Music for Nelson Mandela: A video playlist of tributes to Madiba
He epitomised humanity in its most positive form, personifying values like equality and respect for human rights in his youth, and the quality of forgiveness after his release from prison.
Nelson Mandela was one of the last global icons, admired right from the 1960s, when he was a political prisoner and South Africa was under the laws of apartheid, right up to his death on Thursday. He epitomised humanity in its most positive form, personifying values like equality and respect for human rights in his youth, and the quality of forgiveness after his release from prison.
Little wonder then, that he inspired an entire sub-culture. His story has captured the imagination of many artistes, who have paid tribute to various aspects of his life and what he stood for. Here is a quick list of must-listen to Mandela song tributes:
Johnny Clegg, Asimbonanga
Clegg is a British born, white South African, who caused a lot of controversy during apartheid for his intensely political lyrics. This song, Asimbonanga ("We haven't seen him") called for the release of Nelson Mandela, and also called out the names of three representative martyrs of the South African liberation struggle - Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett. As a result, Clegg and other band members were arrested several times and concerts routinely broken up. This video is special, because Mandela himself comes on stage, dancing to the song. Tear inducingly beautiful.
Hugh Masakela, Bring back Nelson Mandela
One of the most poignant protest songs to emerge from Africa, Masakela's 'Bring Back Nelson Mandela' was a huge hit for him in 1987. The lyrics were simple enough. "Bring back Nelson Mandela, bring him back to Soweto. I want to see him walking hand in hand with Winnie Mandela". There's also a mean trumpet solo in there. Enjoy:
Tracy Chapman, Freedom Now
Chapman's hard hitting song written in 1989, is a fantastic tribute to the South African leader and all he stood for. The lyrics lash out at the 'fools' who think they can rule the world by violence, and talks about how those they seek to imprison are the ones who are really 'free'. One of the last stanzas reads, "Give the man release, Go on and set your conscience free, Right the wrongs you made, Even a fool can have his day"
U2, Ordinary Love
This song is from the soundtrack of 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,'. The lyrics talk about Madiba's extraordinary capacity for 'ordinary love' over time: "I can't fight you anymore, It's you I'm fighting for, The sea throws rocks together, But time leaves us polished stones, We can't fall any further, If we can't feel ordinary love, We cannot reach any higher, If we can't deal with ordinary love.
U2's relationship with the revered leader goes back to 1985 when Bono was part of Little Steven Van Zandt's 1985 Artists United Against Apartheid collaboration, which brought attention to his plight.
The Specials, Free Nelson Mandela
Although the tone of this song is extremely celebratory and makes you want to dance, the lyrics are anything but celebratory. They go, "Free Nelson Mandela, 21 years in captivity, Shoes too small to fit his feet, His body abused but his mind is still free, Are you so blind that you cannot see? I said , Free Nelson Mandela, I'm begging you, Free Nelson Mandela"
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