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In light of the death of Nelson Mandela, this week’s column will celebrate his life in gospel.
The first thing that comes to mind from a Christian perspec- tive is the lesson of forgiveness Mandela taught the world when he was released from prison. It is the ultimate answer to the popular acronym WWJD? which, in Christian circles, means: What Would Jesus Do?
The biggest Christian ally Madiba had was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who was in the man’s corner from the outset. During Mandela’s incarceration, Tutu was at the forefront of the call for his release and even got into trouble for some of his utterances.
With Mandela finally released and setting an example as to how to turn the other cheek, the gospel world fell in love with him.
In fact, Joyous Celebration may be a powerful choir now, but they owe their very existence to the legacy of Mandela.
“We never anticipated being a choir that would run for two decades straight,” said founder Lindelani Mkhize in an earlier interview.
“It was in 1994 that we were all happy about the new government, the country’s reconciliation and the official election of Nelson Mandela. We planned to have a thanksgiving function were we gave praise to God for all that we as South Africans had received from the political transformations,” he explained.
And so they called the function Joyous Celebration. There were several artists, gospel and otherwise, in attendance to sing thanksgiving songs to an emotional crowd at Pretoria’s State Theatre.
“The venture was so successful people asked for more and we succumbed to the pressure and ended up making it an annual event with a choir called Joyous Celebration,” said Mkhize.
But Joyous Celebration was not the only choir that had a taste of the Madiba magic. The Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir also had a few encounters with Mandela. Their last meeting was to show him their second Grammy Award, won in the Best Traditional Music category.
When he became ill earlier in the year, Viva Mandela, a star-studded praise album, was released. It was featured gospel artists such as Rebecca Malope and Gloria Bosman. Although at the time Madiba was still alive, the album was a celebration of a full life and centred on his accomplishments.
Now that he is gone, Viva Mandela, like the film Long Walk to Freedom, will become a classic that was released just in time, with the man’s blessings.
At the weekend US singers Maxwell and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Mandela in song and prayer during their concerts.
Now we wait for all the gospel musicians to come up with a number of tribute albums in honour of the man who fought for equality among all South Africans.
If songs about Mandela were made during his life, it is only right to continue with this tradition in his memory.
We will let you know of the developments in this regard.