I love it when it happens. I’ll be sitting in a movie and seeping in through the screen I’ll hear a snippet of the song that’s been selected to accompany the scene. Sometimes I end up concentrating so hard on the hearing the song, I lose interest in what’s going on on-screen. Other times it all comes together so well, enhancing my whole “cinematic experience”.
Some of the best CDs I own are soundtracks: Brokedown Palace, which introduced me to the haunting sounds of Plumb; City of Angels, with that tribute to overcoming grief by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush; Garden State, with the Imogen-Heap-led Frou Frou. I even got into the whole Robert Pattinson thing because of the song he added to the Twilight soundtrack.
More recently, in the film Public Enemies, I found another gem. In between watching Johnny Depp play the charming John Dillinger, I heard this song:
The NY Times had picked it as the gig of the week even before the show took place, and it certainly lived up to the hype. What a show! It was filled with so many highlights and goosebump-inducing moments. From Dave Stewart collaborating with France’s First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to Baaba Maal and Chris Chameleon’s version of ‘With My Own Two Hands’. Morgan Freeman, too, said a few words about playing the role of Mandela in the upcoming movie, ‘Invictus’. Madiba himself also sent a little message through and Barack Obama paid a warm, heartfelt tribute to the former SA president too.
I truly felt proud to be South African as Soweto Gospel Choir enhanced the performances of almost every artist on that stage. Freshlyground, Jesse Clegg, Loyiso, Sipho Mabuse, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Vusi Mahlasela were brilliant on stage. Literally every single performance fitted right in and added its own shine to the show. Josh Groban and Italy’s Zucchero too, brought tears to eyes of those around me. For me, that moment came with the Maal/Chameleon duet and the images on screen of people’s hands opened out. The last image was Madiba, smiling broadly, with his palms turned out.
Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Angelique Kidjo, Queen Latifah and Cyndi Lauper brought their pizzazz too. But Mister Stevie Wonder brought the house down. It was only natural that he sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and the entire ensemble joined him for that. Absolutely amazing!
As I was leaving the afterparty, I saw him walk inside the hotel through the garage. I said to the person who was walking with him to please tell him that a South African fan wanted to say thank you for a great show. Stevie put his hand out right in front of me to shake mine and said thank you to me. It was a moment that no camera could ever have captured.
Here’s to 91 more, Madiba.
A special thanks to the US Embassy for helping me to be in the United States to cover two of the biggest stories of the year.
I’ve always thought Morgan Freeman was one of those iconic figures you could never really get close enough to speak to. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he hardly gives interviews and also that when he was filming in SA, there was no getting a microphone near him. But last night at the Mandela Day Gala Dinner and Auction at Grand Central Station, I got to shake his hand and have him give me a little hug. I couldn’t believe how approachable he was – and such a warm character.
Bill Clinton, together with Graca Machel, hosted the event. I was really lucky enough to be inside the dinner as it was not open to the media. It was really hard not to be able to record everything that was being said. Freeman spoke about how playing a US president and playing God paled in comparison to playing Mandela. Clinton described Madiba as one of his greatest friends, and said that not many people would give up 67 months of their life for others, never mind the 67 years Mandela dedicated to the struggle.
Alicia Keys and Josh Groban were there too – and a whole host of great SA artists like Vusi Mahlasela, Sipho Mabuse, Thandiswa Mazwai, Jesse Clegg and Yvonne Chaka Chaka. Loyiso and the Soweto Gospel Choir performed. The Reverend Al Sharpton – whom we have heard a lot from since Michael Jackson’s death – also attended. Didn’t get a chance to ask him what he thinks about the talk that MJ’s death could be investigated as a homocide…
He may be the richest man in New York and mayor of the city, but Michael Bloomberg did his part to bring the spirit of Mandela Day to life. Bloomberg joined dozens of people who were packing parcels of apples for the underprivileged. He even picked up a drum and started playing with the guys from The Drum Cafe – nice one!
NY Mayor with 46664 director Tim Massey at Union Square.
Mandela Day really seems to be gathering momentum. There are volunteers all over the city, recruiting more volunteers and talking to people about the idea. I’ve been approached by a number of them, handing out flyers and asking me to sign up.
Also chatted to Vusi Mahlasela about his performing in the first ever Mandela Day concert. He was on the bill for last year’s concert at Hyde Park in honour of Madiba’s 90th birthday and he is collaborating again with Josh Groban. The way they do ‘Weeping’ is just beautiful. Many of the SA musicians are starting to arrive in New York now, getting settled in the city that never sleeps, ahead of the big concert on Saturday. I hear Gloria Gaynor has also arrived in town for the show – really want to speak to the woman who gave us ‘I Will Survive’. I am sure she has much to say about a man who really did survive a lot.
So it’s full steam ahead for Mandela Day celebrations in New York. An exhibition about Madiba’s life has opened at Grand Central Station – very simple, yet very effective.
Also went to a reading by a Broadway star here, called Brian D’arcy James who plays Shrek in the hit musical. He read two stories – African fables, if you like – as kids from a disadvantaged school in Harlem tried to pay attention. Shame, at least they learnt a little bit about our former president. One ten-year-old boy told me he considers Mandela to be “the Martin Luther King of South Africa”. Another girl said the world should be more like him ’cause “then people would be fair”. Insightful young things.
It’s also great that America is getting in on the Madiba magic. One man I spoke to who helped with the creative side of things, told me the country is in need of nation-building and reconciliation now more than ever. And he believes Mandela – or the spirit of Mandela, embodied through Mandela Day – is the best thing right now. Interesting…I would have thought Obama could have done that. But I guess there’s enough Madiba magic to go around, isn’t there ;)