Tag Archives: Mango Groove

Madiba

I, along with millions of other people, learnt last night of the death of Nelson Rolihlala Mandela.  And yes, he was 95 years old and he was very ill so it was not unexpected. But that doesn’t matter. He may have been 95 years old, he may have been very ill but he was still himself. And mightily beloved. It is the thing about death, the bald, awful knowledge that that person no longer lives; that we can no longer talk to them, that we cannot hear them. In the case of Madiba there is his family who now know this – a huge extended family, many of whom shared his home. There is his wife, Graca Machel, who has herself lived through such tragedy but also lived a life full and strong. Their loss is inconceivable. For many others not just in South Africa but all over the world, his loss is felt deeply.

Speaking for myself I do not mourn him for his role in the process of reconciliation in South Africa, I do not mourn him for his lack of bitterness, I do not mourn him for his statesmanship. I mourn him for who he was. And I know it is hard to separate the man from the politician, the man from the revolutionary and I am not trying to do that. But it was in his inner life that he was so special. He was a person who loved life. He was a good man. A clever man. A thoughtful man and a kind man. No one was beneath him, and I cannot think of any political leader who matches him in this. And this was not humility, it was a genuine interest in other human beings. He was curious and caring. And funny, really funny. He was not, however, as Saki Macozoma so aptly said tonight, a teddy bear. Madiba had a core of steel and an authority about him that would be remembered by those who crossed him and those who were lead by him. He knew his own mind. With his death we have lost that. Over the past years we have also lost many of the generation who grew up with him: Oliver Tambo, a gentle soul and a fierce revolutionary, Walter Sisulu, softly spoken, highly principled and Govan Mbeki. People like Phyllis Naidoo, people for whom the struggle for justice and for an end to Apartheid was their life. That generation moved to a different tempo and their beliefs shaped the way they lived and shaped the way that South Africa was born. I feel lucky to have been a part of that.

In President Zuma’s announcement of Mandela’s death he said ‘ we saw in him what we seek in ourselves.’  and that is so true. I am so sad he is no longer with us, I wish he could have had many more years in freedom. I wish I could turn the clocks back. But we can’t – and so I am glad he is at least now free from pain and sadness. And I hope that in some way his death leads to a renewal of vows amongst South Africans – a renewal of the things we do look for in ourselves: kindness, fairness, hope, generosity, honesty and integrity.

Below is a recording of Another Country, a Mango Groove song written at a time when South Africa was on the verge of becoming a democracy. A dark time when many lost their lives.

2013, Baobabs and Bagamoyo

Hard to believe that 2013 has arrived – here’s hoping for a peaceful and kind year for the world – a hope in vain I know.

One of the things I am looking forward to this year is the publication of my next book, a sequel to The Butterfly Heart. This one is called The Sleeping Baobab Tree and in its honour here is (yet another) picture of this wondrous tree of life.

This picture is taken in Bagamoyo in Tanzania. The meaning of Bagamoyo in KiSwahili is ‘Lay Down your Heart’ and the reason it is called this is that it had become, by the late eighteenth Century, a major slave trading post. Arab slave traders would bring slaves in from the interior to Bagamoyo and from there they would be shipped to the slave markets and plantations of Zanzibar.  It was here that slaves would lay down their hearts to leave them behind as their bodies were transported away from home for the last time.

Slaves came from far and wide in the interior and it was calculated that for every one slave who reached Bagamoyo there were ten who died along the way.  For all of them who did reach the port this would have been their first view of the wide blue Indian Ocean – an ocean that would serve only to carry them in the holds of trading ships towards lives of brutality and hardship. Dr. Livingstone at the time said of the slave trade in East Africa (as it was then) that ‘to overdraw its evils is simply not possible’

This Baobab will have borne witness to that evil – it now looks out on a kinder place.

The Bagamoyo Baobab in full leaf

The Bagamoyo Baobab in full leaf

In 2009 on their album Bang the Drum, Mango Groove released a song that my brother had written  (with the help of my father who provided the Swahili) for use during a human rights campaign in South Africa. The song is called Bagamoyo and while unfortunately there is no video of it available, here are the lyrics.

BAGAMOYO  (Lay Down Your Heart)

Kurudi, Nyumbani
Nathulisa Umoyo

The day you left I was a stranger to you
The air was still the sky was grey
A pale moon led you through a starless night
A quiet sea took you away
Now time is not enough to do the healing
And words are not enough to heal your pain
But together maybe we can find a different space
A secret place where all our memories remain

So lay down your heart for me
Be strong and set me free
Walk away but still remain
Change it all but stay the same
And don’t forget a world within is a world apart
So lay down your heart

In dreams you’ll walk along a different path
The morning air will taste so sweet
You’ll lift your face towards blue African skies
You’ll feel her earth beneath your feet
As evening falls you’ll reach a different place
Where a warm December wind whispers your name
And as you look out from the shores of Bagamoyo
A million stars will know you came
Because like you they’ve come home again

So lay down your heart for me
Be strong and set me free
Walk away but still remain
Change it all but stay the same
And don’t forget a world within is a world apart
So lay down your heart

Kurudi, Nyumbani
Nathulisa Umoyo

Happy Independence Day Zambia

At Midnight on October 24th 1964 Zambia became independent. So, Happy Independence Day Zambia!

My brother John Leyden was born in Kitwe, Zambia in the year of Zambia’s independence so here’s a song for Zambia from his band Mango Groove. The song when it was written was dedicated to Spokes Mashiyane, known as the King of Kwela. But for today I feel like dedicating it to Zambia, a Special Star.