Tales from the water cooler: A by-product of Nelson Mandela's imprisonment? One of history's greatest protest songs


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The Independent Online

I would never presume to be capable of adding anything of weight to those solemn odes to Nelson Mandela written by our body of accomplished scribes. I’ll therefore try to offer something perhaps more lightweight and just hope you don’t think me flippant (and I’m guessing you won’t, or you would have long ago given this daft wee corner of the internet a miss in favour of the far more legitimate journalism featured from elsewhere).

Given that there is very little which is – in the purest sense of the word – tragic about the passing of such an aged gentleman; given that he was someone who achieved such enormities in life that our own scaled heights often seem nonsensical hillocks; given all this, I hope you don’t mind if I point you towards something which, although it reminds us of some of the man’s darkest days, is nevertheless a thing of absolute joy.

One of the by-products of Mr Mandela’s 27-year incarceration; one which sits, to my ears, atop the laudable canon of history’s great protest songs, is “Free Nelson Mandela” by The Special AKA, from 1984. If you are unfamiliar with its swaying charm and irresistible groove, I urge you to download it or watch the video below. Never has a demand for a man’s – and country’s – liberty been delivered with such abundant levity. You’ll be dancing around your kitchen before you know it. And I can’t think of a better way to remember the old boy than that.