12.06.2013 08:12 AM

Mandela music

Many moving tributes to Nelson Mandela this morning, and many of them describing how he was their spark: to oppose racism, to oppose oppression, to oppose totalitarianism.

I was involved in anti-racism stuff  before I had ever heard Mandela’s name – in the Calgary punk scene, with movements like Rock Against Racism.  I detested nationalism and separatism, and I helped to organize many gigs to express that.

It was later, during my time in law school in Calgary, that a single song persuaded us to learn more about the ANC leader and South Africa’s apartheid.  It was the Special AKA’s ‘Free Nelson Mandela,’ and it was all about what the song’s title suggests.  Jerry Dammers’ little song was so catchy, and so powerful, that I daily walked around in 1983 and 1984 wearing a FREE NELSON MANDELA t-shirt. (It’s long lost, and I would give plenty to replace it.)

Can music change the world? Not really, no – but sometimes, yes.  ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ woke up a lot of white, suburban punk kids in faraway Calgary, Alberta to something important.  Music has the power to do remarkable things like that. So, this morning, I offer it to you here.

Dance in your office.  Make everyone else do likewise!

4 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Mandela was a great figure but in the rush to canonize him, let’s not forget what I view as a troubling part of his legacy- his support of dictators like Castro and Qaddaffi. Now I know that these leaders supported him in the ANC’s time of need but still at some point I would have hoped that an opponent of oppression would have had some real negative things to say about these leaders- something like “Hey Guys, thanks for your help in the past but come on, let’s lighten up a little bit on your own populations”. I have trouble reconciling Mandela’s fight against apartheid with his warm view of these guys.

  2. david ray says:

    from prisoner to president
    heaven’s newest resident
    the contrast relentless
    to the cowards so hesitant
    to fight evil everywhere present
    r.i.p Nelson Mandela

  3. VH says:

    Same here Warren, though I was in T.O. back in the 80s. First thing I did yesterday when hearing the news, was play this song around the office.

    The song captivated and mobilized a lot people. That song and a few years later Sun City by Artists United Against Apartheid (“I, I, I ain’t gonna play Sun City”).

    Lots of people became more aware of or joined the various ongoing S.A. boycotts.

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