“Biko” is an anti-apartheid protest song by English rock musician Peter Gabriel. It was released by Charisma Records as a single from Gabriel’s eponymous third album in 1980.
The song is a musical eulogy, inspired by the death of the black South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in police custody on 12 September 1977. Gabriel wrote the song after hearing of Biko’s death on the news. Influenced by Gabriel’s growing interest in African musical styles, the song carried a sparse two-tone beat played on Brazilian drum and vocal percussion, in addition to a distorted guitar, and a synthesised bagpipe sound. The lyrics, which included phrases in Xhosa, describe Biko’s death and the violence under the apartheid government. The song is book-ended with recordings of songs sung at Biko’s funeral: the album version begins with “Ngomhla sibuyayo” and ends with “Senzeni Na?”, while the single versions end with “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”.
“Biko” reached No. 38 on the British charts, and was positively received, with critics praising the instrumentation, the lyrics, and Gabriel’s vocals. A 2013 commentary called it a “hauntingly powerful” song, while review website AllMusic described it as a “stunning achievement for its time”. It was banned in South Africa, where the government saw it as a threat to security. “Biko” was a personal landmark for Gabriel, becoming one of his most popular songs and sparking his involvement in human rights activism. It also had a huge political impact, and along with other contemporary music critical of apartheid, is credited with making resistance to apartheid part of western popular culture. It inspired musical projects such as Sun City, and has been called “arguably the most significant non-South African anti-apartheid protest song”
Peter Gabriel is the third solo studio album by the English rock musician Peter Gabriel, released on 30 May 1980 by Charisma Records. The album, produced by Steve Lillywhite, has been acclaimed as Gabriel’s artistic breakthrough as a solo artist. AllMusic wrote that it established him as “one of rock’s most ambitious, innovative musicians”. Building […]
|Background Vocals||David Ferguson|