IN PRODUCTION: THIS IS NATIONAL WAKE (Directed by Mirissa Neff)

This is National Wake is an upcoming documentary film detailing the incredible story of South African punk pioneers National Wake.

In the spring of 1979, Johannesburg, South Africa, was a city wracked by racial strife. Three years earlier, a student uprising in the black township of Soweto had made headlines worldwide; the revolt’s black protesters, and their white sympathizers, seethed at a society that would keep them separate and unequal for another 11 years. That spring, a new Johannesburg band gave their anger a sound. That band was National Wake. Formed by Ivan Kadey and brothers Gary and Punka Khoza, the band’s exhilarating brand of afro-rock joined a punk sensibility with reggae riffs, offering a Soweto-inflected take on the mix that UK phenoms like The Police and The Clash rode to global fame.

But what was perhaps most distinctive was their color. At a time and place where hanging out with someone of another race could land you in jail, National Wake was a multi-racial band: Ivan was white, and Gary and Punka were black. Performing in township halls and downtown punk clubs, National Wake caused a sensation, and were one of the few bands to get black and white South Africans to dance together.

Through thrilling archival footage shot on Super 8 in Johannesburg’s underground clubs, This is National Wake will reveal the idealistic, colorblind scene National Wake’s music inspired, and the protest stance inherent to their sound. As the 1970s ended and a new decade began, this mixed-race punk band was overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and gaining renown throughout South Africa. But could it last?

Viewed from today, 20 years since apartheid was finally destroyed, National Wake’s story resonates as a potent herald of what Mandela once envisioned for the “new South Africa.” This is National Wake will show just how far this heady punk experiment went, what has transpired in the decades since, and the band’s chance at redemption as the their sole album is re-released to worldwide acclaim. The world is finally ready for National Wake!

For more information email: thisisnationalwake at gmail.com


Be a part of the movement to make This is National Wake! The film was recently awarded a development grant by ITVS (makers of PBS's Independent Lens), but more funds are needed to stay in production. Please help get this important project onto screens around the world by donating here: