As a writer, sometimes you’ll be trying to keep your head down and mind your own business when an incredible story will come along and slap you in the face, demanding to be told. That’s how I felt when I first heard the tale of National Wake: a punk band from apartheid-era South Africa comprised of guitarists Ivan Kadey and Steve Moni and a rhythm section of Gary and Punka Khoza, Shangaan-speaking brothers from the township of Soweto. Every move they made and every show they played – often in segregated whites-only clubs – was a challenge to their country’s openly racist laws. It was an honour to speak to the band’s remaining members for a feature in this week’s NME. It’s a hell of a story.
Sadly, of course, the story of bands being persecuted is not a unique one or something we can confine to history. Repressive governments all over the planet still fear and loathe any musicians who has the iron-clad cojones to speak out against them. Pussy Riot’s imprisonment in Russia for taking over the pulpit in a Moscow church to recite a “punk prayer” in opposition to Vladimir Putin is just one of the more high profile recent cases.