The Mysterious ‘Sugarman’ and Music Censorship

This week during the BCM111 lecture on ‘Music and Resistance’ we viewed the documentary film ‘Searching for Sugarman’. Within the first five minutes I was intrigued by the mysterious tale of ‘Rodriguez’ and I needed to know more.

Rodriguez AKA Sixto Diaz Rodriguez is a Mexican-American folk musician whose music was popular mainly in South Africa in the 1970’s. You might not know of him but you’ve most likely heard his song ‘Sugarman’. It was remixed by Australian duo Yolanda be Cool (also known for the 2010 song ‘We No Speak Americano’) released in November 2014. The song peaked at number 14 in the Australian ARIA charts, in Australia this is the most recognition Rodriguez has received for his work and the song went platinum after sales exceeded 70,000 copies.

The Yolanda Be Cool ‘Sugarman’ Remix

The Original ‘Sugarman’ by Rodriguez

The  documentary watched in the lecture ‘Searching For Sugarman’ shows the efforts of two Rodriguez fans; Stephan ‘Sugar’ Segerman and Craig Bartholomew-Strydom in their search for truth about the musicians rumored death, who he really was and if he wasn’t dead what happened to him. After extensive searching including deeply looking into song lyrics the two find Rodriguez alive and well living in Detroit.

The documentary won several awards in 2013 awards season including a BAFTA for best documentary, an OSCAR for best documentary feature and the film also went on to win the World Cinema Special Jury Prize.

The film was made for the Sundance Film Festival, it was directed by a Swedish director, Malik Bendjelloul, produced by Swedish and British Men, detailing two South Africans journey in search for a Mexican-American songwriter. I personally think this makes the movie an excellent example of world cinema another topic we have covered in our BCM111 lectures over the past six weeks.

According to Stephan ‘Sugar’ Segerman Rodriguez’ album ‘Cold Fact’ also became the soundtrack to many South Africans lives in the mid 70’s, it became the anthem of the revolution and helped the South African citizens think differently about their situation.

When Rodriguez’ song ‘Sugarman was released in 1970 is was even banned from most radio stations in South Africa because of its references to drugs. Not only was the track put on the ‘avoid list’, as seen in the film some radio stations even went as far as to actually scratch the area of the vinyl where the song would be to assure that it really couldn’t be played.

Of course when word about this ban got out to the public is inevitably made the album more desirable in South Africa.

Just think, how many songs and albums that you listen to and hear on the radio each day today would be able to be played on the radio if the ban on certain songs was still in place?

Swear words and direct references to drugs and sex are still censored out of music on radios today, just think what it would be like if the censorship committee was still in place worldwide.


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