Here’s a list of some musical tributes dedicated to the iconic Nelson Mandela who died at 95 this week.
- Johnny Clegg, “Asimbonanga”: Written as a mix of Zulu and English, the title of this Mandela freedom track is Zulu for “We have not seen him”; at that point, no one had seen Mandela outside of prison for more than two decades. Hailing from South Africa, Clegg stirred up controversy for not only writing this protest hit, but for also having bandmates of different races during the days of Apartheid. In 1999, the band was joined onstage by Mandela during a performance of “Asimbonanga.”
- 2pac, “Just a Breath of Freedom (4 Nelson Mandela)”: Tupac Shakur’s poem acts as a letter of praise to Mandela for his decades of struggle in the name of equal rights. “Held captive 4 your politics/ They wanted 2 break your soul/ They ordered the extermination of all minds they couldn’t control,” Pac writes about Mandela’s journey.
- Tracy Chapman, “Freedom Now”: Soon after Tracy Chapman rose to fame for her No. 1 self-titled album in 1988, she found herself writing and performing this Mandela protest song at his 70th Birthday Celebration. A constant spokeswoman for social change, Chapman’s song speaks against a society that kills and destroys that which it doesn’t understand.
- Public Enemy, “Prophets of Rage”: One of the most influential hip-hop groups in history, Public Enemy was never short on righteous political messages — and it should be no surprise that one of their most iconic tracks name-checked Mandela. In “Prophets of Rage,” Chuck D raps “We have a reason why to debate the hate,” while Mandela is mentioned in the company of other prominent leaders in the anti-segregation movement.
- Youssou N’Dour, “Nelson Mandela”: N’Dour is one of Senegal’s most famous cultural icons, and his genre-bending repertoire has found him collaborating with Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, and Wyclef Jean. In 1986, N’Dour released an album entitled “Nelson Mandela,” as a tribute to the future President of South Africa.
- Hugh Masekela, “Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)”: Masekela, a Grammy-nominated jazz musician from South Africa, recorded this track in 1987, and sings that he “wants to see him (Mandela) walking down the streets of South Africa tomorrow.