikaans music covers multiple genres, such as the contemporary Steve Hofmeyr and the punk rock band Fokofpolisiekar. Crossover artists such as Johnny Clegg and his bands Juluka and Savuka have enjoyed various success underground, publicly, and abroad.
The South African black majority still has a substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives. It is among these people, however, that cultural traditions survive most strongly; as blacks have become increasingly urbanised and westernised, aspects of traditional culture have declined. Urban blacks usually speak English or Afrikaans in addition to their native tongue. There are smaller but still significant groups of speakers of Khoisan languages who are not included in the eleven official languages, but are one of the eight other officially recognised languages. There are small groups of speakers of endangered languages, most of which are from the Khoi-San family, that receive no official status; however, some groups within South Africa are attempting to promote their use and revival.
The middle class lifestyle, predominantly of the white minority but with growing numbers of Black, Coloured and Indian people, is similar in many respects to that of people found in Western Europe, North America and Australasia. Members of the middle class often study and work abroad for greater exposure to the markets of the world.
Asians, predominantly of Indian origin, preserve their own cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs, being either Christian, Hindu or Sunni Muslim and speaking English, with Indian languages like Hindi, Telugu, Tamil or Gujarati being spoken less frequently, but the majority of Indians being able to understand their mother tongue. The first Indians arrived on the famous Truro ship as indentured labourers in Natal to work the Sugar Cane Fields. There is a much smaller Chinese community in South Africa, although its numbers have increased due to immigration from Republic of China (Taiwan).
South Africa has also had a large influence in the Scouting movement, with many Scouting traditions and ceremonies coming from the experiences of Robert Baden-Powell (the founder of Scouting) during his time in South Africa as a military officer in the 1890s. The South African Scout Association was one of the first youth organisations to open its doors to youth and adults of all races in South Africa. This happened on 2 July 1977 at a conference known as Quo Vadis.
The South African music scene consists of Kwaito, a new music genre that had developed in the mid 80s and has since developed to become the most popular social economical form of representation among the populous. Though some may argue that the political aspects of Kwaito has since diminished after Apartheid, and the relative interest in politics has become a minor aspect of daily life. Some argue that in a sense, Kwaito is in fact a political force that shows activism in its apolitical actions. Today, major corporations like Sony, BMG, and EMI have appeared on the South African scene to produce and distribute Kwaito music. Due to its overwhelming popularity, as well as the general influence of DJs, who are among the top 5 most influential types of people within the country, Kwaito has taken over radio, television, and magazines.
Kwaito, much like most hip-hop has its own local flavor and originality. However, unlike when hip-hop first burst on the scene as a politically driven and rebellious underground movement, South Africans wanted to create a happier vibe. As the post-apartheid fog cleared, South African youth found their “own voice in a style of music known as kwaito, spawning a new (and profitable) industry”. According to TIMEeurope magazine, “The kwaito sound now regularly incorporates traditional African music, jazz, gospel, and even rock guitar, most notably on Mandoza’s 2000 hit Nkalakatha, one of the few kwaito records to cross over onto traditionally white radio”. In the kwaito, the samples from old school Jamaican dancehall, European house, etc., tempos are changed, beats are added, and urban street slang is also incorporated. This local flavour of music more recently has been attacked for its lack of ingenuity and its betrayal of its roots. The melodies and the incorporation of sex and dance have since become very similar to the American standard. In addition Kwaito has been criticised for its absence of influential lyrical content. As Kwaito is still a developing genre, and since the South African population is only around 48 million, sales of only 25,000 CDs are required for “gold” certification in South Africa.