Today, February 11, 2020 is the 30th year to the day that South African anti-apartheid struggle icon Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years ‘behind bars’. It is a day to remember not only the heroes who directly bore the brunt of the apartheid scourge, but also those who from far away lent their voices to the struggle through music. Among these anti-apartheid crusaders were Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Sonny Okosuns and Majek Fashek, all from Nigeria. They were real ‘African Soldiers’, to use the words of late Sonny Okosuns, and their common enemies were apartheid and colonialism wherever they reared their ugly heads on the continent.
In 1989, Fela & Egypt ’80 released the anti-apartheid ‘Beasts of No Nation’ that depicts on its cover U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and South African State President Pieter Willem Botha; and in which he castigated their ‘disunited’ disposition to human rights, and excoriated apartheid president Pik Botha’s statement that the uprising against the apartheid system would bring out “the beast in us”. That statement, in fact, informed the title of the album – Beasts of No Nation, according to Lindsay Barret.
Majek Faskek’s “Free Mandela” released in 1989 proved particularly prophetic, as Mandela was released soon after. Before then (in 1987), South African Jazz maestro Hugh Masekela rocked the apartheid airwaves with “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)” in his ‘Tomorrow’ album. Sonny Okosun’s “Papa’s Land” and “Fire in Soweto” remain evergreen in the annals of struggle songs. Ras Kimono also had his say in 1988 with “Kill Apartheid”.
On this historic day, Newsplus brings you memories of the anti-apartheid struggle, especially the role played by these legendary musicians who knew what it meant to deploy art for positive social engineering and political emancipation.
Enjoy their music.