The Press: Drum Beat in Africa

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"Where Do Coloureds Come From?" asks Drum, Africa's leading magazine. Then it answers its own question: "coloureds" (who are all shades between black and white) come from some of South Africa's oldest, most respected white families. "It is fairly safe to say,'' added Drum (naming names), "that where any family has been in this country for more than 200 years, the chance of having no infusion of colour is remote."

To Johannesburg's Boer burghers, propping the apartheid barriers raised against South Africa's 9,000,000 blacks and coloreds, the suggestion of blood ties was intolerable. But then, intolerable was what the magazine meant it to be. Beamed straight at the heart of Africa's black man, Drum in eight years has grown from a scarcely audible protest into a commanding voice. Each month 240,000 copies are distributed across Africa—more than any other magazine, black or white. By Mammy-wagon bus and human shoulder, it reaches into eight African countries (Union of South Africa, Central African Federation, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) to be snapped up even by illiterates, who pay educated friends to read each issue aloud. West African government officials sometimes call to complain that their complimentary copies have not yet arrived. In the Nigerian capital of Lagos, 19,000 copies go on sale at 4 a.m.; by sundown the same day all have been sold.

Lively & Dedicated. Even by Africa's standards, Drum is an improbable magazine. It began its real growth in 1951, when it was taken over by a onetime Royal Air Force pilot, London-born James R. A. Bailey, son of the late Sir Abe Bailey, South African financier. Jim Bailey made Drum a lively blend of chocolate cheesecake, sport, controversy, crusades, sensational features, tips to Africa's millions of pennywhistle gamblers, and inscrutable advice to the lovelorn (to a man who asked how he could retrieve the cash investment he had made in two potential wives, "Dolly," Drum's marital expert, coldly suggested: "Providence will reward you"). The difference between the West African, who does not mind being black, and the South African native, who does, shows up in Drum's two editions; e.g., a pomade ad in the South African edition promises to de-kink hair, but for West African readers the same product touts its ability to preserve natural curl.

Threaded through Drum's lively editorial potpourri is a dedication to the equality of man. Drum recognizes no color line, not even on its 125-man staff, where black and white work side by side. When the Rhodesian government boasted that "better-class Africans, properly dressed and properly behaved," would not be discriminated against, Drum tailored one of its Negro reporters in an expensive suit, equipped him with a certificate of education from a white university professor, then assigned him to order a meal in a Salisbury railway station cafe. As the reporter was thrown out, Drum cameras clicked.

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