A Blues for Baba Mandela (1918-2013)
Growing up in the 80's, I witnessed quite a few revolutionary actions being play out right before me. The innovation of art was bursting at the seams, music/culture was moving forward at a rapid pace, and there was a large sense of awareness in world affairs. The connectivity that television allowed us to have made our world seem a bit smaller. What people in other parts of the world were experiencing did not seem so far away. We realized that though we were in other parts of the world, we were still connected by the human fabric.
Apartheid was an ugly smear on the wall of humanity. Artist Against Apartheid, a group of main stream talent of American artists, banded together to show their disgust of racist theology of apartheid. Out of this collaboration was birthed a song called "Sun City". Movies like "Cry Freedom" and later "Sarafina" brought truth to light about what was going on in South Africa. In all of this a living Hero emerged which was Nelson Mandela. Baba Mandela's fight for freedom and basic rights for his people landed him a 27 year sentence of captivity by oppressive forces. Forces who wanted to keep one nation over another. This to many of us was what we witnessed in the "Civil Rights Movement" of the 60's. In the 80's, the thought that this type of activity was still going on all the way up into this point in time was utterly ridiculous. When Brother Mandela was released in 1990, the world seemed to rejoiced because it gave you a sense that it was possible that "wrongs" could be made "right". Without getting too deep about it and voicing my opinion about those that created the unjust environment, I will just say it was the least and best thing they could have done based upon their wicked past. It was their wickedness that catapulted Nelson Mandela to be an iconic figure that represents freedom and justice against all odds. In many ways it made us take a look back at the flames that Malcolm and Martin had lit years before on American soil.
Hugh Masekela and Miriam Mekeba were names I was familiar with as it pertained to South African music when I was growing up. Later on Dollar Band and Johnathan Butler came into my musical vocabulary along with a few others. This song by Lionel Pillay "Blues of Yusef" resonates with me in various ways. Its seems to capture the sentiments of the energy of what was going on at the time of its recording in 1980. I am personally a big collector of Jazz Funk records and this tune in particular does not disappoint. A bigger factor for my appreciation of this material is that it represents an essence of music under the oppression of apartheid. All great music that we have experienced in this century has come out of the "blues" of the people. As creative forces we take negatives and turn them into a new dance, song, or word. There lies beauty. So for my great elder Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, I send prayers for a smooth journey back to the Ancestors along with this vibrational sound that carries the spirits of Blues, Freedom, and Ascension.