Saying it in song: music for Madiba

By admin
08 December 2013

From rockers to reggae stars, musos at home and abroad have celebrated the great man

HE WAS such an inspiration scores of musicians have sung his praises over the years and celebrated his life in song.

Kris Jenner

It started out with revolutionary anthems in the ’60s, then as local and international artists added their voices to protest Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment throughout the ’70s and ’80s, it gave rise to a bumper crop of great political songs.

The songs might have been banned from South African airwaves but the rest of the world were sitting up and paying attention.

After his release from prison, musicians continued to pay tribute to Mandela. In the 2000s artists such as U2’s Bono, Beyoncé, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Eurythmics, Johnny Clegg and Ladysmith Black Mambazo lent their talents to his 46664 campaign, a series of charity concerts to create awareness about Aids.

More than anyone Nelson Mandela understood music was one of the best ways to speak to people’s hearts and minds.

Here are our top Madiba hits.

1 Nelson Mandela, The Special AKA

This 1984 song (also known as Free Nelson Mandela) written by frontman Jerry Dammers and performed by English band The Special AKA was a protest against Mandela’s imprisonment.

2  Nelson Mandela, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse

This tribute by was released during the struggle years and is an adaptation of a well-known gospel tune.

3 Cry Freedom, Jonas Gwangwa

Released in 1987, jazz musician Jonas Gwangwa’s collaboration with British composer George Fenton was the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film of the same name and a tribute to oppressed black South Africans, freedom fighters and exiled members of the anti-apartheid movement.

4 Asimbonanga, Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg, nicknamed the White Zulu, wrote this song during the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) Free Mandela Campaign in the ’80s.

5 Black President, Brenda Fassie

Black President was an alias for Mandela. Released in 1989 by the late SA pop star, this song was banned from SA’s airwaves during apartheid. But in 1994 Brenda Fassie performed it for Mandela himself at his inauguration ceremony.

6 46664, Various artists

This is rock stars Bono, Dave Stewart and the late Joe Strummer’s tribute to Madiba, performed in 2003 at the 46664 concert.

7 We Miss You Manelo, Chicco

A tribute by local musician Chicco to Madiba in the mid ’80s. Manelo was an alias for Mandela.

8 Full Nelson, Miles Davis

Davis’ instrumental piece to Mandela from his 1986 album, Tutu.

9 Rholihlahla Mandela, Mbongeni Ngema

Written by stage director and composer Mbongeni Ngema in the late ’80s and performed abroad by the cast of Sarafina. The song relives the hardships Mandela experienced during the fight for freedom.

10 One Stone, Culture (Joseph Hill and Culture)

This song became (checking) a tribute by one of the greatest reggae groups.

11 Madiba Bay, Koos Kombuis

Afrikaans singer and writer Koos Kombuis dedicated his 1997 album, Madiba Bay, to Mandela while he was president. After his presidency, the song came to symbolise what Afrikaners perceived as a loss of political transformation as Mandela was no longer politically active.

12 House of Exile, Lucky Dube

Released in 1992 by late reggae great Lucky Dube, who at the time couldn’t confirm what the song was about. But his lyrics “Freedom fighter standing on a mountain/In a foreign country/Trying to send a message/To his people, back in the ghetto”, spelt it out.

13 Mandela (Bring Him Back Home), Hugh Masekela

In 1987 jazz great Hugh Masekela, who was abroad at the time, released a tribute to Madiba even though the mere mention of his name meant the song would be banned in South Africa.

14 I Cry For Freedom, Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Mandela apparently wrote letters to the songbird while he was in prison, complimenting her on her music. I Cry for Freedom was written in 1988 and expressed her desire for change.

Others notable songs:

Free Africa, Free Mandela, Majek Fashek (1987)

Mandela Day, Simple Minds (1989)

Papa Stop the War by Chicco (1990)

Man of the World, Yvonne Chaka Chaka (1995)

President Mandela, Al Jha Man (2007) (checking)

Oh Madiba, Wyclef Jean (2009)

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