Arts, Culture & Media

China remembers Nelson Mandela with this haunting ballad


Nelson Mandela



After a week of memorials, memories and goodbyes, Nelson Mandela was laid to rest Sunday in his home village of Qunu in South Africa.  

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In China, Mandela's legacy is still associated with a particular local pop song — "Glorious Days" by the Hong Kong band Beyond.

Glorious Days is a Cantonese power ballad, dedicated to Mandela and the idea of racial equality — and was a surprise hit across China in the early 1990s.

Mandela’s release from prison happened shortly after the events on Tiananmen Square in June 1989, when most people in China didn’t want to talk about political issues openly anymore.

Daisy Harper of the BBC's Chinese service said love songs were very popular then. And, when it was released she explained, Glorious Days caused a stirred, because it was political — at a time when most pop music in China was firmly apolitical or patriotic. She says the front man of Beyond is the kind of guy who likes to embrace freedom.

"It was overwhelming," she said about hearing the song for the first time. "And as a tune itself, it was lovely, as well. So everybody was trying to learn to hum it and it was a favorite at dance parties.”

Harper says that, with the coverage of Mandela’s death, the song has made it back to the top of Chinese charts.