Music and sports are huge elements of South African culture, often going together hand-in-hand. Sporting events in South Africa are always accompanied by cheerful songs coming from the stands. Traditional South African songs usually make up most of the fans’ list, but other genres have started making their way into the repertoire – pop, hip-hop, and rock’n’roll.
Apart from fans singing in the stands, South African sports events often feature artists performing on the pitch, either pre-game or during the post-game celebrations. South Africans are yet to embrace the tradition of halftime shows like the ones organized over in America during the Super Bowl.
Looking Up to the Superbowl?
The NFL Championship game a.k.a. The Super Bowl is the most-watched program on American TV every year. That said, the halftime show is a unique opportunity for artists to put themselves on the radar of viewers from the US. It’s almost as if it’s a whole separate event, with many viewers turning their TVs on during the Super Bowl only to watch their favorite artists perform.
Further, sports betting sites, including some in South Africa, have special markets for Halftime Show betting that are separate from the Super Bowl. People can bet on which songs are going to be performed, how long will each song last, etc. This all shows how important music is for sports fans, but also for artists.
It is estimated that over one-third of all Americans get to watch the Super Halftime Show every year. For example, the most-watched performance was the one of Katy Perry in 2015, when about 118.5 million Americans tuned in to watch her sing her greatest hits.
Speaking of SB Halftime Show records, the rock band that’s gotten the most attention from the US audience is Coldplay. During the 2016 Super Bowl, Chris Martin and his crew attracted more than 115 viewers across the nation during the live broadcasts. On top of that, the performance also has more than 90 million views on YouTube.
Other notable performers by rockers at the Super Bowl include Prince’s performance during the 2007 game, The Who at the 2010 Super Bowl, and the Rolling Stones’ performance in 2006.
So why isn’t the same happening at sports events in South Africa? This country doesn’t have the NFL, but it does have a love for a similar game – rugby.
Well, although halftime shows at rugby union games aren’t a common practice, the fact is that the fans have been using the force of rock’n’roll to give support to the players.
SA Rugby Team Has Been Rocking for 40+ Years
For more than four decades, the South Africa national rugby union team has been cheered on by the fans singing JULUKA’s rock n roll hit Impi.
Although the song was banned in its early years – for containing lyrics about the Zulus defeating the British colonial army – once the ban was lifted it became an unofficial anthem of the Springboks.
The song was initially released back in 1981, which means that South African rugby and rock music have a long history. Still, the fact is that apart from Impu, only a few other songs are regularly heard in the stadiums.
R’N’R Still Needs to Still the Hearts of African Sports Fans
In South Africa, rock music may not be as popular as other genres, but this doesn’t mean there’s no room for it in SA society. On the contrary, its potential to pump up whoever is listening to it makes rock’n’roll relatively popular among sports fans.
We say “relatively” because South African fans seem to find that the best way to motivate the players on the pitch is to sing traditional patriotic songs. That’s exactly what Gwijo Squad has been doing at every rugby game the SA national team plays.
The fan group was founded by a Johannesburg businessman called Mzwandile Riba, who now leads a group numbering over 2,500 fans. Their aim is to sing the “songs of encouragement” in order to boost their players’ morale.
According to the group leader, they have about 20 songs on their repertoire, most of which are traditional Xhosa amaGwijo songs. They selected the songs that are the most catchy so that everyone would be able to learn them quickly.
Apart from having their own song list, the group often ends up singing along to the songs of other groups, sometimes even singing together with their rivals.
“Everybody joins in, regardless of their background… Last time, Sweet Caroline played, so we all just sang along.”