Madiba and music: Artists reflect

Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Johnny Clegg and other musicians discuss Mandela’s legacy in music.

Nelson Mandela dances at a rally in the west coast town of Saldhana on 20 March 1992. Picture: AFP.

"It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world, and at peace with myself," late former president Nelson Mandela once said.

The world's musical world has always embraced Madiba and he reciprocated it by always making sure that all the pivotal events in his life had an element of song.

From his famous 'Madiba jive' to his iconic 46664 concerts, Mandela understood the power that music held.

Speaking to Redi Tlhabi on Sunday, music legend Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse recounted his experiences with Madiba and the role that music played in the struggle for liberation.

"I was one of those privileged few musicians who was able to and invited to meet him. It is one moment that I will forever cherish. I can't even express how it felt to touch him, to sing for him."

Mabuse's struggle anthem Nelson Mandela has become a rallying cry for many since the former statesman passed away at his Houghton home in Johannesburg on Thursday night.

He says Mandela encouraged artists to make music that would make a difference.

"He told us that musicians in this country have played such a pivotal role and had it not been for us making the music that we were making, that they would not have been out there.

"We felt it was part of our role to profile and highlight the liberation struggle and the suffering of our people. We understood that Mandela and others would be the ones to lead us to liberation."

Mabuse says his moment with Mandela inspired him to continue to write liberation songs.

"That moment meant that we had a responsibility to write the kind of songs that will develop a mindset that says we owe this country. We have to work to ensure that his legacy is sustained through the years."


Musician Johnny Clegg on his famous "anthem of hope" Asimbonanga:

"I wrote it in 1986 during the first state of emergency - we were all feeling very down," he says.

"We had just heard quite a bleak report on what was going on in South Africa and my dad and I was rehearsing in Braamfontein and we stopped and we just started talking about South Africa - where we going."

Ray Phiri , lead singer of Stimela :

"His courage and conviction, his virtue, was based on delivering one particular word and not going back on it and that inspired us"

Describing the role of music and its lyrical content in reflecting Mandela's struggle, Phiri said, "We were musing about how we could put impetus into getting us our freedom, through song, through music through poetry, we inherited that wind from the old man."

Singer-songwriter Ard Matthews :

Matthews agreed with the sentiment that Madiba had an amazing energy about him and he made you feel accepted and welcomed when you met him.

He said Madiba had "The warmest smile [and] the sharpest sense of humour."

"It made him the biggest rockstar out of all of us, but just in the coolest way. So sharp, so witty and that smile is just world-class."