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Africappella performs the South Africa national anthem
- 18 July 2016

A night before the event, we received a call from one of the renowned Jazz bookers in country asking that Africappella perform the National Anthem at a prestigious event celebrating the life of iconic Tata Nelson Mandela.

We were besides ourselves at such an opportunity, so we met as early as we could the following day to prepare for the afternoon performance of this remarkable Vuyo Tshuma arrangement.

Various artists climbed the grand stage one after another till eventually, the main ceremony began. The honoured guests, including the President of the time - Kgalema Motlhanthe, climbed the stage and took their seats. The MC then called on Africappella to come onto the stage and perform the National Anthem.

A few bars after the intro of the arrangement our microphones were cut! One of us heard someone whisper how we should sing THE national anthem. So we did just that ;) They put the mics back on and we hit the exact same progression, this time around we were allowed to sing through the entire song. The masses were initially confused by the rendition - with about two thirds of the crowd booing at us and the President looking at us with such disappointment in his glassed eyes!

We kept our heads high and as calmly as we could, continued hitting each and every one of those beautiful chords (:

As we approached the 2nd half of the song, just as we started singing 'Die Stem' section of the anthem, a remarkable thing happened - the crowd began singing along with us. The odds swung the other way around! Now about 75% of the crowd was singing along at the top of their voices. And eventually when Thokozani Mvelase struck that final note, the crowd roared in sheer joy and a very loud and sustained applause!

We bowed & exited the stage; and the Gauteng Minister attempted to top our performance with one of her own, citing that we needed to be taught to properly sing the National Anthem! He he he..

Soon as we reached back stage we were then asked to wait a while; there was a senior Government official who wished to talk to us. While we waited, it was equally fascinating to watch a few artists distancing themselves from us for fear of 'guilt by association'. Who could blame them? Government gigs do pay well ;)

The gentleman finally came through all suited up (reminded me of a certain Mr. Smith from the Matrix.. he he) - which was rather an admonishment in all honesty. He was professional and calm about his approach - went on to discourage any creativity around the national emblems - the coat of arms; national flag & the anthem.

We kept our responses minimum to avoid unnecessarily further fueling the already volatile situation. After 30 mins of the lecture, we were then freed to go. Yet again we had to face the crowd when trying to exit the premises - an experience both nerve-wrecking and fulfilling at the same time.

After all these years it remains one of our fondest memories and a source of strength when we need to make bold, unpopular decisions.
Though shunned by the modern Government, it reminiscent of the same spirit Nelson Mandela embodied before his incarceration - one of those moments we will always be proud of. Have you heard our rendition of the South Africa National Anthem? Check it out and buy it on our lyrics page.

- written by MegaMidas
Founder-member, composer, arranger & bassist at Africappella

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