In South Africa, April 27th of every year is celebrated and known as Freedom Day. It reminds us of the freedom from an Apartheid system and also celebrates the freedom to vote in a post-Apartheid society. Today marks the 18th anniversary of the first post-Apartheid democratic election in South Africa, a historic event that may never had occurred had it not been for boycotts, rallies, divestment campaigns and overall awareness. A minor, yet most vocal player in putting pressure on the government to put an end to the racial hierarchy happened to be artists – artists like Afrika Bambaataa.
Afrika Bambaataa, standing with the Universal Zulu Nation, has been one of the most political figures in hip-hop culture to date so it comes to no surprise that he expanded his knowledge worldwide long before ‘political rap’ was a popular genre. In 1984, the ‘Godfather’ of hip-hop met the ‘Godfather’ of soul, James Brown, and together they created a track called “Unity, Part 1.” The song, which promoted peace, love and unity, became a song that bridged Afrika Bambaataa to an artist-run anti-apartheid movement against the South African government. In 1985, Bambaataa was asked to appear on an anti-apartheid charity single called “Sun City” alongside artists like Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen. Bono and Run-D.M.C.
“Africa was no joke. A lot of people, I be telling: ‘You need to get back to Africa. Do shows.’ I been there a couple of times. They say that everybody talk Africa but don’t come to do shows or nothing in Africa. That’s why my goal was to go all over the world and rake this music into many countries.” (1)
Following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, Bambaataa co-organized a concert with Hip-Hop Artists Against Apartheid (under Warlock Records) for the African National Congress (ANC) at Wembley Stadium in London. The concert united British and American artists on stage, but more importantly, introduced Nelson and then-wife Winnie Mandela, as well as the ANC platform, to hip-hop audiences. Moreover, Bambaataa created a new charity single entitled “Ndodemnyama (Free South Africa),” which helped raise $30K for the ANC.
“Last year I had the Hip Hop Artists Against Apartheid record to help the ANC [African National Congress] raise some money. We gave a big concert in England and I brought Willie Mandela and a lot of the ANC members on stage to a large hip hop audience in London.” (2)
On April 27th, 1994, four years after Afrika Bambaataa’s organized concert, South Africa held its first post-Apartheid democratic election. The ANC won 62% of the votes and Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela
Never forget that hip-hop has always been and always will be bigger than itself!
(1)Scars Of The Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don’t Have Bruises – By Miles Marshall Lewis