The 'Silverton Siege' Soundtrack is the Sound of Resistance

Netflix's new film Silverton Siege features a varied and impressive soundtrack that grounds the film with tone and character.

At the end of Silverton Siege, Netflix's new original movie, the gun-toting duo of Calvin (Thabo Rametsi) and Terra (Noxolo Dlamini) walk fearlessly towards the open bank doors for another standoff with the police. They knew their fate was death.

The scene drowns in alarming red lights, then cuts to black with the sound of gunfire. Zamo Mbutho’s "Asimbonanaga" plays next; the song is a mournful acapella invoking the mood of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Directed by South African filmmaker Mandla Dube, Silverton Siege features a soundtrack that grounds the film with tone and character. These songs are forged in an African revolutionary consciousness. From Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat anthem "Zombie" to Philip Miller’s "Hamba Kahle Umkhonto." In the case of South Africa, they re-enchant the role songs played in galvanizing people against apartheid.

The Silverton siege was a flashpoint in the movement for Nelson Mandela’s release. In 1980s South Africa, anti-apartheid freedom fighters — Wilfred Madela, Humphrey Makhubu, Stephen Mafoko — aborted their planned sabotage mission at Watloo’s petrol depots and were on the run from the police. They hunkered down at Volkskas Bank in Silverton, Pretoria, where they held 25 civilians hostage.

In the film, Calvin is the de facto leader of the group, negotiating for safe passage out of the bank. The officer in charge, Langerman (Arnold Vosloo), reluctantly agrees to the demand and sends a helicopter manned by a solo driver. It’s a trap, though. Without their knowledge, the pilot Sechaba (Tumisho Masha) is going to deliver the group to the police once he’s been informed of their destination.

Fela’s "Zombie" starts to play when the trio, with a hostage taken along, leave the bank and head for the chopper. What transpires afterwards is the group knowing they have been set up. Sechaba is pulling out a gun when he’s preempted by Calvin. He’s disarmed, struck in the face and forced out of the chopper, then manhandled back to the bank along with the group.

Released in 1976, "Zombie" criticizes the military as tools of oppression by the Nigerian government. It strikes a parallel to the helicopter scene. Sechaba, a Black South African, is an asset of the police. By extension, he’s in service for the white ruling class aiding the capture of the freedom fighters. What’s teachable here is that in the process of fighting oppression, the enemy doesn’t always look like those in power, but could be anyone from the grass-root.

Although they look like the oppressed, these people aren’t committed to revolutionary warfare or liberation. Their orders come from above. The next time we hear another song in the background, it is Chicco Twala’s "I Need Some Money." The scene finds Calvin and Aldo pushing out trolleys stacked with cash in the bank’s main hall. Soundtracking the scene with this song diffuses the tension, inverting the serious stakes with its shangaan-disco liveliness.

"I Need Some Money" was released in 1986, and it was the first hit from the South African artist and producer. What does it mean to need money during this time? The global economic crisis didn’t spare South Africa, with rising inflation, unemployment and weakening of its currency. But Calvin isn’t interested in the money. This is another inversion that occurs. An economic downturn in the country where seeking material provisions would be justified is juxtaposed with the revolutionary mindset of his group.

The trolley is now outside the bank, where Terra and Calvin hold a Black American man at gunpoint. While Langerman tries to reason with them, the American pours fuel all over the trolley on orders from the duo. Engulfed with fire, Johnny Clegg and Juluka’s "Impi" comes on. Calvin walks sideways towards the press with their cameras and shouts, “Free Nelson Mandela!”

This shifts the trajectory of the story. Nelson Mandela was sent to prison in 1964 for treason and opposing the apartheid regime. The clamor for his release in the film is underscored by the sheer stature of Johnny Clegg, who wasn’t just a singer and songwriter but a huge figure in the fight against apartheid.

Silverton Siege woman gun

Photo Credit: Neo Baepi/Netflix

His band, Julukua, was one of his successful racially mixed groups. Off their second album, African Litany, which was released in 1981, Impi is Zulu for ‘’war.’’ His version of "Asimbonanaga" was made with his other band Savuka from their album Third World Child and was dedicated to political prisoners, especially Mandela.

Silverton Siege isn’t a film without a body count. Outside the bank demanding for the release of Mandela, Calvin and the bank supervisor Christine (Elaine Dekker) have put away their differences. Unfortunately, she’s shot by a rooftop sniper from the SWAT team.

"Hamba Khale Umkhonto" permeates this scene where she dies. It’s forlorn and mournful. When Silverton Siege —which was released on Freedom Day last month — ends, the sacrifice of the trio becomes symbolic for what comes later: freedom.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Blood & Water is Khosi Ngema's Moment - and She’s Enjoying It

We spoke with the South African actress about her hit TV show and being Gabrielle Union's #WCW.

Netflix South Africa seems to be on a mission to dominate international screens. With two successful original shows under their belt so far, (RIP Queen Sono) and credit for giving birth to a plethora of fresh and talented new African faces, the global movie, and television giant seems to have found a comfortable home in the Southern African hub.

One talent that has sparked life into the Netflix television scene is South African actress Khosi Ngema. The 21-year-old newcomer plays Fikile Bhele on Netflix South Africa's original series Blood & Water. The teen drama, written and directed by Nosipho Dumisa, follows the life of high school student Puleng Khumalo (played by lead actress Ama Qamata) as she searches for her long-lost sister. Puleng attends Parkhurst College in the hopes to get close to popular student Fikile Bhele as she believes that she's her abducted sister as they share the same birthday and other too-good-to-be-true similarities along the way.

We spoke to the model and singer about newfound fame, the adoration from the likes of American actress Gabrielle Union and how Blood & Water provides an escape from reality for many young South Africans.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Your breakout role just happens to be on a Netflix show that is also the first-ever African original series to be ranked first on Netflix in 10 countries including the US. How does that feel?

Insane. I still can't wrap my head around it. I'm just going with the flow, I'm just like, "Oh, we're number one. Okay. That's cool. That's nice." Yeah, it's insane.

How are you processing all of it?

Just taking it one step at a time. I'm just glad that people are able to watch the show on a global scale and enjoy it. That's all that matters to me. I just want to keep doing it. I'm adjusting to the whole social aspect of it, like social media and interviews and stuff, but it's been cool.

And the cast, you guys are all really young and relatively new on the scene. Does having that support and common ground help at all?

Definitely. I remember in season one, Ama (Qamata) and I were like, "Okay, we're in this together." Because we're both new and this thing is huge, but we just held each other through it. So that's definitely been the theme throughout even now.

Fans are losing their minds, already eager for what's next. Why do you think people resonate so well with the show?

I think people resonate with Blood & Water because, number one, it's a young adult series. So, the youth and young adults, and even older people can relate to it because you're watching these teenagers navigate life. I also think it's refreshing because, for the first time, I guess in South Africa I'd say, it's just a story about teenagers and just people living. They're going through this crazy thing, human trafficking, and not so much about the struggle. And as much as that's important to highlight, I feel like it's just showing people being people. It's an escape from our usually sad reality here.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Your character, Fikile, has become a fan favorite. The girls are loving Fiks. Why do you think people relate to her so much?

I think it's because she's just this girl who's trying to bold her identity, trying to show everyone that she's a person despite everything they've already concluded about her. I'm not going to lie, at first, she is a bit out of touch with reality, before everything. But I feel like now she's coming to, she sees how she affects the world around her. She sees that there's actually life beyond what she knows, which is great. It shows growth, especially at that age. But yeah, I think she's growing and learning.

How much of Fikile do you see in yourself and vice versa?

At first? Not a lot, because we're like opposites in terms of our social standing. In high school, she's super popular and I wasn't. She's a party girl and popular, but I feel like now in season two, I found a point where we both meet because obviously in order to portray her, I have to dig within myself to find her. So I feel like now we do meet. It's just our experiences are completely different, but just the feeling that she experiences, I feel like I have in my own way. But we're different.

Gabriel Union recently shouted you out on social media. How are you processing all the attention and love from industry veterans?

Someone told me, "You're too calm. Why are you so calm?" But inside, I'm screaming. I think it's nice, the recognition is really nice. It's like well done, you did something, but I just try not to let that phase me. It's a huge deal. I'm still like, "Oh my gosh, what?" But I just try to let it ground me. Just let it push me, find inspiration because these are the people that inspire me.

Is there anything else you're working on right now that you want fans to know about, or people are interested in?

At the moment, nothing too crazy. I am working on music, but I can't really say anything. I'm still having fun and reeling from success from the show. People keep asking what's next but I'm just trying to enjoy this moment. And I don't want to do too many things and peak too soon. I'm here for the long ride.

You can watch season two of Blood & Water on Netflix.

get okayafrica in your inbox


Inside The Ingenious Mind Of "JIVA!" Lead Noxolo Dlamini

We certainly hope that Noxolo Dlamini's role in Netflix's JIVA! will propel her entertainment career to crazy heights. As we sit back and watch!

The Music Behind Netflix's South African Series 'JIVA!'

Get to know all the fire tracks featured on Netflix's South African dance series 'JIVA!'.

South African Documentary 'My Octopus Teacher' Bags An Oscar

'My Octopus Teacher', a South African eco-documentary, won the 'Best Feature Documentary' award at the 93rd Oscars.

Loyiso Gola Details His Upcoming Netflix Special in New Interview

Loyiso Gola details 'Unlearning', his upcoming debut Netflix Special, a first for an African comedian, in new interview with GQ South Africa. "I consider 'Unlearning' a special piece art," he says.


Netflix Reveals New Faces for Second Season of ‘Blood & Water'

Netflix South Africa has shared the new faces joining 'Blood & Water' for the highly anticipated second season.