A-List: Coal train to South Africa

A-List is a weekly feature on music and the arts from Africa on the ONE Blog. If you like what you see, let us know in the comments below and we’ll post more like it!

There’s a train that comes from Namibia and Angola. There’s a train that comes from Zimbabwe and Zambia. There’s a train that comes from Malawi, from Mozambique, and Swaziland. There’s a train that comes from Botswana, from Lesotho, and the whole hinterland of Southern Africa.

And this train carries with it young men and old men of African origin, who come to work on conscription and contracts in the gold and mineral mines of Johannesburg and the surrounding metropolis. Deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down, in the underbelly of the earth, where they are digging and drilling for that mighty, shiny evasive stone…they always curse the coal train, the coal train that brought them to Johannesburg… the “Stimela.”

Haunting. I can’t describe it any other way. Hugh Masekela’s “Coal Train (Stimela)” sends shivers down my spine — listen to it in the player above. I get the goosebumps (and it’s more than 100 degrees outside in Washington).

South African musician and ONE member Hugh Masekela http://www.one.org/us/2012/01/24/hugh-masekela-joins-our-hungry-no-more-campaign/“>has been featured on the A-list before, but I would be remiss not to share his seminal track “Coal Train (Stimela),” from the 1985 jazz album, Waiting for the Rain. Describing the journey of migrant workers to the gold mines of South Africa, Masekela’s flugelhorn reminds us that brass, too, can be beautiful! Have a listen.