THIS IS NATIONAL WAKE
This is National Wake is an upcoming documentary film detailing the incredible story of South African punk pioneers National Wake.
In the spring of 1979, Johannesburg, South Africa, was a city wracked by racial strife. Three years earlier, a student uprising in the black township of Soweto had made headlines worldwide; the revolt’s black protesters, and their white sympathizers, seethed at a society that would keep them separate and unequal for another fifteen years. That spring, a new Johannesburg band gave their anger a sound. That band was National Wake. Formed by Ivan Kadey and brothers Gary and Punka Khoza, the band’s exhilarating brand of afro-rock joined a punk sensibility with reggae riffs, offering a Soweto-inflected take on the mix that UK phenoms like The Police and The Clash rode to global fame.
But what was perhaps most distinctive was their color. At a time and place where hanging out with someone of another race was illegal, National Wake was a multi-racial band: Ivan was white, and Gary and Punka were black. Performing in township halls and downtown punk clubs, National Wake caused a sensation, and were one of the few bands to get black and white South Africans to dance together. But their notoriety led to the government blacklisting their music, as well as daily visits and periodic beatings from the fearsome South African Police force.
Through thrilling archival footage shot on Super 8 in Johannesburg’s underground clubs, This is National Wake will reveal the idealistic, colorblind scene National Wake’s music inspired, and the protest stance inherent to their sound. As the 1970s ended and a new decade began, this mixed-race punk band was overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and gaining renown throughout South Africa. But could it last?
Viewed from today, over 20 years since apartheid was finally destroyed, National Wake’s story brilliantly illustrates the years that comprised the turning point against one of the 20th century’s greatest political horrors. The film reveals what’s become of the band’s members since, as their fates, alternately hopeful and tragic, mirror those of South Africa. This is National Wake goes on a journey back in time – and forward toward redemption, as the band’s music, once unjustly silenced, is re-released to global acclaim. The world is finally ready for National Wake!