Nelson Mandela Death: Top 5 Songs in Praise of Anti-Apartheid Icon [VIDEOS]

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By Gianluca Mezzofiore | December 6, 2013 11:38 PM EST

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika

Composed as a hymn in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika was the official anthem for the African National Congress (ANC) during the apartheid era. Mandela introduced it as the second national anthem in 1994.

A version of the song was performed as part of the controversial Graceland concerts in Zimbabwe in 1987 by Paul Simon and legendary South African musicians such as Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mabazo and Hugh Masekela.

His Graceland shows were regarded by some as undermining the ANC cultural boycott on the apartheid-era South Africa. Some British musicians such as Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and Jerry Dammers demanded an apology from Simon.

Free Nelson Mandela

Jerry Dammers, founder of the multiracial English ska-punk band The Specials later renamed The Special AKA, wrote Free Nelson Mandela in 1984 and it instantly became the unofficial hymn for the international anti-apartheid movement.

Its driving beat certainly played a role in pushing it to the top of the charts in Britain. Dammers later admitted that he knew nothing about Mandela, who was still in jail, although he knew a lot about the anti-apartheid movement.

"I'd never actually heard of Nelson Mandela, although I knew a lot about the anti-apartheid movement and he was becoming a figurehead for the whole movement," Dammers told CNN.

In 1984 the students' union at Wadham College, Oxford passed a motion to end every college "bop" (dance) with the song. The tradition continues to this day.

Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)

This song by South African trumpet player Hugh Masekela was released in 1987. Lyrics include: "I want to see him walking down the streets of South Africa tomorrow/ I want to see him walking hand in hand with Winnie Mandela." It became an anthem for the movement to free the ANC leader.

Asimbonaga

British-born Johnny Clegg who lived in South Africa was jailed himself for collaborating with black musicians and his concerts were routinely broken up. His song Asimbonaga ("We haven't seen him" in Zulu), which called for the release of Mandela in 1987, was taken from the album Third World Child Clegg made with his band Savuka.

It also called out the names of the martyrs of the South African liberation struggle: Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett.

This version is the video from the performance Clegg gave in 1999, in which Mandela made an appearance.

Mandela Day


From the album Street Fighting Years, Mandela Day by Simple Minds is also known as Ballad of the Streets. It was written for Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988 in solidarity with anti-apartheid icon who was still in jail.

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