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Broke People

by Ts'eliso Monaheng / 12.09.2013

This song was released on the web two months ago. I missed it then, yet have heard it repeatedly at shows where Tumi performs it with Lebo Mochudi and members of his newly-formed live unit. The Volume wound seems to heal with every performance. “I may have lost my band, but I’m glad I kept my friends,” he tweeted shortly after announcing the break-up in December 2012.

Around February, he took flight and holed up in Paris to knock out some new music. He debuted the songs at festivals – Sakifo being one of them, bitter-sweet since that was where Tumi and the Volume first struck gold and landed that big French contract.

On June 16th this year, in front of an audience that had been entertained since the early afternoon by rappers like Reason and Yugen Blakrok, and a riotous and gifted vocalist Fifi (she’s worked with Molekane before), Tumi stepped up and performed the all-new songs. “Broke People” was among them, a lament for the living conditions of the marginalised in our society. It feels like 2007 all over again – Tumi’s at a show in Soweto on the same bill with a pre-Coca-Cola K’naan. He holds the mic, faces the audience and begins with the definitive “Freedom was never free!”

This, however, is a revamped Tumi. The beats feel different; the profile is bigger. He has other artists’ careers to consider through his Motif records imprint. He still tours the continent; he was in Kenya just the other week working with Just A Band. And in the midst of all of that outward glory, he’s still the poet/emcee who reflects on issues plaguing the “down-low, sharing-homes-with-cockroach people” , the “hospital-won’t-treat-you, go-and-die-alone people”.

This is Tumi and Samthing Soweto’s prayer, what the latter calls “the long, dry road”. This song should soundtrack the long queues on voting day come 2014, if only to serve as a reminder for yet another five years of injustice and repression.

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