The passing of former South African president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on December 5, 2013 is still fresh in the public consciousness. With Nelson Mandela Day fast approaching this Friday July 18th, 2014 being the first without its namesake, this week will be a time for memorials and tributes of all kinds to remember the life of this global freedom icon. Madiba as he was fondly called in his native South Africa wore many caps – philanthropist, anti-apartheid activist, revolutionary & freedom fighter are just a few of the more prominent feathers he bore. One that might not be as commonly associated with his name is music aficionado. Mandela himself said back in 2001, ” Music is a great blessing. It has the power to elevate and liberate us. It sets people free to dream. It can unite us to sing with one voice. Such is the value of music.”
Music is a great blessing. It has the power to elevate and liberate us. It sets people free to dream. It can unite us to sing with one voice. Such is the value of music.
How appropriate then that the Trinidad & Tobago’s Ministry of National Diversification & Social Integration put on a musical celebration in honour of Mr. Mandela’s birthday entitled Memories of Madiba, A Gala Tribute to Nelson Mandela. The event which was free to the public (with invitation) took place this past Monday July 14th at the Lord Kitchener Auditorium of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain. The musical items were preceded by a folk ballet by dance group Wasafoli Trinidad and Tobago called Suumba. Interestingly this performance was used as a musical accompaniment to the greetings by H.E. Maureen Modiselle, the High Commissioner to South Africa, and the subsequent feature address by the Minister of National Diversification & Social Integration, the Hon. Roger Samuel. With the formalities out of the way, the show began in earnest. The tribute was presented as four segments entitled Mandela’s Dream 1 – 4, with each segment being narrated by Kurtis Gross with accompanying dance pieces by Delton Frank.
Mandela’s Dream 1 began with the Jeunes Agape Youth Choir treating the audience to a rendition of South African musician Johnny Clegg’s 1987 anti-apartheid song Asimbonanga (“We haven’t seen him”). Next was the poem Colours of Consciousness by Kwame Weekes, and an untitled song by Marge Blackman on the guitar & Eldon Blackman on drums. The second segment brought Echoes of the Ganges performed by the Susan Mohip Dance Company. Following this was the Harmonies of Hope session which included Sarafina, Sechaba and Umoja as performed by the Jeunes Agape Choir, accompanied by Marge & Eldon Blackman.
Mandela’s Dream 3 included local violin duet band Xavier Strings performing Sonata for South Africa, and a Redemption Suite (a collection of African hymns Slave, Jabula Jesu, and Nkosi Sikelele) by the U.W.I. Steel Ensemble with the U.W.I. Arts Chorale. The final segment was a guest performance by calypso artist Black Stalin, accompanied by the Jeunes Agape Choir. Black Stalin did more than sing – he got the crowd to willingly perform backup vocals, as he went through a repertoire of hits such as Bun Dem, More Come, We Could Make It If We Try, and the finale of Black Man Feelin’ to Party!
All in all it was an enjoyable evening where patrons celebrated Madiba’s life rather than mourn for his loss. What better tribute to a man who brought joy to so many with his efforts for equality and peace, than to end it with a smile on every face?