Mandela's life had a diverse musical soundtrack

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Finally today, there is a lot of music associated with the man they call "Madiba". Some were coded songs released in South Africa during Apartheid to call attention to Mandela. Others are protest songs written by non-South African musicians during the struggle to get the world riled up about Mandela. One person that has followed all of it and is doing his own tribute to Mandela is Richard Nwamba. He hosts a two hour music program every saturday in South Africa. It's called "The African Connection with Richard Nwamba". Richard Nwamba, I noticed on your playlist some non-South African musicians, specifically Salif Keita from Mali and his song "Mandela".

Marco Werman: A lot of songs have been written about Mandela, and a good number of them outside of South Africa, in Africa.

Richard Nwamba: Yes. Well it's because Africans in general were very proud of Nelson Mandela. You know... there's a very subtle way of criticizing your president. Let's say, in the case of Salif Keita, a Malian. If I write a song, and I'm a Malian, about Nelson Mandela, who's a South African, what does it say about my president as a Malian? So, this was to say, we're really very proud of this man, who, even though he was entitled to two terms, he chose to only serve one term and give up power and let somebody else take over, something that is very rare on the African continent. Just across the border in South Africa, we've got Robert Mugabe who has been in power since 1980. We're talking about 33 years he has been in power. Just on the other side, we've got Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has been in power since 1979, even longer than Robert Mugabe. So, in a neighborhood where people cling to power like that, someone like Nelson Mandela was a breath of fresh air, and that's why people Salif Keita felt that he deserved a song.

Werman: Richard, there's certainly no shortage of Mandela songs to choose from, but did a particular song come to mind when you heard the news that Mandela had died.

Nwamba: Yes, one particular song was Masakhane, and let me say it very slowly. Masakhane, which is Zulu for "let's build one another", by Miriam Makabe - the late Miriam Makabe I should say. After Nelson Mandela was released in 1990, there was a lot of black on black violence because of the political differences that existed in this country. And so, Miriam Makabe recorded this song to encourage people to overlook their political differences. It was exactly this kind of spirit and this kind of thing Nelson Mandela encouraged when he came out of jail, not only to reconcile between black and white but also between black and black.

Werman: Richard Nwamba hosts the program "The African Connection" each saturday in South Africa. He'll be doing a special two hour musical tribute to Nelson Mandela. Richard have a great show, thanks for your time.

Nwamba: Thanks Marco.