Welcoming Mandela home

BY SIMONE MORGAN Observer staff reporter morgans@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, December 07, 2013    

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JAMAICA'S opposition to South Africa's apartheid system and call to release the struggle's icon Nelson Mandela are well documented in music.

On Mandela's 27-year release from prison on February 2, 1990, Carlene Davis marked the event in song.

"We were in England working on an album right about the time Mr Mandela was released," she told the Jamaica Observer. "Excitement was in the air as he was the talk on everyone's lips. We just started penning the lyrics to the song. We prayed for change for Black people, especially South Africans, and that had happened."

Davis's contribution was Welcome Home Mr Mandela, a track included on her Songs of Freedom album. The single was written by Davis, Tommy Cowan and Tony Rich (now deceased).

She said lots of persons, including herself, did not believe Mandela would be released and that apartheid would be dismantled shortly after.

"The whole world was in awe... It was just amazing and this was something big for not only our race, but the entire world," Davis said.

Welcome Home Mr Mandela was one of the songs played when Mandela visted Jamaica in 1991. Davis said the freedom fighter's appearance at the National Stadium in Kingston will always remain fresh in her mind.

"It was chaos, but chaos in an exciting form. Everyone was overjoyed and wanted to get a glimpse of the freedom fighter. It was a free event but persons were jumping the walls to get a space in the National Stadium," Davis told the Observer.

Prior to that, Davis released another single — Winnie Mandela — which paid tribute to the ex-wife of the former South African president.

"Winnie Mandela is a phenomenal woman as she was the face of the struggle. A job that was mostly taken on by the males such as Marcus Garvey and Malcom X. She was in and out of prison... She fought for what she believed in," Davis said.

Mandela, who served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, died on Thursday. He was 95.

Dub poet Yasus Afari said Mandela's work was an empowerment and inspiration to reggae music.

"There were several songs done pre- and post his release from prison relating to the matter... The entertainers were informed of what was going on in South Africa," he said.

He said reggae music has been an inspiration to Africa and this is evident in the high number of Rastafarians that reside on the continent .

He, however, was quick to point out that although Mandela was a great freedom fighter, there were others who had contributed even more.

"Although they are not as celebrated as Mandela, persons like Steve Biko and Winnie Mandela have done a lot of fighting against apartheid. I am not dishonouring what Nelson Mandela, did but there are others who have potientally done a lot more."





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