The Only Way: Yusef Komunyakaa and Tomás Doncker pay tribute to Nelson Mandela

This day marks what would have been the 100th birthday of globally beloved and exalted, anti-apartheid champion, political leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.  On this day we remember this extraordinary man’s long and intrepid crusade for civil rights and against oppression of the South African government, waged with unyielding tenacity and incredible resilience. A resilience that helped him to endure an arduous, life- sapping, twenty – plus year prison stay with a groundswell of both domestic and international pressure, and threat of racial civil war encouraging his eventual release in 1990.  In 1994 at the age of seventy-seven, representing one of the greatest moments of irony, Nelson Mandela was triumphantly elected South Africa’s first Black and democratically elected president definitively marking the end of apartheid’s reign.  Still, after serving for a term, he continued spreading a message of peaceful equality and caring for others through his foundation until his passing in 2013 at the age of ninety-five. 

Mandela’s journey, struggle, and triumph has been and continues to be awe-inspiring and Mandela himself, aptly held as an influential and historic figure for generations young and old. Reference to his accomplishment comes often when an example of incredible fortitude is needed or discussion of still existent oppressive laws are had.safe_image-php  Celebration of his life each year is for legions a hugely notable observance; however, on this, Nelson Mandela’s 100th, needless to say you’d expect tributes of notched up and profound extolment. One such tribute has been offered by way of the reunited and acclaimed collaboration of revered, Pulitzer Prize winning, NY State Poet Laureate, Yusef Komunyakaa and accomplished singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Tomás Doncker. The Only Way,” a song to commemorate the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth, is the latest venture between Komunyakaa, known for groundbreaking works like Copacetic, Dien Cai Dau and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems and Global Soul pioneer, Doncker, a past featured artist here on I SPY SOUL upon the release of his stunning project, The Mess We Made. They came together for the first time ten years ago creating The Mercy Suite, an acclaimed project which introduced a style and sound that was hailed, Black Americana.  In 2014,  they joined forces once again to create the critically acclaimed Big Apple Blues

With thoughts of the centennial celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birth drawing near Komunyakaa gave great thought to the phenomenal leader. In a release about the tribute  Komunyakaa writes, “I feel that Nelson Mandela’s motives were beyond personal politics and interests. He was truly a voice of the people. His vision of peace embraced his negotiating skills, and change grew tenable because of his unflinching love of South Africa. Otherwise, his homeland would have surely ended in a bloodbath of wholesale violence. Nelson Mandela’s contributions as a world citizen have inspired us.” 

Those thoughts encouraged a heart-warming depiction of the man, his journey, and his unwavering goal of freedom and equality – in a poem. And that poem encouraged a call to Doncker.  Set to the sparse backdrop of joy-infused, strumming guitar, and mesmeric, percussive beats, Doncker’s impassioned delivery and warmly sincere tone  transforms the moving, picturesque words of Komunyakaa into beautifully, affecting song and fitting tribute.

In addition to the song Doncker offers the equally moving visual compliment above.

For more info on the renowned Yusef Komunyakaa click here

And for more on Tomás Doncker check out our interview here and more on the Global Soul pioneer and his True Groove All Star family here

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