SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We want to take a look now at the way music helped shape a nation and helped shape a man who would unify that nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NGQOKO CULTURAL GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

SIMON: Often during the fight against apartheid, a song or a tune became a way to rally, inspire, comfort and unify people. As a tribute to Nelson Mandela, NPR Music and Gwen Ansell, a South African music journalist, compiled some songs connected to his life and struggle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

SIMON: Mr. Mandela was born among the Thembu people in Transkei, South Africa. There is a tradition in that region of something called split-tone singing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

SIMON: Vocalists create more than one note simultaneously and weave those tones together. This is the sort of music Nelson Mandela probably heard while growing up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Later on, after Mr. Mandela moved to Johannesburg, he helped found South Africa's first black law firm and became known as a kind of man-about-town who enjoyed dancing and jazz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEADOWLANDS")

AFRICAN JAZZ PIONEERS AND DOLLY RATHEBE: (Singing in foreign language)

SIMON: The tune "Meadowlands" performed by the African Jazz Pioneers with Dolly Rathebe was written to protest the forced removal of residents from a township in the early 1950's. The song also gives a flavor of the kind of music that made Nelson Mandela dance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEADOWLANDS")

RATHEBE: (Singing in foreign language) Meadowlands, meadowlands, meadowlands (Singing in foreign language). Meadowlands...

SIMON: We'll close out with some music from much later. A song called "Born in the Land of the Sun" was reprised by Melanie Scholtz to salute Nelson Mandela in 2008 on his 90th birthday. It is now sung as an expression of gratitude from a nation to the man whose loss they mourn and life they now celebrate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BORN IN THE LAND OF THE SUN")

MELANIE SCHOLTZ: (Singing) Oh, Nelson, oh, Nelson...

SIMON: And you can hear more of the music that influenced Nelson Mandela at nprmusic.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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