Man­dela and mu­sic

Rhymes and rhythms that be­came an es­sen­tial anti-apartheid songlist.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PEOPLE - By RAN­DALL ROBERTS

NEL­SON Man­dela was, quite fa­mously, a fan of Euro­pean clas­si­cal mu­sic. His two favourite com­posers were Ge­orge Frid­eric Han­del and Py­otr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, but he grew up ex­posed to the coun­try’s rich tra­di­tion of vo­cal groups forg­ing a unique form of sa­cred rhythm mu­sic.

That changed while the for­mer South African pres­i­dent and long­time demo­cratic ac­tivist was im­pris­oned by the pro-apartheid gov­ern­ment from 1962 to 1990. He wasn’t al­lowed ac­cess to mu­sic.

Artists, how­ever, used Man­dela’s jail­ing to fuel global protest songs, and dur­ing his years in cap­tiv­ity Man­dela’s mes­sages were de­liv­ered on the wings of rhythm and melody.

The re­sponse to Man­dela’s cause, in fact, helped bridge cul­tural di­vides that con­tinue to hold. One of the best known songs, Artists United Against Apartheid’s I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City, for the first time brought to­gether on record su­per­stars of rock and R&B with the kings of a ris­ing young genre called hip-hop.

On the African con­ti­nent, anti-apartheid couri­ers such as Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Yous­sou N’Dour and the Malopo­ets ex­pressed out­rage through song. As the anti-apartheid move­ment grew in the 1970s and 1980s, mar­quee names such as U2, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Spring­steen, Steven Van Zandt and Ste­vie Won­der spoke or sung out on be­half of Nel­son Man­dela’s cause.

What fol­lows are 10 es­sen­tial works that cel­e­brate the late Nel­son Man­dela and his ef­forts. His spirit, per­se­ver­ance and dig­nity fu­elled not only the cause of lib­erty and equal­ity, but drove mu­sic to great heights. Nel­sonMan­dela (1994)

In 1994, singer Sipho “Hot­stix” Mabuse was com­mis­sioned by the African Na­tional Congress to write an elec­tion song in sup­port of Nel­son Man­dela’s cam­paign. The ac­tivist had been re­leased from prison four years be­fore, and Mabuse ea­gerly agreed; he’d been singing about Man­dela’s plight for years. The re­sult was, sim­ply, Nel­son Man­dela, which fea­tured Man­dela him­self read­ing from a speech he gave dur­ing one of his tri­als in 1964.

by Sipho

“Hot­stix” Mabuse:

It’sWrong (1985)

In 1985, Ste­vie Won­der was at one of his many ca­reer peaks, and used that power to ex­pose the in­jus­tices oc­cur­ring in South Africa. Em­ploy­ing ex­iled South African mu­si­cians, Won­der put the rhyth­mic break­down that is It’s Wrong on his In Square Cir­cle al­bum. That same year he was ar­rested dur­ing a Wash­ing­ton, D.C. anti-apartheid protest and ded­i­cated the Os­car he won for the song I Just Called To Say I Love You to Nel­son Man­dela. The South African

by Ste­vie


gov­ern­ment re­sponded by ban­ning Won­der’s songs! MyBlack­Pres­i­dent (1989)

A song banned in South Africa when it was re­leased in 1989, My Black Pres­i­dent was a tip­ping-point song, of­fered as it was a year be­fore his exit from jail in 1990. It’s a thrilling song, filled with the sound of black South Africa: a har­mo­nious cho­ral group, smooth as chrome, hum­ming through the song while Fassie sings, imag­in­ing the mo­ment that Man­dela is re­leased.

Brenda Fassie:


by Johnny

Asim­bo­nanga (1987)

One of the most pop­u­lar an­thems of the an­ti­a­partheid move­ment was South African singer Johnny Clegg and his band Savuka’s Asim­bo­nanga, which, trans­lated, means “We haven’t seen him.” A protest whose Zulu chant brings Man­dela’s ab­sence to life.

Clegg and Savuka:

IAin’tGon­naPlaySunCity (1985)

by Artists United Against Apartheid:

In 1985, gui­tarist Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Spring­steen’s E Street Band (and fu­ture ac­tor on The So­pra­nos) helped spear­head a mu­si­cal boy­cott of South Africa’s big ticket re­sort town Sun City, which un­til then had paid hand­some money for su­per­star con­certs. Van Zandt banded to­gether a lineup for the song I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City that nearly 30 years later re­mains not only im­pres­sive in its scope, but marks a sym­bolic first. Biko (1980) Biko is a song not about Man­dela but his peer and founder of South Africa’s Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment, Stephen Biko, who died in 1977 while in po­lice cus­tody. Gabriel’s dev­as­tat­ing song was a few years af­ter Biko’s mur­der and helped fo­cus in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion on the crimes be­ing com­mit­ted by the apartheid gov­ern­ment.

by Peter Gabriel:

FreeNel­sonMan­dela (1984)

The Spe­cials’ Jerry Dam­mers wrote a mem­o­rable and joy­ous protest song in Free Nel­son Man­dela, a work whose sim­ple mes­sage, chanted over and over through­out the song, be­came a ral­ly­ing cry ev­ery­where. Re­leased un­der the band name Spe­cial A.K.A. due to var­i­ous le­gal wran­gling oc­cur­ring within the band at the time, Free Nel­son Man­dela roars and taps into South African rhythms with pure cel­e­bra­tory spirit.

The Spe­cial A.K.A.:

Nel­sonMan­dela (1986)

Sene­galese griot singer Yous­sou N’Dour was one of Africa’s ris­ing stars when he


Yous­sou N’Dour:


recorded his al­bum Nel­son Man­dela in Paris’ Stu­dio Mont­martre in 1986. The al­bum fea­tured the ti­tle track, which con­veyed in French the cause of Man­dela and apartheid. TheEndIsNear (1988)

Fea­tur­ing a fiery speech by Al­lan Boe­sak, the Malopo­ets’ The End Is Near fearlessly at­tacks the pow­ers be­hind apartheid through a but­tery-smooth but in­sis­tent beat. The black South African town­ship group was one of the first to be al­lowed to per­form a res­i­dency at Jo­han­nes­burg’s Mar­ket The­atre, and helped push bound­aries dur­ing the fi­nal years of apartheid.

by The


FireinSoweto (1978)

Man­dela had a di­rect con­nec­tion to reg­gae mu­sic, even if he wasn’t able to hear its as­cent while he was im­pris­oned. He had, how­ever, met with one of the spir­i­tual fa­thers of reg­gae mu­sic, Ethiopian Em­peror Haile Se­lassie, in Ethiopia in 1962, the same year that Man­dela be­gan his in­car­cer­a­tion.

Reg­gae, born in the streets of Ja­maica less than a decade later, took up Man­dela’s cause while he was holed up in Robben Is­land prison. In ad­di­tion to Eddy Grant’s Gimme Hope, Jo’Anna, Nige­rian high life singer Sonny Oko­sun de­liv­ered his in­cen­di­ary reg­gae jam Fire In Soweto in hon­our of South Africa’s plight. — Los An­ge­les Times/ McClatchy In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

by Sonny


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