The musicians and promoters behind the ‘African Sounds’ concert at Alexandra Palace, London in July 1983, tell the story of the first music event to raise awareness of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. Featured interviews include Julian Bahula, concert promoter and founding member of the bands Malombo and Jabula, his wife Liza and Jerry Dammers of The Specials. Inspired by seeing Jabula’s ‘Mandela’ performed live at the concert, Dammers went on to write the massive Special AKA hit, ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ and set up Artists Against Apartheid in the UK.
While the concerts did much to raise awareness for Mandela and the politics of apartheid in South Africa, years later the architects of the event series ponder the fuzzy overlap of politics and entertainment, and wonder whether it would have been possible to more actively engage with the African ex-pat musicians,
Julian Bahula’s work in various musical projects is collected on the album ‘Spirit of Malombo,’ out now on Strut, and available at your favorite local record shop, as well as iTunes, Amazon, and the Strut Store.
South Africa’s Julian Bahula created a unique synthesis of Western jazz and the indigenous rhythms of his home country, spreading his culture to an international audience as well as creating awareness for political issues affecting his homeland. Strut’s new Spirit of Malombo collection sheds light on this visionary musician and tireless advocate for equality in South Africa.
In the early ‘60s, Bahula introduced indigenous malombo drums alongside guitar and flute to create a new, politically-charged fusion. After a spell with guitarist Philip Tabane, Bahula settled with musicians Lucky Ranku and Abie Cindi as Malombo Jazz Makers and the trio placed themselves bravely on the frontline of anti-apartheid activism including a domestic tour with Steve Biko as part of the ‘Into The Heart of Negritude’ theatre production.
As the pressure of apartheid intensified, Bahula moved to political exile in the UK, where he formed new Afro super-group, Jabula. The band worked closely and selflessly with the exiled ANC, the Anti-Apartheid Movement and other anti-apartheid organisations, using their music to help spread political awareness across Europe.
In ’83, Bahula and his wife Liza set up the first concert in the UK to raise awareness for Nelson Mandela, ‘African Sounds’, an event that helped kick-start the international pressure leading to Mandela’s release in 1990. The Specials’ Jerry Dammers was there and was inspired by Jabula’s track ‘Mandela’ to write the huge hit for The Special A.K.A., ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.
Spirit Of Malombo documents Bahula’s incredible musical journey from 1966 to 1984 for the first time. Package includes rare photos, poster artwork and memorabilia with extensive sleeve notes from author Francis Gooding. The cover features a still from leading South African photographer, Ernest Cole. The album is available on iTunes, Amazon, and the Strut Store.