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25/05/2022

Breathing new life into the popular “Say Africa” song by the Nelson Mandela University is set to resonate with new audiences all over again, following its relaunch on Africa Day.

That’s the word of Gqeberha singer-songwriter Dave Goldblum, who wrote the original feel-good song in 1997, and which was performed at the opening of the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

“Personally, I am thrilled that a group of young musicians is giving new life to the song.  I really love the arrangement and the production.  I wish them all the best.  Who would have guessed when I wrote Say Africa that it would take on a life of its own to resonate so much with so many,” said Goldblum, whose original storytelling style has been given an upbeat flavour.

The new rendition will be released on Africa Day, 25 May, when the continent reflects on its journey and achievements, under the theme of “The Year of Nutrition: Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African continent”.

The choir's rendition is performed a cappella, overlayed with African percussion as created by the University’s Conductor Ulagh Williams, who also arranged the song to incorporate Xhosa phrases and traditional African elements.

Williams, who works within the Arts, Culture and Heritage arm of Communication and Marketing, says she wanted the voices and the story to remain the focus, but to make the song accessible to a younger generation.

The piece, which pays tribute to all things African, was recorded late last year on the University’s Bird Street Campus in Central.

The University’s choir has played a key role in the past in entrenching the importance of arts, culture and heritage, and this year will be no exception.  It remains committed to honouring South African music, in particular music by Eastern Cape composers and songwriters, like Goldblum.

Last year, they paid tribute to the likes of Mango Groove, Sibongile Khumalo, the Soweto Gospel Choir, female vocal group "Joy", Amanda Black and Mbongeni Ngema (of "Sarafina!" fame) in both digital and live performances. 

“We will continue with this commitment, but will be adding songs from more genres, including new Xhosa choral works by local composers as well as iconic music from SA jazz artists,” said Williams.

Goldblum says he wrote Say Africa after returning from a long spell overseas in the late 80s when many South Africans were in political exile.

“I was struck by their predicament; the fact that they missed South Africa and their families and their lives back home but couldn’t go back.”

Later, he recalled, many people were emigrating for economic reason.

“That trend continues, and so over the years the song has become a bit of a theme for the home-sickness expats often experience.”

He expects the new upbeat version to resonate with this generation.

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