How 2 Tone music empowered us as teenagers during apartheid | Music

Pauline Black’s article on Terry Hall and the 2 Tone movement brought back many memories (Terry Hall integrated black and white, as Stormzy does now. Music has their “more We Need Good Vision, Dec. 20). I was too young to experience the movement, never lived in the UK, never experienced poverty. But when I started listening to The Specials actively in 1988 (I grew up with their music, but there was this magical moment when they reached my heart), I was immersed in apartheid South Africa and I lived in a bordering country. My best friend was black and I was white. Friendships like this are commonplace everywhere, but not in that time and place. Not even multicultural international schools. Everyone stuck to their community.

We questioned this as young teenagers because we shared experiences, laughter, tears and music and knew how similar we were. But because of the color of our skin, people looked at us and did not realize this, disrespecting our friendship. In South Africa, we weren’t allowed to share hotels or go sightseeing together. We hated this system. Through the music centered on The Specials, we discovered what was normal and right. I used to listen to the Specials every day. After that I was listening to his other two tone bands like Fanboy Three, Special AKA, Selector and Beat.

They gave us strength. They normalized our friendship – the band sang about what we went through and they looked like us. I dressed in black and white to make my point more clearly. Music can do a lot more than most people can imagine, but only if it’s sincere. The two-tone movement felt that way to us. People like Terry Hall, Jerry Dammers, Pauline Black and Neville Staple gave us normalcy and showed us a better world. Thanks to all of them.
Cornelia Kohler
Ammerbuch, Germany

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