Nelson Mandela – a celebration of an icon’s life

Sounds of Madiba

Tuesday 13 December 2016 10:27

Hasina Gori

Nelson Mandela expressed his love for music over the years.

Nelson Mandela expressed his love for music over the years.

Former president Nelson Mandela expressed his love for music over the years.

In his biography Madiba says that his greatest pleasure, his most private moment, is watching the sun set with the music of Handel or Tchaikovsky playing.

When he was in prison, it was not possible to do these, but the music concerts organised by Mandela and fellow prisoners compensated for this lack.

He is said to find music very uplifting, and takes a keen interest not only in European classical music but also in African choral music and the many talents in South African music.

One voice that stands out above all is that of African-American singer, Paul Robeson, whom he describes as our hero.

Madiba also had a love for for traditional music going back to his childhood in Transkei. He lists the sound of the legendary Mariam Makeba among his favorite artists.  

The pop tunes of the Spice Girls was also enjoyed by Madiba.  In February 2008 Mandela asked The Spice Girls  to perform at his  90th birthday concert at London’s Hyde Park in June. He  first met the girls in 1997 and called them his heroes after being introduced to them at his presidential home.

Other stars who performed at Mandela’s 90th birthday were the Rolling Stones, Annie Lennox and U2 star Bono.
Mandela also inspired protest songs during his years as a political prisoner.

Johnny Clegg and Savuka's, "Asimbonanga" is one of the most popular anthems of the anti-apartheid movement.  
Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse's, track “Nelson Mandela” 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.
"My Black President" by Brenda Fassie was banned when it was released in 1989. The track was a tipping-point song, released a year before Madiba's release from jail.  Fassie sings about imagining the moment Mandela is released.
In 1985, guitarist Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band helped spearhead a musical boycott of resort town Sun City.  Van Zandt banded together a group of artist and created “I Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City” that decades later marks a symbolic first.
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