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Published: 06 November 2021

By Andy Ross

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Rueben T Caluza - The B Side

The worldwide pandemic of influenza hit Sub-Saharan Africa particularly hard, causing the highest average mortality rate on the planet. 

Rueben T Caluza, a South African musician, penned a song about the outbreak, released as part of an album on the His Master's Voice label, apparently the first time a black choral group had been recorded on vinyl. Influenza/ 1918 was a call to arms, music to warn and educate, and was written in a hymn-like style in four-part harmony. 

When the contemporary composer Philip Miller heard the song, during the lockdowns that we have all experienced over the past two years, he was intrigued. Research followed and together with Tshegofatso Moeng, a South African singer who trained in the United States, they reworked and released Rueben T Caluza - The B Side. (Readers may remember that contributions were invited last year for this recording.)  In the process of exploring the songs and music of the composer, they have reawakened interest in an important South African who deserves great recognition for his contributions to music and politics.