cover image Music with Words: A Composers View

Music with Words: A Composers View

Thomson/ Virgil / Helin/ Jacquelyn. Yale University Press, $45 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-300-04505-5

This magisterial history throws a floodlight on South Africa's current crisis by examining the past. The absurdity of the apartheid philosophy of racial separatism is underscored by the author's argument (backed with convincing research material) that the genes of the nation's first hunter-gatherers are inextricably mixed with those of modern blacks and whites. The Dutch colonial invaders felt no sense of kinship with the original inhabitants, however: their arrival brought slavery and disease, pulverizing chiefdoms and pastoral communities. From the outset, white settler society was dependent on the labor of slaves and indigenous peoples. Thompson, a specialist in South African history, expertly relates how the Afrikaners--still poor, scattered and disunited in 1854--threw off Dutch and British hegemony to forge their own national identity, forcibly uprooting and relocating millions of blacks. Although the author deems president Frederik W. de Klerk ``like his predecessors . . . wedded to fixed racial categories,'' he sees signs of hope in blacks' increasing economic power and the student revolt against pedagogical brainwashing in the state-controlled schools. (June)