Told In Music by GWEN ANSELL
December 06, 2013 5:00 AM
has lived a life filled with rich musical associations.
achievements of former South African president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who died Thursday, but also the rich musical associations of his life.
appreciation for music. His home province, the Eastern Cape, is home to some of the richest musical traditions in the country.
The Sounds Of Mandela's Childhood
The Xhosa-speaking peoples of the region have a tradition of split-tone singing: Vocalists can create more than one note simultaneously and weave those tones together in magically complex rhythmic patterns. They call it "putting salt in a tune," and this is the music Mandela heard during his village childhood.
In Johannesburg: Practicing Law, Organizing Rebellion
In London, a group of exiles formed the Mayibuye ("Freedom") Cultural group to weave together poetry and traditional and original new songs — including another called "Rolihlahla Mandela" — in a way that would tell the struggle's story.
Others were more upfront. South Africa's most popular female singer of the 1980s, Brenda Fassie, sang two songs directly addressing the man she saw as president-in-waiting. "Black President" is self-explanatory; "Vulindlela" (Let it be opened) was about flinging wide the prison doors. Here, she sings the songs after Mandela's release, in the latter case, at the 2001 Kora African Music Awards, with her president in the audience.
Last year, Ndodana-Breen premiered Winnie, the Opera, the story of the turbulent life of Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. The early scenes of the opera, such as the one in the clip below, evoke the years when the Mandela family lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto and were instrumental in community action.
Members of Mkhonto we Sizwe still remember him as their commander-in-chief from the days when it was necessary to resist the bullets of apartheid. Since Mandela has died, across South Africa former MK militants have been singing a song of mourning called "Hamba Kahle Mkhonto" (Go well, MK soldier), an anthem traditionally sung within the movement when a militant dies. This version is that of the Mayibuye Cultural Group, recorded in 1978.