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On Tour in South Africa, Bono Defends Anti-Apartheid Song With Controversial Lyrics

Plus: The Edge confirms U2 are working with Danger Mouse on new songs

February 14, 2011 3:45 PM ET
U2 perform in Soweto, South Africa, February 13, 2011.
U2 perform in Soweto, South Africa, February 13, 2011.
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty

While in South Africa for the opening night of the fifth leg of U2's 360 tour, Bono stirred up a local controversy by endorsing an anti-apartheid song that includes the lyric "shoot the Boer" in an interview with South Africa's Sunday Times. The word "Boer" translates to "farmer" and refers to the Dutch settlers who came to the country in the 18th century. It is now used as a derogatory term for causasians.

Photos: U2 in Italy

Bono was asked about the song because it has been at the center of a political controversy in South Africa in which the leader of the African National Congress' youth league has been in a legal dispute with a white lobbying group over whether the song should be banned as hate speech.

According to Bono, the song is not unlike the rebel songs he heard as a kid about the early days of the Irish Republican Army. He went on to explain that he does not condone the violence in the lyrics and that he feels that social context is very important in deciding whether or not the song is appropriate. Nevertheless, many South Africans are furious with the singer, claiming that he does not fully understand the extent of the nation's racial tensions.

Photos: U2 - The Rolling Stone Covers

Nonetheless, the controversy over the "Shoot the Boer" song did not have an discernable impact on the band's concert in Johannesberg last night. It was their second show ever in South Africa, and the first since the band closed out their PopMart tour there in 1998. Though the band's set was very similar to their recent performances in Europe, the show was notable for including a special videotaped speech by Nelson Mandela during "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and am appearance by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela on "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

Photos: Three Decades of U2

In other U2 news, The Edge has told reporters in South Africa that the band is currently working on demos with the producer Danger Mouse. Bono and the Edge also hinted that the group's forthcoming album is likely to be tight and brief, with Bono noting that he felt that their previous record No Line on the Horizon was a bit too long.

U2's Bono criticised for endorsing Shoot the Boer song [BBC]
U2 Talk New Album, Huge South African Concert [Billboard]

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