Taking inspiration from a childhood spent in apartheid South Africa, Rivonia by Dear Reader is a human record set amongst the backdrop of an international event.
On the surface, the event that is the trigger for Rivonia is the arrest of 19 ANC leaders in the July of 1963; Nelson Mandela actually avoided arrest that day, though his comrades were not so lucky.
Each song on the album is touched and informed in one way, shape or form by apartheid. As such, it could be considered a highly controversial piece of work. However, Dear Reader doesn’t do “the political”, instead eschewing it for “the human”.
Opening track Down Under, Mining, the video of which can be viewed here is a beautiful song about the treatment of black South Africans “fetching the white man his gold”.
Took Them Away is about the actual arrest of whites and blacks who were attempting to work together to end apartheid – the farmhouse where the arrest took place was a childhood haunt of Dear Reader. When she became aware of its history, it became a focus of her attention. This is emphasised by its last words “how could I know?”.
The fourth track on the album, 27.04.1994 is about the general election held in South Africa on that day, where Nelson Mandela was allowed to stand. Mandela won that day, and the date is now know as Freedom Day, and is a national holiday in South Africa. Whilst of a political nature, the human theme of the album is continued.
Musically speaking, it’s a highly accessible album. Present are lots of influences, stretching from traditional South African to classical – in fact, when Teller of Truths came on on random one day, I thought it was a classical track.
I don’t give stars out on this blog. Instead, I tell you if it makes the transition from iPod to iPhone. Rivonia is the latest graduate.