The promise of the new South Africa is still just a promise. Whites, blacks and Asians mainly keep to themselves. One of the only areas you can witness Nelson Mandela's rainbow nation is among musicians.
"in the band you know you have two Mozambicans and two south Africans, one's white Jewish, the other's black Moslem, one Mozambican's black, the other Mozambican's white."
This is Tumi and the Volume. Rapper Tumi Molokane first met the rest of the band at a jazz venue that was hosting a poetry event. The house band instantly became Tumi's band. Molokane and bassist Dave Bergman, the two South Africans, come from radically different backgrounds. They both say they'd never have met had it not been for Johannesburg's live music scene.
Tumi: "Johanesburg is the first place where you see that kind of interaction, and thus you have these people colliding with each other."
Dave: "Forced to interact...it's after like so many years of segregation now it's at the point where everyone's trying to get by, trying to make money"
Tumi: "And also you're forced to deal with certain things, being Jewish and being Moslem in the same band and going on tour and watching CNN and going "damn Dave, Damn, Dave" you know what I mean?"
Tumi Molokane was born in Tanzania. That's where his South African parents had gone into exile. They were members of the African National Congress, which was banned in apartheid South Africa. In 1992, two years after the ban was lifted, 11 year old Tumi found himself living for the first time in South Africa, in Soweto. And he was a stranger at home.
Tumi: "For most exiles, expats they called them, there wasn't a program: "You're back home, this is what's happening." You're thrust into Soweto, douch! You can't speak Zulu, you can't speak any of the local languages. So people like calling you names, you're like this or that. So you know, you develop a thick skin."
Questioning authority runs throughout Tumi and the Volume's self-titled album. On this track, Tumi advises people not to take the likes of him too seriously. Tumi says his mother brainwashed him to think for himself, he's just trying to pass that on. He gets a kick out of setting sober words to sunny music.
Tumi: "It's funny because when the dudes were playing the song, they were like "oh man this is the one, this is the hit right here." And then when I came up with the thing they were like "oh god, here he goes." Just because of the content it stops being that happy clappy thing./ As much as it's "Ask your mama what.." but essentially what I'm saying in the song "Sometimes you don't have to listen to these rappers and think that they are important, sometimes just speak to your family, speak to you, you know? / and you get to turn the music down."
Tumi and the Volume are one of the few South African hip hop acts that have won fans outside the African continent. They've signed with a Montreal based label, and they've toured Canada three times. They hope to record a 2nd studio album later this year, and do some more international touring.