by Seun Oluyemi
In 2008, musician 9ice was one of the performers from across the world who performed at the 90th birthday anniversary of Nelson Mandela – representing Nigeria. He shares the experience with Seun Oluyemi
How would you describe Mandela?
Nelson Mandela is a selfless leader, a rare gem, truthful and genuine. I wish we had someone close to that in Nigeria. A great loss to Africa as a whole.
What about his life impressed you the most?
Nelson Mandela has a kind heart that caters for all. He possesses the ability to fight on behalf of others regardless of what they think about him. He is a true leader. Nelson Mandela is the difference between Oselu and Ojelu (politician and ‘moneytician’).
Tell us about the birthday concert. How did you become a part of it?
I became part of Mandela’s 90th birthday courtesy Celtel now Airtel, one artist each represented their country all over the world and I was called upon to represent Nigeria, that’s exactly what I did to the best of my ability.
Despite not understanding Yoruba how did he understand the language?
People always get this twisted. Music doesn’t have a language or let me say language of music is not words but of rhythm and melody. Soweto Choir, a Grammy Award winning group from South Africa backed me up at the event. I’m sure 99.9 percent of people present that day won’t understand my language but they all danced to the rhythm and melody of the music.
How did it feel to shake the hands of Mandela after the performance?
I was opportune to shake his hands before and after the concert. It feels wonderful to meet a man of great honour and respect for his people, setting a great example for Africa as a whole and building a tomorrow for generations yet unborn.
Was it intimidating to share the same stage with all those international acts?
It wasn’t intimidating at all, the moment I walked into the backstage room I met the late Amy Winehouse and she was amazing. We took pictures and no one could tell the difference in our backgrounds or who is greater than the other. And there was no reason also for anyone to ask if I’ve been there for ages or whether I just started performing on stage for such a great crowd. It was more of a unifying performance than competitive performance. Everyone was sharing views and networking.
What memories stay with you from being the only Nigerian entertainer to perform and represent Nigerian at such an epochal event?
Till date, it is my second best gift since I was born. My first remains the birth of my kids: Zion, Miya and Maya and the second is when I performed for Nelson Mandela on his 90th birthday.
Did the performance affect your career?
After the performance that day, everything became new. MOBO came in and many more awards both home and abroad weren’t a dream anymore. It was all now about reality. The who is who in the music industry all over the world was there present on stage, so I learned a lot in terms of composing oneself on stage and making your song easy for people listening for the first time
What are the brightest memories you took away from that day?
Local is international – the beginning, the destination from your arrival. Being local is just personal and getting across is just you making your brand of music formal.
– See the full Y! Special tribute to Mandela on ynaija.com/mandela