Music for Mandela

2013-12-07 00:00

THIS is a selection of South African music about Madiba or in tribute to him. Of course, we couldn’t include every­thing from the vast and varied music inspired by Mandela and the liberation struggle. It’s a bumper playlist, and in no particular order.

The selection consists of a mixture of songs suggested by my fellow Africa is a Country (AIAC) contributors and songs of my own choosing.

• Let’s start things off with a 1955 song, Kalla’s Special, from king kwela himself, Johannes “Spokes” Mashiyane. The talented Mashiyane was not only a master of the pennywhistle, but a great saxophone player to boot.

• Miriam Makeba — Piece of Ground . A list like this would be incomplete without at least one song from the lovely Miriam Makeba. This version of the song, written by Jeremy Taylor, is off her 1967 album, Pata Pata.

• Abudullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) — Mannenberg .

This is one of the greatest and most important South African jazz tunes released yet. First released in 1974, Mannenberg is not only a great song, but a major anthem of the struggle against apartheid.

• Some South African rock-punk from 1986 for a change of pace from The Genuines, Die Struggle.

And if you liked that, be sure to check their updated version of the Goema standard, Die Maan Skyn So Helder (The Moon Shines So Brightly).

• How Bright Blue’s Weeping made it past censors when it was released in 1987, I’ll never know. The apartheid protest anthem is allegorical, making reference to former president P.W. Botha and his harsh policies. Hidden not-so-subtly in the song is a refrain from Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (then the ANC’s anthem, now the South African national anthem) just before a solo from saxophonist Basil Coetzee. In the same moments of the song, the video gives a nod to the cover of Abdullah Ibrahim’s famous album Mannenberg — Is Where It’s Happening through the imagery of a group of boys standing against a wall behind an elderly woman in the Cape Flats.

• Here’s a song, Black President, from the undisputed bad girl of South African pop music, Brenda Fassie, whose turbulent life and attitude was and still is a topic that everyone loves to talk about and on which everyone seems to have an opinion.

• It’s About Time was the first single from the first major kwaito group, Boom Shaka, released in 1993.

• Prophets of Da City’s Never Again — an anthem from the pioneers of South African hip hop, POC.

• Some great mbaqanga from the legendary Soul Brothers with Take Me Home Taximan.

• DJ Sbu ft Zahara — Lengoma. This is a (relatively recent) example of some of the great house music coming out of South Africa, today.

• The last word goes to Hugh Masekela in Bring Back Nelson Mandela in which he sings “bring him back home to Soweto”.

Here are a few more songs that I decided not to include in the main list, but are still worth a listen:

• Monty Weber and Friends — District Six;

• Johnny Clegg — Asimbonanga (live, and Mandela himself makes an appearance);

• Arthur Mafokate — Kaffir;

• Yvonne Chaka-Chaka — Let Me Be Free;

• Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela — Soweto Blues (live);

• Tumi — Power;

• Letta Mbulu — Amakhamandela — Not Yet Uhuru;

• Moses “Taiwa” Mololekwa — Dance Africa (live);

• Zim Ngqawana — Ebhofolo (This Madness);

• Lucky Dube — House of Exile;

• Vusi Mahlasela — River Jordan;

• Jonas Gwangwa and African Explosion — Switch No. 1; Hamba kahle Madiba.

• The blog Africa is a Country is not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama. It was founded by South African Sean Jacobs.

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