Drum (South African magazine)

Drum (South African magazine)
First issue 1951
Country  South Africa
Based in Johannesburg
Language English
Website http://www.drum.co.za

Drum is a South African family magazine mainly aimed at Black readers and contains market news, entertainment and feature articles. It has two sister magazines: Huisgenoot (aimed at White and Coloured Afrikaans-speaking readers) and YOU (aimed at White English-speaking readers).

In 2005 it was described as "the first black lifestyle magazine in Africa"[1]—but it is chiefly notable for its early 1950s and 1960s reportage of township life under apartheid.



Drum was started in 1951, as "African Drum" by former test cricketer and author Bob Crisp and Jim Bailey an ex-R.A.F. pilot, son of South African financier Sir Abe Bailey.

Initially under Crisp's editorship, the magazine had a paternalistic, tribal representations of Africans[2], but within a short time Crisp was replaced and the emphasis moved to the vibrant urban black townships.

The paper in its early years had a series of outstanding editors:

Both Sampson and Stein wrote books about their times as editor, "Drum: A Venture Into The New Africa" and Who killed Mr Drum? respectively.

Drum's heyday in the 1950s fell between the Defiance Campaign and the tragedy at Sharpeville. This was the decade of potential Black emergence, the decade when the Freedom Charter was written and the decade when the ANC alliance launched the Defiance Campaign. The aim was to promote an equal society. The Nationalist government responded with apartheid crackdowns and treason trials.

It was also the decade of the movement to the cities, of Sophiatown, of Black jazz, the jazz opera King Kong with a Black cast, an adoption of American culture, of shebeens (illegal drinking dens) and flamboyant American style gangsters (tsotsis) with chrome-laden American cars who spoke a slang called Tsotsitaal.

It was a time of optimism and hope. Drum was a "record of naivety, optimism, frustration, defiance, courage, dancing, drink, jazz, gangsters, exile and death".[5]

Drum described the world of the urban Black; the culture, the colour, dreams, ambitions, hopes and struggles. Lewis Nkosi described Drum's young writers as the new African[s] cut adrift from the tribal reserve - urbanised, eager, fast-talking and brash.[6]

Peter Magubane described the atmosphere in the newsroom. "Drum was a different home; it did not have apartheid. There was no discrimination in the offices of Drum magazine. It was only when you left Drum and entered the world outside of the main door that you knew you were in apartheid land. But while you were inside Drum magazine, everyone there was a family." [7]

Drum's stellar cast of Black journalists included such names as Henry (Mr Drum) Nxumalo, Can Themba, Todd Matshikiza, Nat Nakasa, Lewis Nkosi and others such as William Bloke Modisane, Arthur Maimane, and Casey Motsisi. Together, they were known as the Drum Boys. This group lived by the dictum "live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse". [5] Most of these journalists went on to publish works in their own right. [8] The other journalists who worked there include Bessie Head [9], Lionel Ngakane [10], Richard Rive and Jenny Joseph.[11]

It wasn’t only the writers – the pictures were also important. The main photographer and artistic director was Jürgen Schadeberg who arrived in South Africa in 1950 after leaving a war ravaged Berlin. He became one of the rare European photographers to photograph the daily lives of Black people. He trained a generation of rising black photographers, including Ernest Cole, Bob Gosani and later Peter Magubane. Magubane joined Drum because "they were dealing with social issues that affected black people in South Africa. I wanted to be part of that magazine". [12] Alf Khumalo was another well-known photographer on the staff.

Henry Nxumalo was the first journalist and specialised in investigative reporting. For example, he got a job on a potato farm where he exposed the exploitative conditions (almost slave-like) under which the Black labourers worked. In 1957, Nxumalo was murdered while investigating an abortion racket. [13] His story was the basis for the 2004 film "Drum".[14]

Todd Matshikiza wrote witty and informed jazz articles about the burgeoning township jazz scene.

Dolly (the agony aunt) helped many a confused, young lover to get their lives back on course. The Dear Dolly letters were written by Dolly Rathebe, a popular actress, pin-up and singer. In reality, they were ghosted by other Drum writes, notably Casey Motsisi.

Arthur Maimane, under the pseudonym Arthur Mogale wrote a regular series entitled The Chief where he described gangster incidents he had heard about in the shebeens. Don Mattera, a leading Sophiatown gangster took exception to this. "The gangsters were pissed off with him and there was a word out that we should wipe this guy off." [5]

The office telephonist, David Sibeko, became leader of the Pan-African Congress.[15]

Drum also encouraged fiction. Es'kia Mphahlele (the fiction editor from 1955 to 1957) encouraged and guided this. During that time over 90 short stories were published by such authors as Todd Matshikiza, Bloke Modisane, Henry Nxumalo, Casey Motsisi, Arthur Maimane (alias Mogale), Lewis Nkosi, Nat Nakasa, Can Themba and others. These stories described the people of the street; jazz musicians, gangsters, shebeen queens and con men and were written in a uniquely Sophiatown-influenced blend of English and Tsotsitaal. This creative period has been called the Sophiatown renaissance.[16]

The backbone of the magazine was crime, investigative reporting, sex (especially if across the colour line) and sport. This was fleshed out by imaginative photography.

The formula worked and made for compulsive reading. Each issue of Drum was read by up to 9 people, passed from hand to hand on the streets, in the clubs or on the trains. It became a symbol of Black urban life. 240,000 copies were distributed each month across Africa. [17] This was more than any other African magazine.

Drum was distributed in 8 different countries viz. Union of South Africa, Central African Federation, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. [17]

Sadly, because of the immovable force of apartheid the promise and dreams it described turned to frustration and despair. In 1955 Sophiatown was bulldozed and the writers died or went overseas. [18] and ...The creative output of the Sophiatown Renaissance came to an end as the bulldozers rolled in....[19]

Later ownership

By May 1965 Drum had faded and became simply a fortnightly supplement to the "Golden City Post"[20], another Bailey property. It was revived in 1968. In 1984 Naspers acquired Drum Publications, the publisher of City Press, Drum and True Love & Family.

Drum now claims to be the sixth largest magazine in Africa.

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ Wood, Sura (2005-11-04). "Drum Review". The Hollywood Reporter (Nielsen Business Media, Inc.). http://login.vnuemedia.com/hr/login/login_subscribe.jsp?id=qvdZ7L8TMtzmQHzJBuT%2F8TcVaaTL76%2B0%2FjJ0KihrMyoYRyRXvbyQE8m0DDTx7NBQvzdAaqzpefUw%0A83Z2mOn%2FrgXtoE3FGBhhIsQCcRr9XP04dzb0vbEcMB7uE7d9ClsT%2FbCj9r%2BurRTqnKBdGaYyIcVV%0Acb1XiiEfXxHfnvF9L1Ea6XuF20BK8wmctjjpnWUC9nmoKJSFQyY5AdnUwYOVHdzXlHjZzFhWq9nf%0AwvcPBiTJu725hgc18RCoQ3x2C9oa%2Fq179cV8ufiqS8xeH8fWfA%3D%3D. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  2. ^ "A history of Drum Magazine", South African History Online
  3. ^ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/dec/21/pressandpublishing.booksobituaries " Obituary, Anthony Sampson], 2004, The Guardian
  4. ^ "Drum years", www.sylvesterstein.com
  5. ^ a b c Mike Nicol (1991). A good-looking corpse. London: Secker & Warburg. ISBN 0-43-630986-6. 
  6. ^ "Lewis Nkosi". answers.com. http://www.answers.com/topic/lewis-nkosi. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  7. ^ Barlow, Peter (2006-08-14). "To the point with Peter Magubane". Activate (Rhodes University). http://ruactivate.wordpress.com/2006/08/14/to-the-point-with-peter-magubane/. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  8. ^ Can Themba wrote The Suit and a selection of his output appears in The world of Can Themba, a selection of Nat Nakasa's output appears in The World of Nat Nakasa, Lewis Nkosi wrote Home and Exile and Mating Birds among others, Bloke Modisane wrote Blame me on history , Arthur Maimane wrote Hate No More and a selection of Casey Motsisi's output appears in Casey & Co . Refer to the individual entries for the ISBN numbers.
  9. ^ Almost all of Head's important work was written in Serowe, in particular, the three Serowe novels When Rain Clouds Gather, Maru, and A Question of Power. She also wrote short stories, including the collection The Collector of Treasures.
  10. ^ Ngakane is most remembered for his 1966 short film Jemima and Johnny inspired by riots in Notting Hill.
  11. ^ Joseph's best known poem, Warning, was written in 1961 and was included in her 1974 collection Rose In the Afternoon and in the Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse.
  12. ^ Cook, John (1997-06-01). "One-Man Truth Squad". Mother Jones. http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/1997/05/truth.html. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  13. ^ "Henry "Mr Drum" Nxumalo (1917 - 1957)". National Orders awards. 29 September 2005. http://www.info.gov.za/aboutgovt/orders/2005/nxumalo.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  14. ^ Drum (2004), at IMDB
  15. ^ Herbstein, Denis (2005-07-15). "Arthur Maimane". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/southafrica/story/0,,1528877,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  16. ^ Masilela, Ntongela; University of California (1990-04-30). "Black South African literature from the ‘Sophiatown Renaissance' to ‘Black Mamba Rising': Transformations and Variations from the 1950s to the 1980s". Center for Black Studies. http://www.pitzer.edu/new_african_movement/general/essays/nxumalo.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-05. 
  17. ^ a b "Drum Beat in Africa". Time (Time magazine). 1959-09-07. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,825925-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  18. ^ Can Themba died of alcohol-related complications in exile in Swaziland, Todd Matshikiza died in exile in Zambia, Nat Nakasa committed suicide in New York and William Bloke Modisane died in exile in West Germany
  19. ^ Essop Patel (Editor). The World of Nat Nakasa: Selected Writings of the Late Nat Nakasa (Staffrider Series, No 27). Ravan Pr of South Africa. ISBN 086975050X. 
  20. ^ ["South Africa's alternative press: voices of protest and resistance, 1880s-1960s", Les Switzer

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