Nelson Mandela the African King of Peace

Nelson Mandela the African King of Peace

The world mourns the death of one of great soldiers of Peace and Human Equality, the noble son of Africa, Nelson Mandela. My shadowy link with the spirit of this man goes back to when I first heard the song Shosholoza in the all-black, South African musical, King Kong. It played for about a year in the Princes Theatre, across the road from my doorway, in 1961. Though I never understood the words, it was rooted in my musical influences way before even the Beatles stepped into the cavern. The song was about progress, freedom and a train coming to South Africa. The song was sung by working miners in time with the music beat as they were swinging their axes to dig. It was usually sung under hardship in ‘call and response’ style (one man singing a solo line and the rest of the group responding by copying him). It was also sung by prisoners in call and response style. Former South African President Nelson Mandela describes how he sang Shosholoza as he worked during his imprisonment on Robben Island. He describes it as “a song that compares the apartheid struggle to the motion of an oncoming train” and goes on to explain that “the singing made the work lighter”.

How strange that later, without knowing the words and history of this song I wrote Peace Train which mirrors the hope for the future of all suffering souls in every war torn land and country. Curious also is the fact that my return to music was triggered in South Africa while recording a children’s album, and following that, my return to the stage after 25 years was to honour Nelson Mandela at the 46664 concert for Aids victims in Cape Town, 2003.

May God show mercy to this African King of Peace, who lived, worked and died for what he believed and to break the chains of slavery and Apartheid which held down his people.

Yusuf