Inside ‘African Sounds:’ Nelson Mandela’s 65th Birthday Concert, London, 1983

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.

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