Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

Nelson MandelaIn millions of ways, the world tonight is remembering Nelson Mandela. Music is one way. I have found no more powerful expression of what Mandela fought for and against in South Africa all of his life than this performance by Hugh Masakela. It was at a festival on Clapham Common south of London in 1986, four years before Mandela’s 27-year prison sentence ended.

Eight years later, Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected black president, changing his nation and in many ways, the world.

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  1. Rob D says

    Thanks, Doug. That was moving and great in equal measure. I saw Hugh in Paris once along with many other African acts such as King Sunny Ade. Mind-blowing doesn’t even begin to describe the effect it had on me. RIP to Mr. Mandela.

  2. Dick Unsworth says

    Doug, you are on the realities at every turn. Many of us who knew something of the life of Mandela were awake last night when the announcement came of his death.

    Here is a small thing to be aware of: I was a headmaster of a school (NMH – Northfield Mount Hermon). After my retirement, the director of our music – Sheila Heffernon – took a group of her best singers to South Africa. While there, they had the opportunity to visit Mandela at his home, where they sang to him — to his great happiness. Now, I’m sure, these young people will remember forever the magnificence of Mandela and the importance of his life for the rest of us.

    I listened this morning to Hugh Masakela, who put all this together in singing “Live Coal Train in 1986.” Many many thanks for that.

  3. says

    In all the acres of media coverage about Nelson Mandela I doubt that anything will be said to the crucial part played in his career by Jazz musicians.

    In 1954, in the pre-apartheid era, John Dankworth toured South Africa and was shocked by what he saw. He subsequently played a role in helping South African causes in many different ways and became an associate of Father Trevor Huddleston and Canon John Collins. That, in turn, led to all kinds of support and the involvement of other musicians such as Humphrey Lyttleton, Lambert Hendricks and Ross and Lionel Hampton in fund-raising events in London which helped pay legal fees in the trials which steered Nelson Mandela and his colleagues away from a death sentence and, ultimately to freedom after their long imprisonment. I happened to be in New York when Lionel Hampton’s funeral happened and the incident was mentioned at that memorial service – which was attended by George Bush, Sr.

    There is a (huge) bust of Mandela outside the Royal Festival Hall in London but even that, I think, does not acknowledge the ‘jazz’ contribution.