The passing of Nelson Mandela – Madiba – caused me great sadness. He’d been the backdrop to most of my politically conscious life from the early 1970s onwards. Music played a significant part in the struggle to overthrow apartheid and free Mandela and his colleagues. Yet already, some of this musical history is being lost. So I’ve been moved to prepare a small compilation of music that moved me – and millions – over the years. If you can, listen.
Nelson Mandela The Specials
Scatterlings of Africa Johnny Clegg & Savuka
Asimbonanga (Mandela) Johnny Clegg & Savuka
Biko Peter Gabriel
Sun City Artists United Against Apartheid
Redemption Song Bob Marley & The Wailers
Mandela Day Simple Minds
Brothers In Arms Dire Straits
Bring Him Back Home Hugh Masekela
You Have Placed A Chill In My Heart Eurythmics
Impi Johnny Clegg & Juluka
(Nkosi Sikelel’i – Africa) Shosholqza Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Explanation for my selection.
All the songs specifically about Madiba and the struggle speak for themselves.
‘Sun City’ should remind all those who now claim to be fans of Madiba that they were not when it mattered. But in the spirit of Madiba, we welcome their change of mind.
I have included ‘Scaterlings of Africa’ and ‘Redemption Song’ as reminders of the wider struggle against slavery and racism.
‘Brothers in Arms’ and ‘You have placed a chill on my heart’ were both dedicated, by Mark Knopfler and Annie Lennox, to Mandela when they were performed at the famous 70th Birthday Concert in 1988 – which gives them a whole new meaning.
‘Impi’ is included as a reminder that Africans never passively accepted their fate – they resisted, and sometimes won, against colonial forces.
Johnny Clegg and his bands are also fairly unique – they played their music in South Africa under apartheid and often got tear-gassed for their trouble. Jaluka and Savuka were a microcosm of the ‘rainbow nation’ Madiba sought to build.
As a final irony, “Impi” has now been adopted as the unofficial anthem of the Springboks – how the world turns!
Which brings us neatly to the final piece – (Nkosi Sikelel’i – Africa) Shosholqza by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It is included because it’s used in the film ‘Invictus’. Cheering on South Africa in the Rugby World Cup was a unique and weird experience for many of us, not to be forgotten.
It’s strange that in our ‘information age’ so much of the history of this struggle is being lost. The seminal 1988 Birthday Concert is only available on a few used old VHS tapes. You can see the ‘Sun City’ video on YouTube, but the CD is almost unobtainable. None of the recordings of either seem to be available on-line. Which is partly why I’ve compiled my own CD – which is going to friends and family this Christmas.
So there you have it – my idiosyncratic tribute to Madiba. A great man and probably the greatest politician of the 20th century. Hope you enjoy it – and remember.