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How ’Gimme Hope Jo’anna’ paid tribute to Tutu, struggle icons during the height of Apartheid

The song was banned by the South African government when it was released in 1988, but was widely played in South Africa nonetheless. Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

The song was banned by the South African government when it was released in 1988, but was widely played in South Africa nonetheless. Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 26, 2021

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DID you know that a verse in the hit 80’s reggae song ’Gimme Hope Jo'anna’ pays tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu?

Guyanese-British singer and songwriter, Edmond Montague Grant more commonly known as Eddie Grant, penned the well-known anti-Apartheid reggae anthem in the late 1980s at the height of South Africa’s fight for liberation against the Apartheid government.

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The song was banned by the South African government when it was released in 1988, but was widely played in South Africa nonetheless.

Gimme Hope Jo'anna was targeted at the South African apartheid National Party government and Apartheid culture after Grant had visited Africa.

“Jo’anna” is a reference to Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa.

It included several references to South African culture, including a verse dedicated to archbishop Desmond Tutu who fought fervently against the injustices of the Apartheid regime, according to reports.

The beloved human rights activist famously broke down in tears during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, when distressing personal experiences of death and torture under the previous Apartheid regime were recounted in the mid nineties.

The song ends on an optimistic note of hope that the apartheid system would end soon.

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Initially, Grant wrote the song in honour of former South African president Nelson Mandela, who with a number of his struggle compatriots fought against the unjust Apartheid system, a policy that separated people by race, and was very oppressive to black people.

Without mentioning the Arch’s name, Tutu features in a verse of a song.

“Even the preacher who works for Jesus

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The Archbishop who's a peaceful man

Together say that the freedom fighters

Will overcome the very strong

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I wanna know if you're blind Jo'anna

If you wanna hear the sound of drums

Can't you see that the tide is turning

Oh don't make me wait till the morning come”

According to interviews, Grant said that Gimme Hope Jo'anna was the song he was the most proud of due to its widespread recognition and that people understood what it was about.

In 2008 Grant was invited to perform the song at the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute, held in Hyde Park, London, Grant's first live stage performance for 20 years, according to Wikipedia.

African News Agency (ANA)

Related Topics:

Desmond Tutu

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