Nelson Mandela

Clement Gama01/23/2019
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GOOGLE an Aries’ traits and you will find that they are; Creative, independent, spontaneous and quite stylish.

Hugh Masekela, who died today a year ago was an Aries, born on April 4th. The jazz legend was an obvious creative, a staunch independent man while his travels showed his spontaneity and had he a penchant for fine apparel.

HIS INDEPENDENCE

Maybe it might be hard to think of him as independent, looking at the rate at which he collaborated with other artists throughout his career. But his independence shone brighter under the cloud of collaboration in the slew of bands he was part of. Masekela, together with Dollar Brand (now known as Abdul Ibrahim), Kippie Moeketsi, Makhaya Ntshoko and Jonny Gertze make-up the first African jazz ensemble, Jazz Epistles, to record an LP in 1959.

They sold out shows in different parts of the country, but he understood that he couldn’t stay in South Africa because of dump-ass apartheid system. With lyrics swelling of anti-government chants, he left the country for London but soon moved from the UK after meeting Harry Belafonte and became a student at New York’s Manhattan School of Music. Despite spending a large part of his time in the US and other parts of the world, Masekela never discarded his South African pride, languages and cultures. He was an independent thinker who understood his role.

HIS STYLE

His style isn’t the culture-defining kinda stuff that a Bob Marley made look seamless in his Adidas tracksuits. But Masekela was savvy enough to dress himself in adequate class and eight times out of 10, you’d see the old man rocking his newsboy cap that he was very fond of with a dashiki to mark his pride and love for Africa. Whatever he wore, he manged to partake in the day’s fashion, remain true to himself and be comfortable on stage.

MONTEREY CA – JUNE 17: Hugh Masekela performs on stage at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 17 1967 in Monterey, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

HIS CREATIVITY

He always had the juice. Not only was he an astute jazz musician who composed some of the greatest music of our time, Masekela also knew how to use that music into other spheres in the art spaces for education, entertainment and activism. Together with comedian Kagiso Lediga, Maskela created late night talk show The Bantu Hour.

Built around the most famous boxing match in history, the Muhammed Ali vs George Foreman fight, Masekela with close friend Stewart Levine, organised a music festival, Zaire 74 in Kinshasa.

He ingeniously managed to fuse different styles of music to create something new- another reason for his longevity. In 1985 he founded the Botswana International School of Music, which still exists today.

HIS SPONTANEITY

Nelson Mandela wrote him a warm birthday letter while the former statesman was still in prison. In response and out of the blue at a party, Hugh went to the piano and began singing what we know today as Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) which became an instant hit.

He travelled and lived in different parts of the world for numerous reasons. His discography paints a picture of how natural he was at creating music. After spending a lot of time in the US and Europe, he came back to Africa and worked with West African band from Ghana, Hedzoleh Soundz to make some Afro-beat inspired tunes.

But around the mid-80s he was based in Botswana where he made music inspired by Southern sounds such as Mbaqanga. He sporadically changed sounds; it’s as though he knew what sound was right for his audience at the time. Because of his spontaneity, his music organically reflected the times.


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Given that they are on the microphone and talking directly to the audience, soloists will be the ones hogging the attention. While the bassist, who has the thankless job of carrying the music, is relegated to the background.

History has placed Oliver Tambo’s crucial role in the struggle in that precarious position, while an individual is upheld as the messiah of a movement.

In a year swamped with centenary celebrations for the late Nelson Mandela, South African and USA artists plus their politicians will pay homage to the life of Tambo through a double disc album titled Voices On OR- a musical tribute to Tambo.

“To me, movements are always about more than just the person who is sort of the leader or spearhead of it,” says L.A bassist Miles Mosely.

“That person is very important, we know for the freedom fighters, that the work [Nelson] Mandela did is something that the entire world celebrates. But for me, as a bass player who is often times behind the soloist, to me studying the story of Tambo allowed me to understand that he was this foundational character. Somebody who was the kind of earth of the movement and had to explain complicated ideas to the rest of the world- I really connected with that idea. Oliver Tambo was the bass player of the freedom fighters, you know,” says Mosely, laughing.

The Upright bassists talks to Tha Bravado about his his involvement in the project. The vocalist, producer, composer and arranger was asked to be part of Voices On OR after his performance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival last year.

Mosely is an accomplished musician that has worked with Mos Def, India Arie, Lauryn Hill, Terrence Howard and also played on three tracks on Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

He also worked on three songs on Voices On OR, one of the songs I got a chance to listen to at the Downtown Studios where the recording takes place, was Roving Ambassador, which has an unmistakable African sound that captures continent’s warmth and enthusiasm.

Miles Mosley_Photo cred Aaron Woolf Haxton

“Unfortunately my lineage was thrown in the ocean. So I don’t know what specific cultures, tribes and traditions I come from. So I try to celebrate as many as I can and I try to understand as many as I can. Some of them ring in my heart and come out on my bass or the piano, a bit truer. That feeling and that sound for that song, is something that resonates deeply with me in my heart.”

He credits this to his time at UCLA, where he studied Ethnomusicology, learning music of the world. “All music, as far as I’m concerned, starts and stops in Africa and African traditions. Everybody says that and keeps it moving. But I really wanted to make sure that it was an inescapable part of it, not something that’s to be modernised or changed.”

The double album is musically directed by renowned singer Gloria Bosman while seasoned saxophonist McCoy Mrubata is tasked with the role of producing. Among others, the project will include Jonathan Butler, Tsepo Tshola, Mandisa Dlanga, Jabu Magubane, Herbie Tsoaeli and Steve Dyer. Performances in the recording will be characterized by interpretations of musical themes based on events around OR’s life. Included will be a composition titled Tambo’s Dance – a song inspired by an event in 1963 where Tambo got so excited by the contents of a document for Operation Mayibuye, that he leapt out of his chair and did a jubilant dance.

Crossing the Limpopo with Father Tambo – blends poetry by Mongane “Wally” Serote, narration by former President Thabo Mbeki and singing by Ladysmith Black Mambazo with music accompaniment from  the Beda Hall Double Quartet Band. The band is named after Tambo’s band at Fort Hare, to which Tambo was vocalist.

Forming part of today’s Quartet is Paul Hanmer, Ayanda Sikade, Khaya Ceza, Shane Cooper, Tlale Makhene and Feya Faku.

The US is represented by R&B singer Eric Bennet, rapper Javier Starks and former US president Barack Obama who will be narrating some of Tambo’s life. The project is funded by the National Lotteries Commission and should be out in October.


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He is most probably the world’s most loved politician and equally, the most hated. The latter has been bubbling under since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy in 1994, but is rising to the brim with each generation of black young South Africans, who are detaching themselves from the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

Tata, Madiba, Father of the nation, South Africa’s founding father…and other rhetoric of that ilk, will be on the tongues of many all over the world as today, marks what would have been, Mandela’s 100th birthday.  Brand Mandela will be celebrated through different initiatives- former USA president Barack Obama delivered a moving speech yesterday at the 16th annual Nelson Mandela lecturer which was attended by nearly 10,000 people at the Wanderers Cricket stadium; DSTV has launched a pop-up channel in honour of the man. In Germany, members of the Music Is A Great Investment (MIAGI) Youth Orchestra will embrace their contrasting origins and background to spread Madiba’s legacy through song. Since yesterday until tomorrow, the Southbank Centre in London will launch a free exhibition of the life of Mandela while in America, United Nations staff and diplomats will also carry out a public service activity in Mandela’s name, all in cooperation with the New York City Mayor’s office.

It should be noted that the common thread in all these activities, is that it stems from Caucasians or organizations ran by white people.

But looking and listening to young black South Africans, July 18 is just another day on the calendar. The disgruntlement comes from how South Africa’s democracy was found and the country’s inequality today. Usually dubbed the ‘sell-out’, Mandela is criticized for not putting the needs of black people first in the negotiations that took place before the African National Congress (ANC) took over the reins.

White South Africans who engineered the draconian apartheid system, were never sufficiently chastised for their generational costly deeds.  That black people still are the most impoverished in the South Africa is telling. CEO positions are still mostly occupied by white people.  The resentment of Mandela grows with each Mandela Day, as he is blatantly professed as the saviour of South Africa.

Years ago, waiting for a train at the Tembisa train station I eavesdropped on a conversation, between women who are domestic workers in the Kempton Park area. “I really thought that, after apartheid white people would be the ones working for us now. I thought I’d be bossing them around,” said one lady, followed by a burst of laughter. What she said and the manner she said it in, has always stuck with me. Her statement talks to the expectation that black South Africans had, when they went to cast their votes on April 27 in 1994, while her laughter resembled, how black people, time and time again, find humour in the darkest situations.

But she was old enough to vote, over 20 years ago and has somehow found a way to live in the new South Africa, much like what happened during apartheid. But the current generation of black youth is gatvol. Rightfully so. Co-founder of Soweto Art and Craft Fair, Seven Colour Sundays and Dinaledi Lifestyle Market, Mbali Radebe wrote on Facebook “Post 100 reasons why black people should let go of the so called ‘Mandela legacy’” and a number of people heeded the call, although she didn’t reach the 100 mark at the time of writing this, the response was telling.

Speaking to Tha Bravado, Radebe says the Mandela legacy serves no justice to black people. “It’s a legacy built on lies, most of the struggles our people are facing today were caused by the decisions he made at the most critical time of South Africa,” the 31 year-old Radebe says.

The Fees Must Fall movement was just sign of the growing impatience, from young people who were raised by parents that long gave up on the promises that came with a new South Africa. “They have finally realised that the legacy was all just a front. No education for the black child has been free, our parents have never had better opportunities, they have always been subjected to working for the white man and this has caused difficult living conditions for  youth post 1970, will now with ‘the born frees’.”

Madiba is blamed for not taking back the land and everything else that wasn’t rightfully aquired by white people in South Africa and for being too forgiving, in the name of building a Rainbow Nation. But a transition period was necessary; black people in Mzansi at the time weren’t in control of the army, police, healthcare, food supply nor education. Civil war is no child’s play and I believe, without a doubt that it would be helpless black people who would’ve suffered most, had Mandela decided on a civil war.

“The blame is put on him because he was the leader at that time and he could have lead the ANC differently,” says Radebe. “However we could say it’s the party as a whole. The Chris Hani mission or act which I wish all young black South Africans can get a chance to watch his documentaries, about the plan to set up the military which Bab’Hani was conducting in South Africa with Mum Winnie [Mandela] under the MK structures. We were ready for retaliation if only the action was taken under orders of Bab’Hani.”

It was the wise decision not to go to war at the time, but after Mandela’s first term in 1999, a conversation around land should’ve immediately taken place. But instead, we’re watching land debates on eNCA, in 2018.

It’s as though the ruling party was underestimating people’s intelligence, by supplying RDP houses, but it’s clear that project isn’t a long-term solution as majority of black people are still stranded in poverty.

Radebe says Madiba didn’t do much for her township, Soweto. “He left nothing. But Mam’Winnie left a more powerful legacy than him. She was the backbone of the black youth, and was the reason why people knew about Mandela whilst he disappeared, she fought for us.”

Crying over spilt milk could never solve anything, but the ruling party needs to address people’s needs that they ignored for the past two decades; to quell the anger that a lot of black youth who harbour resentment for a man that has died but whose legacy will never demise, in our lifetime at least .



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