African superstars Johnny Clegg and Youssou N’Dour paid homage on Sunday to late South African icon Nelson Mandela at the 20th edition of the World Festival of Sacred Music in Morocco.
The show in Fez, the spiritual capital of the north African nation, began with a reading of English poet William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus”, often recited by Mandela while imprisoned by the apartheid government.
Thousands of people then broke into dance as South Africa’s Johnny Clegg, a musician internationally renowned as the “White Zulu” for mixing English and Zulu lyrics and rhythms, took to the stage.
“Thank you for this homage to a great man who played an important role in my life and in the world,” Clegg, 61, said in French, after belting out his hit 80s ode to Mandela “Asimbonanga” (We have not seen him).
End of mourning
He melded his voice with that of another African great, Senegal’s Youssou N’dour, in a medley including N’dour’s song “Nelson Mandela”, which he wrote in 1985 after spending hours in Dakar “watching the news on apartheid with my mom”.
“At that moment, you really felt as if the image of Nelson Mandela was soaring over the stage,” said French festival-goer Michel Pautel after the three-hour double concert.
The show fell on the day that Mandela’s family marked the traditional end of mourning – six months after his death on 5 December at the age of 95, after a long illness – which prompted a global outpouring of grief.
It also came as excerpts were published from a book by a longtime aide to South Africa’s first black president, that tells of family squabbles as Mandela lay in hospital fighting for his life.
“Good Morning, Mr Mandela” by Zelda la Grange, his personal assistant for 19 years, is due for official release on Thursday.
The Moroccan music festival, which is celebrating its 20th edition, ends on Saturday.