As many are aware we lost the great leader and icon Nelson Mandela December 5th. He is the greatest leader of my lifetime and probably of the 20th century. Here are my thoughts as an author and songwriter about Mandela and modern day South Africa.
My greatest admiration of him was his ability to forgive his oppressors and move forward toward transforming South Africa from a dark segregated country to a united and growing prosperous country. That being said this nation still has its challenges with poverty and racism but it has made huge progress. "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" is what he said after being released from prison. He lived and ruled by those words. He led by example, something that is lost on many of our so called leaders today. It wasn’t enough for him to just have freedom but he also wanted his people to have prosperity. Africa is a continent stricken with poverty, and while not perfect, South Africa is a jewel of the continent. It has a vibrant music scene and all sectors of its economy are growing. It’s a market that I, as many other musicians, am enjoying success in.
South Africa has become a much different nation than the days Mandela was released from prison. Things had already begun to change but it was Mandela who really moved the country forward into its modern version. He brought oppressed blacks and the fearful whites, who believed they would lose everything, together. It was a struggle but the nation began to form a new path bringing different cultures together and forming unique ideas and the country transformed into a first world nation. The music scene is incredibly diverse and vibrant. Classical to heavy metal has filled the entire nation and western bands have flocked to this music rich nation. The movement has moved beyond South Africa to other African nations. Mandela loved music and knew of its power, he was a talented singer himself. During his imprisonment musicians from all over the world called for his release. It seems fitting that in his modern South Africa it has become such a great music scene welcoming artists from all over the world. There are rich roots of jazz and blues that come from Africa. Much of the jazz and blues from the 19th century until now have their roots from back in Africa. The blues scale came from that early music arriving in America with the slaves and made prominent in the 20th century in America. In South Africa the jazz and blues grew as it did in America with many protest songs written by prominent black jazz musicians in the 50s and 60s. Now jazz and the blues are very much alive and are enjoyed by both blacks and whites.
South Africa has affected my song writing as well and the message of Mandela has found its way into my storytelling. The “Visitors From Yubarri” series is a story of how great thinkers who left the Earth return to bring the life they have had on Yubarri, a life of very different beings and cultures coming together in peace. They had a dream like Nelson Mandela of a new world free of corruption and a world with freedom for all. This may be fiction but I always believe if it can be dreamed then it can be done. Mandela brought people together. This is something as a writer and musician that I try to do and he is such a great inspiration leading not just a nation but the entire world and even artists like myself. In my story “A Modern Day Animal Farm Tale” one of my characters stands up to an oppressor and tells him that a great leader leads by excellent example. That is what Mandela did and his legacy shall always be with us even though he is now gone. Though he was put in prison for his comment that the was no peaceful end to oppression but the only way was violence, in the end it was his peaceful leadership that brought the country together and not violence. He proved that nonviolence can solve problems. A great example of this is when he came to cheer on the national rugby team, which was a prominently white sport. He did this because his country, made up of blacks and whites was more important, unity was more important.
South Africa is not perfect. There is still division, violence, and corruption as there is all over the world. Mandela once said, “I am not a saint, just a sinner who keeps trying.” Just like South Africa, just like me, just like you. A man who forgave after being oppressed his entire life, put into prison for 27 years, and treated horrible in prison only because of his political beliefs that all races should have an equal chance. His legacy makes us believe we can make this world a better place. It is a lofty dream and one that we will probably not see in our lifetime, but we must put forth the effort. Let us not simple talk about it, let’s do it as he did. There is more hot air than ever in a world with incredible capabilities in communication so let us use this power to change our world for the better. Most of all let us give thanks for Mandela’s life and the leadership he brought us. I do not mourn him, but instead thank God that he put him on this Earth to fight for, and inspire us all.
R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, may the light from your torch light our way for generations to come. God bless
Check out some of the music Mandela loved: