As I reflect on your passing, I feel grateful that you walked alongside us.
As a child my father introduced me to your story. He told me about his days at LSE university protesting against apartheid and boycotting oranges from South Africa. This inspired me to read your amazing auto-biography ‘Long walk to freedom’. I was captivated.
Then I was lucky to see you speak live at Trafalgar Square when I followed my fathers footsteps and also studied at LSE. There I met my best friend whose father is South African. She told me tales of him, a Jazz musician who during Apartheid would perform behind a curtain with the white musicians at the front in a concert for white people, and in front of the screen with the white musicians behind the curtain for a performance for black people.
Apartheid. The very idea was so ridiculous, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t that long ago…
Last Summer 2012 I finally had the chance to go to Johannesburg South Africa, to record my debut single ‘Unite’ with the incredible Soweto Gospel Choir.
The Soweto Gospel Choir were particularly close to you. They performed at the first of your 46664 concerts! And regularly performed for public and personal occasions for you- you had good taste in music!
It was a real honour for them to sing on my song, and to know that they were so close to you had a deeper meaning to me, as the song Unite is about us being one human race and the immense positive power we can form when we live for one another; you lived by that. :)
The choir took us to Soweto to see the house where you grew up and to eat some traditional food in one of their homes. We also visited the apartheid museum, which tells the story of apartheid and shows more on your story. It was truly an amazing experience I will never forget.
Then strangely enough, during one evening at a small bar in Melville in Johannesburg we got talking to a few local guys that the waitress had put us on a table with as there were no free tables. We chatted for hours and hours about music, race and South Africa and later we exchanged emails… and there I discovered that one of them was one of your grandsons! It felt like I was never too far away from you!
Mandela- as I go through my life I will continue to be inspired by your great capacity for forgiveness, your fight for justice and your compassion. Many people will call themselves Christians, but truly ‘loving your enemy’ is something many do not achieve to do earnestly, and that I think you did, along with a smile that lights up the world, and gives the darkest souls hope…
You light has allowed others to shine, and now it is time for you light up the heavens and rest in heavenly peace…
Love & Light,
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
For the last day, we spent most of the day in Soweto.
Soweto has a lot of history. The name is an abbreviation for ‘South Western Townships’. A township was an area that the Government mass relocated Black Africans during Apartheid.
Soweto grabbed the worlds attention on June 16th 1976- an event took place known as the ‘Soweto Uprising’. Students led a protest against the new instruction of schools to be taught in Afrikaans, which in Desmond Tutu’s words was labelled as ‘the language of the oppressor’. Basically, when the students protested in large numbers, the police shot fire. The first child to be killed was a 13 year boy called Hector Pieterson, whose image shocked the nations. That day over 176 people were killed, including women, men and children.
It’s heart breaking to even imagine what took place those days. Thankfully those days are over, and the kids there seem to be real happy. I am sure there are some tough areas still, but at least those sign posts are gone and the restrictive outright racist laws!
Hanging out in Soweto, I felt a real sense of community.. something we lack in most of the Western world.
We were picked up by some members of the choir, and taken to Mary’s place (also a choir member) She cooked us up some real South African cuisine! :-)
Mary lives right next to a park where loads of kids were playing. They were so happy and loved having they pictures taken! So while Mary cooked up a feast we played with them and took lots of photos :-)
When food was ready, we all got stuck in. We washed out hands in a bowl full of boiling water and then ate the traditional way, with our fingers. We grabbed the food from the bowl then ate it with our fingers. They told us to try a bit of everything, and afterwards revealed what the contents was..
Well, guess what– I ate cow TONGUE (!), intestines!!! & cow liver.
Admittedly, none of them tasted that bad. It was all stewed and flavored with spices. Just the thought of it! :p
[I was keen to show off to my fiancé that I tasted cow tongue, of course forgetting for a moment that the Lebanese love to eat sheep tongue!]
After our meal we popped to Sandton and took a look at the Nelson Mandela statue and the mall.
Then we went to Newtown to a bar/ restaurant called ‘Sophiatown’ for a few drinks and some food. Good vibes.
Ahhh, so that’s it! for now ;-)
And what an experience…! A week to remember forever.
Tears and laughter, music, beautiful people, incredible energy, nature… I feel extremely grateful to have had this experience.
Life is about making it happen!
The Soweto Gospel choir blew me away… and I can’t wait for you all to hear the song!
Nkosi’s Haven is an NGO in South Africa who provide care and support for HIV/AIDS infected mothers, her children, and resulting AIDS orphans (infected or not).
We had the opportunity to visit the Nkosi’s Haven village in Alan Manor, Johannesburg. The village covers 2.5 acres of land, and it houses 31 mothers and 98 children, of which roughly half are orphaned.
As soon as we arrived the community made us feel really welcome, and the children just wanted to hug, play, sing and dance…
We sang UNITE with the children singing the chorus and played some music games. Jus Rolle gave the kids a motivational speech making them smile and encouraging them to nurture their talent and perform with confidence.
Music can have a healing power, it really does change lives.
I’ve always dreamed of coming to Africa, and for the last few years South Africa has been top of the list.
So I knew I would make it here soon… but did I ever dream that it would be to record with one of the best choirs in the world?
No… that would have felt like wishful thinking… but here I am! :)
Today I had a rehearsal with the Soweto Gospel choir before we go to record at the studio tomorrow. We started out with one of the best vocal warm ups I’ve ever witnessed (!) .. and then got straight into listening to what they have arranged based on the recording we sent over..
Well, when I say I was overwhelmed… it’s an understatement! I knew they would deliver. But honestly, they have completed the song perfectly. They did exactly what we had imagined- and more.
After the rehearsal we were treated to some performances of their other songs. They did an amazing rendition of the classic song by South African superstar Miriam Makeba ‘Pata Pata’, and we joined them to sing and dance… that video will have to be on the DVD- a moment to remember! :)
The choir are out of this world..
You cannot help but absorb the beautiful energy they exude and be inspired by it.
I am sure people will also feel that when they hear them sing on the song, it’s something beyond words. :)