Thursday, 10 January 2013

Freedom day

Track: Freedom Day

(Click song name to listen on soundloud)

Album: The Exile, concept album recording
Artist: Eric Swardt

The opening song for the musical, The Exile, is Freedom day. This song is also the first song on the concept album, now available from CDBaby.

This song is a 'scene setter'. In a musical you want to set the scene as soon as possible. The idea is to introduce your audience to the basics of the show. In what time is the play? Where are we? Who are the people.

This song sets the time for the show firmly ten years after the first democratic elections. It sets the place as South Africa. It introduce the audience to the first important characters, i.e. Tyler, Anthony, Pamela and Melissa.

When the song starts with an instrumental section, Pamela invites her friends into her house. It is a simple, small government sponsored economic housing scheme house. The occasion is the Freedom day celebrations. South Africa had the first democratic elections and the people are now getting used to being free. Not only are we celebrating democracy, but we are also paying specific tribute to the people who sacrificed their lives to bring us the democracy.

The first three verses tells us that we are having freedom day celebrations:
"We are gathered here as free men
to remember the war
We celebrate those who fought
to set us free

We are gathered here as free men
to celebrate freedom day
Our country was set free
ten years ago

We are free, free to go
We are free and live as one
Now we stand as a nation united
so we'll remain, united and free"

These are typical "company numbers", ie. the whole ensemble sings together in a sing-along fashion.

In the 4th verse Pamela introduces us to Tyler, her son. She gives us the first hint what the story is all about.

"Son you have the blood of a hero
running through the veins of your heart
In these footsteps one day you will follow
In our future you will play your part"

Tyler's father is a hero and she believes that Tyler will stand up to the legacy and follow in the footsteps of the great man. She hints to the plot of the story by telling him that he is likely to change their destiny.

While everybody is happy for the democracy, not everything is as rosy as they wanted it to be. Ten years have gone by and people have not magically became rich. Even though democracy has made political life easy in South Africa, it has not yet created enough jobs. There are more than 5 million unemployed people in South Africa. Democracy is fine for the 1 million who did get jobs, but the others have not seen any benefits from democracy yet. We are introduced to one of them, Anthony:

"And now we stand as a nation free
free to live in poverty
What did we get from democracy
Why don't I feel so free"

Clearly Anthony is not feeling all that happy. Democracy did not give him what he expected. We are only hinting to it for now. The next song will tell us much more about Anthony.

While Anthony is trying to put water on the fire, the rest of the company is trying to ignore him.

"We are free, free to go
We are free and live as one
Now we stand as a nation united
So we'll remain, united and free"

This verse is a repeat of the second verse. In pop music we often see sections being repeated. We usually call it the chorus. In musicals we often get the chorus as well. In many modern musicals we have however done away with the verse, chorus format for a song.

Greats like Lloyd-Webber and Sondheim, who established the modern "mega-musical" concept rarely repeats sections in their songs or have choruses. The reason for this is simple. In a musical we want to move the story forward. Repeating a verse or chorus is not moving forward. It is repeating.

Then, why are we repeating a verse here?

The answer is simple. By repeating this verse, we are moving the story forward. Makes sense? Let me explain. We have already established the happy democracy feeling of the crowd. Ten we want to tell you about the minority who are disillusioned. We however do not want to establish this play as a political play about the problems of the new South Africa. By repeating this verse, the crown is dismissing Antony's complaints. They are here today to celebrate freedom and not complain about it.

Are we however trying to say everything is rosy? No. Everything is not rosy. People do have a lot to complain abut. That is exactly what we will be discussing in the next verse.

Until next time.


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