here on San Francisco.) I was married on Saturday June 17, 1967 - that was the day one of my favorite jazz musicians was playing at the Monterey Pop Festival. His name was Hugh Masekela, jazz trumpeter, composer and singer. He was born in 1939 in South Africa but had left the country in 1960 because of the cruelty of the apartheid state. In 1964 he had married another great artist from South Africa - the singer Miriam Makeba (they divorced later on.) In the late 1960s I saw Miriam Makeba in concert in San Francisco, Through her I started to enjoy listening to South African music such as Xhosa and Zulu songs. I have several of her albums and CDs. My favorite songs are "Pata Pata" and "Malaika."
Miriam Makeba (1932-2008) campaigned against the South African apartheid system. The government retaliated against her by revoking her South African passport and her citizenship. She was without a country. In 1985 France made her "Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres" (Commander of Arts and Letters) and followed, in 1990, by giving her French citizenship. After his release from prison, Nelson Mandela convinced Miriam to return to South Africa. She went back using her French passport. She was called "Mama Africa." Nelson Mandela said "She deserves her title of Mama Africa. She was the mother of our struggle and our young nation."
"Bring back Nelson Mandela,
Bring him back home to Soweto
I want to see him walking down the streets of South Africa - Tomorrow!"
When Nelson Mandela was released three years later, Hugh Masekela made a tour of the US and included this song in his repertoire. I found out that in June 1990 Hugh Masekela would be performing in Atlanta at the National Black Arts Festival. I certainly was going to drive to the streets of Atlanta to watch him. My friend Charlotte agreed to come with me and so we went to Auburn Avenue, near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and watched the performance, free, on the street. It was so much fun! I may have been just one of a very few white people there but the celebration, the singing, the camaraderie around us was unbelievable. I took some photos with my film camera, they are not very good, but they give an idea of what it was like.
Masekela played "Bring him back home" and all of us sang and danced with him.
In March of 1988 a team from Safair, a South African cargo freight airline came to train in my company. I was the customer trainee coordinator then. I had never met people from South Africa and was a bit apprehensive. They were very nice and friendly - we did not talk politics, of course. Here they are below at a restaurant - one of them had brought his wife to tour the US after the training. They invited me to come and visit them in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where they lived. I told them, maybe in several years. I'd like to go now.
In 1988 a South African musical called "Sarafina!" premiered on Broadway in New York and closed in 1989 after 597 performances. It was nominated for the 1988 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical. It is set in South Africa during the 1976 Soweto riots. A demonstration started by high school students protesting apartheid ends up into a brutal scene with many students killed by the police. The music is uplifting though. It shows how the teenagers are standing up for freedom, how they hope for better times and their inspiration in Nelson Mandela. It is moving and cheerful at the same time. It was written by Mbongeni Ngema with additional musical numbers by Hugh Masekela. The musical came to Atlanta at the Fox Theatre. My husband and I went to see it - the audience was 98% African-American - I wished the audience had been more diverse to listen to this musical celebrating human rights with great music and choirs. I bought the cassette and played it often.
Hugh Masekela celebrated his 74th birthday earlier this year. Last year, on July 18, 2012, he played for the 94th birthday celebration of his friend, Nelson Mandela. He played again "Bring him back" with the Graceland Band and slightly changed lyrics. So much has happened since I purchased my cassette in 1987 (I am surprised that it is still in a good enough state to listen to it...) Freedom has come to South Africa, because of Nelson Mandela and also because of the help he received from all those exiled South African artists keeping apartheid and the oppressed in the international public eye and ear.
I have been listening to all my old cassettes and CDs on the music of South Africa. I am sorry that my music recollection came about because of the passing of Nelson Mandela. Our world is going to be poorer without him.
"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." - Nelson Mandela
So let's celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela. Let us try to bring more justice and equality in the US and other parts of the world. He said:
"Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom." and "While poverty persists, there is no true freedom." N. Mandela.
The fight against poverty is difficult, especially in our highly indoctrinated country. Negative and attack ads paid by billionaires and corporation lobbyists bombard the airwaves and television channels (owned by large corporations, too) against helping the poor and only for the benefit of the uber wealthy. Some of the lowest wages are paid by many of the richest corporations in the US.
"His day is done,
The news came on the wings of a wind, reluctant to carry its burden.
Nelson Mandela's day is done.
The news, expected and still unwelcome, reached us in the United States, and suddenly our world became somber.
Our skies were leadened.
His day is done ... No sun outlasts its sunset, but it will rise again and bring the dawn.
Yes, Mandela's day is done, yet we, his inheritors, will open the gates wider for reconciliation, and we will respond generously to the cries of Blacks and Whites, Asians, Hispanics, the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet.
We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all. "
Maya Angelou, American poet