Tournament will tear down barriers, unite humankind

viva: Bafana Bafana fans came in great numbers to cheer their national team during a parade at Sandton City on Wednesday, just two days before their opening match against Mexico in the first World Cup on the African continent. PHOTO: ANTONIO MUCHAVE. 10/06/2010. © Sowetan.
viva: Bafana Bafana fans came in great numbers to cheer their national team during a parade at Sandton City on Wednesday, just two days before their opening match against Mexico in the first World Cup on the African continent. PHOTO: ANTONIO MUCHAVE. 10/06/2010. © Sowetan.

ZURICH - The soccer World Cup in South Africa will tear down barriers and bring humankind back home to its African roots, musician Vusi Mahlasela said ahead of the kickoff concert yesterday.

ZURICH - The soccer World Cup in South Africa will tear down barriers and bring humankind back home to its African roots, musician Vusi Mahlasela said ahead of the kickoff concert yesterday.

Mahlasela and other African artists, like Angelique Kidjo, Hugh Masekela and Tinariwen, joined forces with international stars Shakira, Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys to play to 30000 concert-goers packed into Soweto's Orlando Stadium and millions of television viewers around the globe.

"Everybody who is coming here for the World Cup should just feel that they are back home and be on the same level with everybody else," he told Reuters by phone.

"Here we are the same, we are family, we are one, we are home."

Mahlasela is confident Africa's first World Cup finals will surpass the success of the 1995 rugby tournament.

That event united South Africa's Rainbow Nation behind the victory of the country's erstwhile white-supported Springbok team shortly after the country's first racially democratic elections handed power to Nelson Mandela.

Mandela, who proudly wore the Springbok shirt then, will now be able to support Bafana Bafana against Mexico.

"The main player, our main man, our leader, Nelson Mandela has just confirmed that he is going to be there at the kickoff match. That should spark some really positive feelings for Bafana Bafana," Mahlasela said of the former president, now in his 90s.

"I'm expecting lots of black and white people and people of different races to be there. I'm sure it's going to be a positive, kind of rainbow experience," Mahlasela said.

But the choice of a soul calypso (soca) as the World Cup theme song, written and performed by Colombian pop diva Shakira, with South African group Freshly Ground playing only a supporting role in the mix, was a missed opportunity to showcase more of South Africa's abundant musical traditions, he said.

"There's great music here and good writers and composers and quite a lot of good songs that are classical in highlighting the variety of styles and traditions that we have in South Africa," he said.

A song by Durban-born Afro-rocker PJ Powers, who sang the rugby World Cup theme song World In Union alongside Zulu a capella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1995, would have been perfect, Mahlasela said.

People cannot afford to be complacent about the racial equality many sacrificed their lives and liberty to secure, Mahlasela added.

He was optimistic South Africa can overcome its problems by following the examples of great leaders like Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, as well as cultural icons like Miriam Makeba, who was forced into exile and spoke against apartheid at the United Nations. She died in late 2008.

"Miriam Makeba paved the way and opened a window to the world and gave the full information of what was happening here in South Africa under apartheid," he said.

He will play tribute to Makeba at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July with other stars she inspired, like Benin's Angelique Kidjo and Senegal's Baaba Maal. - Reuters

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