By Carlos Ncube
IN times of social unrest, music can be used as a tool of protest, communication and healing. During South Africa’s apartheid regime, many songs were released as a way to criticise the government and also boost the morale of the people by telling them that better days will come. For Mandela Day, Music In Africa has compiled a list of songs dedicated to the struggle icon. Happy Birthday, Tata!
We Miss You Manelow (1989)
– Chicco Twala
Although this song talks about missing Manelow, it’s actually dedicated to Nelson Mandela. Chicco was forced to self-censor because apartheid laws prohibited freedom of expression regarding the political climate and the detention of anti-apartheid leaders. The song’s message is subtle yet overt to those familiar with the political situation in South Africa. The song’s video adds to the narrative by exploring the story of a girl named Manelow who falls pregnant and is disowned by her family, only for them to start looking for her.
– Johnny Clegg
Asimbonanga was recorded at a time when the apartheid government forbade the display of any images about the struggle icon. Because of this, the song was not available to the South African public during the time of its release.
House of Exile (1992)
– Lucky Dube
This is the title track of the late reggae star Lucky Dube’s 1992 album. In the song Lucky Dube sings: “Freedom fighter standing on a mountain in a foreign country.” Lucky Dube said: “The mountain I was talking about was Table Mountain in Cape Town. I took that as a foreign country, because that’s where Robben Island was.” Sadly, Dube was killed during a carjacking in Johannesburg in 2007, six years before the death of Mandela.
Never Again (1994)
– Prophets of Da City
The Cape Town crew, one of the progenitors of South African hip hop, introduced the genre to the country as a way to criticise a political system that was decried the world over. The group recorded ‘Never Again’ post-independence to celebrate the advent of democracy in South Africa. The opening verse starts with the lyrics, “Excellent, finally a black president.” The song is also dedicated to all anti-apartheid heroes.
Black President (1990) – Brenda Fassie
‘Black President’ is a song that reflects on the life of Mandela – from his incarceration in 1963 to his release in 1990. The song is the title track of Fassie’s 1990 album.
Fassie went on to record no less than 15 albums before her death from a cocaine overdose in 2004. – Music In Africa