THIS IS NATIONAL WAKE tells the story of a multiracial band in apartheid-era South Africa, 
whose members risked everything to make music that helped change a nation.

 

 

In 1979, Johannesburg was a city divided. Apartheid kept its black and white citizens separate and unequal. But in the city's underground clubs, three young South Africans dared to think different. This unlikely trio of rockers — Gary and Punka Khoza, two black brothers from Soweto, and Ivan Kadey, a Jewish student from across town — formed National Wake, a revolutionary band that broke every law of apartheid, and inspired their young peers to imagine a new way of life. 

United by their love of punk and reggae and hatred of racism, National Wake's talented members came from vastly different backgrounds, but learning to love and trust one another the three conceived of National Wake as a way to both dance on old South Africa's grave, and awaken a new nation. 
 


This is National Wake traces their story — from the turmoil of the Soweto Uprising, when Gary and Punka's brother was brutalized by police; to the band's creation and the buzzing interracial scene it grew; to their debut record being spirited to England and championed by John Peel on the BBC right after its triumphant release on Warner Records. But under aggressive police surveillance, the band's members couldn't escape the face that their lives, art, friendships, romances, even children were illegal under apartheid. This reality crushed the band from within and without, and had devastating impacts on the lives of its members.
 


As heartbreaking as it is potent, This is National Wake explores the inspiring story that can be found in the lives, music and mission of the members of National Wake, and the legacy it has left behind.