Through the fog of pseudoephedrine, codeine and paracetamol—A playlist compiled by Tymon Smith

Through the fog of pseudoephedrine, codeine, paracetamol and all the other drugs familiar to sufferers of the dreaded, predictable and annoying common cold, this edition of Radio JRB comes huffing, puffing and hacking into the world. To everything turn, turn, turn there is a season … but no mention of a time to sniffle, a time to sneeze, a time to feel sorry for oneself and cry out through blocked sinus passages, ‘Vy me? Achoo!’ 

But enough about the small, ordinary pains of a winter cold suffering DJ—this playlist takes us from the folk art, lay-preaching devotions of Sister Gertrude Morgan, to the righteous civil rights anger-inspired jazz of Black America in the nineteen-sixties, to the islands of Mauritius and Réunion and their creole cultures that draw lines back to Africa and the slave trade and sugar, because ‘nature gives you energy’, and colonialism gives you sweet profits. 

From there it’s across the Indian Ocean and to the north of the continent for some Arabic-meets-Western sounds care of Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco—in bad geographical order. There are some familiar strokes for early noughties folks and some rolling stones who still gather no moss, and something from Lesotho, and a Zambian resurrection, and new directions care of women who spit faster and sharper than the men whose hip hop shoulders they stand on, and next to in the fiftieth anniversary year of the genre’s beginnings in the Bronx. Then it’s off to Jamaica for some dancehall classics before some last shoutouts to recently departed heroes Pharoah Sanders and the gone-too-soon-but-immortal Sinéad. For the aliens—who the US Congress has revealed are real—will know us by the trail of our dead; Godspeed You Black Emperors.  

Until next time, in sickness and in health, with nasal passages blocked and unblocked, and in sonic delirium and clear-headedness, this is Radio JRB signing off to become death, destroyer of worlds. The thoughts may be random but the playlist is not. 

  • Tymon Smith is a member of The JRB Editorial Advisory Panel, and a freelance journalist who writes about the arts and South African history. Previously the literary editor of the Sunday Times, he is the recipient of a silver Standard Banks Arts Journalist of the Year Award for feature writing. He was the head researcher for the interactive DVD Between Life and Death: Stories from John Vorster Square, and is working on a book about the Johannesburg police station.

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