Mandela's 91st Birthday Concert

Mandela's 91st Birthday
ESSENCE.COM Jul, 16, 2009

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Only a party for former South African President Nelson Mandela can get Aretha Franklin to come all the way to New York City’s Radio City Music Hall to celebrate. The Queen of Soul joined a star filled line-up of musicians for the Mandela Day: 46664 concert for his 91st birthday on July 18.

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Whoopi Goldberg was one of the first presenters on stage at the Mandela Day concert to talk about the idea that each person has the ability to leave their imprint on the world.

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Lil’ Kim made her singing debut with Cyndi Lauper honoring Nelson Mandela with “Time After Time.”

“I’m honored to be here tonight,” said Lil’ Kim. “I can’t believe I was selected for this. We all know what Nelson Mandela stood for and you just appreciate people like him.”

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Queen Latifah said she was very aware of the changes in South Africa when she first started her career in the early 1990’s. She performed a song called “I Know Where I Am Going” that brought people to their feet.

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Actor Morgan Freeman spoke about his relationship with Madiba (Nelson Mandela’s nickname) and the work being done by Nelson Mandela Foundation.

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At 91, Mandela is too frail to make the travel from his home in Johannesburg to New York City, but he did deliver a taped thank-you message. This is the first 46664 concert in the United States.

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Angelique Kidjo and Alicia Keys got their groove on at the 46664 birthday concert for Nelson Mandela.

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“This is an opportunity to be a part of a great initiative to bring people together and make the world a better place,” said Gloria Gaynor. “It’s great to be among so many great artists and icons.”

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Musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who is very close to Mandela, performed during Mandela Day: A 46664 Celebration Concert at Radio City Music Hall. She remarked that Mandela would always say she reminds him of a young Winnie Mandela.

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Will.i.am performs at the Mandela Day concert. Each year going forward, the Nelson Mandela Foundation hopes that July 18 will not be a holiday but a day to collectively remember the work and sacrifice of Nelson Mandela.

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Musicians from South Africa, Kenya, London, France and Senegal were all in the house representing. One of the most popular singers throughout Africa, Senegal’s own Baaba Maal, was also there.

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Wyclef Jean performed “Madiba” and “A Million Voices,” a song he wrote for the movie “Hotel Rawanda.”

“Meeting Mandela was like divinity,” said Wyclef. “I just want to wish him a happy birthday and many more.”

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The Soweto Gospel Choir sang back up for every artists (from Queen Latifah to Aretha Franklin) who came across the stage. They did a rousing number of “This Little Light of Mine.”

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“This is one of the most important birthdays ever because it commemorates what Mr. Mandela has tried to teach us as the human race,” said singer
Thandiswa Mazwai. “We’re blessed to be living at the same time as this very important man.”

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The star-studded concert featured a number of different collaborations including a performance by South Africa’s Vusi Mahlasela and Josh Groban.

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Loyiso (compared as South Africa’s Usher) is hugely popular in his home country and lent his talents to the 46664 concert.

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Actor Forest Whitaker speaks on stage during the Mandela Day: A 46664 Celebration Concert in New York City. His wife, Keisha Whitaker said, “It’s been such a wonderful year with Obama and now celebrating Nelson Mandela.”

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One of Kenya’s most popular artists Suzanna Owiyo performed during the Mandela Day concert. “Singing political songs is not a sin,” she posted on her website.“Musicians should be allowed freedom of expression.”

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Stevie Wonder closed the show with an amazing performance of “Happy Birthday.” He had everyone in the audience singing for at least 10 minutes.

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Closing out the show, singers Loyiso, Suzanna Owiyo, Josh Groban, Susan Sarandon, Lil’ Kim, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder gathered on stage to sing “Happy Birthday” to Nelson Mandela.

Send your happy birthday message to Mr. Mandela below.

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