Nelson Mandela, Sunsets and Classical Music

Thursday, December 05, 2013 - 07:00 PM

Nelson Mandela in 1990 (Michel Clement, Daniel Janin/AFP/Getty Images)

When the late Nelson Mandela stood on 125th Street in Harlem in 1990, as part of a day-long visit to New York City, he invoked names from the American civil rights movement, including that of the opera singer Paul Robeson.

"Harlem signifies the glory of resistance," Mandela said, referring to the onetime neighborhood resident. A crowd estimated in the tens of thousands cheered at the reference. Mandela was visiting as part of an eight-city U.S. tour in his campaign against apartheid in South Africa. He attended a ticker-tape parade and spoke at City Hall (sister station WNYC broadcast the speech live).

The reference to Robeson may have been obligatory, but there's evidence that Mandela was familiar with the singer's recordings of Bach, Schubert and other composers.

While imprisoned at Robben Island penitentiary, Mandela got to know Helen Suzman, the noted South African anti-apartheid activist and politician. As the story goes, every Christmas, Suzman would send Mandela classical music records in an effort to assuage the harsh surroundings. Although he grew up mainly listening to popular South African music, he came to appreciate European composers, especially Tchaikovsky and Handel. In an often-repeated anecdote, one of Mandela's greatest pleasures was listening to classical recordings while watching the sunset.

Mandela didn't address this in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, but it's an image that has stuck and inspired many songwriters and composers. South Africa's first black president died Thursday at the age of 95.

The classical music world responded to the news on Twitter on Thursday:


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Comments [23]

Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va

Dearest Concetta, you are correct in saying we should be careful who we deify or berate. However trying to reform Mr. Mandela for reading copy written by skilled speech writers, is much like trying to rehabilitate Hitler by saying he dearly loved dogs.
Mandella killed men, women and children, because of the color of their skin, that is really all we have to know to judge this man. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 08 2013 06:31 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

We need to look at all the issues relating to Mr. Mandela. Let us not be manipulated and be careful who we call saint or who we call devil.

Dec. 08 2013 07:14 AM
G.Y. from West Palm Beach, F.

According to the Rainbow Builders website, Nelson Mandela was directly responsible for the deaths of over 95,000 babies in South Africa,.
'At a time when Infant Mortality rates were decreasing in sub saharan Africa, when Mandela took over as President in South Africa after his release from jail, he totally ignored the woman's health care system in favor of pressing ideological agendas of socialism and the South African IMR (infant mortality rate) skyrocketed causing a drastic increase in the IMD rate in South Africa. Both Doctors Without Boarders, The Rainbow Builders and Selsaian Missions credit this massive increase in infant mortality directly to the Presidential Mansion where Mandela held court.
There can be no argument that aside from the killing's of white business leaders Mr. Mandela and his wife have the deaths of 95,000 infants on their hands in South Africa.
Mandela relied on support from the impoverished masses and uneducated African National Congress thugs of black South Africa in much the same way as President Obama relied on Black Panthers wielding clubs in front of poling booths to win election and was elected by an ethnic minority who were promised free cell phones and increased food stamps,(Obama cheeze).
How many times do you hear about uneducated minorities going to their local Social Service offices demanding Obama phones.
It seems as though our President is taking pages from Mr. Mandela's rule by giving the vocal minority communities handouts if they will follow him in his efforts to 'totally transform The United States of America. Just how many babies will die in The United States because their parents insurance policies have been cancelled and they can no longer get health care remains to be seen, but it is a page from the Mandela playbook as both Mandela and Obama have grudges against the imperialist white business classes who they feel raped the resources from African countries. Obama,s father would have walked hand in hand with Mandela in his fight against what they perceived as European imperialism, hence Obamas act his first day in office of having the bronze casting of a bust of Sir Winston Churchill removed from the Oval Office. They calculate an acceptable level of lives lost in order to gain political advantage and turn their backs on needless suffering, illness and death of white people as a means to an end.

Dec. 07 2013 11:30 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va

Silversalty, I should not have to post this, this is not about me. However so you can sleep well tonight, and to assure you I am not a figment of the imagination I suggest you Google my name, if you still have questions look at Congressman Findley's book, They Dare to Speak Out, or go to the site for Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and start with, Bitter Harvest on the Moshav, which I am presently turning into a book. I have had my work picked up, through no fault of my own by a number of Jihadist sites which are to stupid to understand the difference between writing anti zionist material and anti semitic material. I have been labeled by The Anti Defamation League as "one of the highest level defectors from the Zionist movement, and was a plaintiff with Kareem Kahlaf, Charlie Baton, and Rabbi Moshe Hirsch of the Neuteri Karta et al, in a landmark Federal case challenging the 501 c-3 status of a few national charities focused on middle east issues. Unfortunately Federal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson would not give us standing so the suit could not proceed.
Any other questions you may have about me I will be happy to answer, however the post that said I was paid $250,000 for the Mandela piece is not correct actually it was more South Africa had a lot of money to spend back then, and I took a big chance having my name on that piece.
Nothing here should be about me, I am far from the only person who has currently called Mandela a terrorist.
I do not like speaking ill of the dead, but in this case Mr. Mandela was very upfront about his history until his handlers got to him and remade his image.
Perhaps the fact that Amnesty International refused to help Mr. Mandela because of the blood on his hands should speak volumes especially to those who espouse a liberal philosophy as Amnesty International is a very liberal organization, and should have run with open arms to support Mandela but they were too smart to touch him.
The article in todays Daily Beast best summarizes Mr. Mandelas history, I suggest you read it.
It is not however for you, or me, or any other person to morally judge Madela, God will sort that out, and may God have mercy on his soul.
God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 07 2013 07:56 PM
Mary Jane Hodge from Melville, NY

To the inflated Mr. Charles Fishbein and his arrogent kind, please understand that your outrage may belong more on a comment blog elsewhere (how about the Haritage Foundation or Fox or among the NRA?) Sing your song elsewhere. This is my place to speak of opera.

Dec. 07 2013 03:07 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

"Charles Fischbein:" I guess I left out the common theme. We have real heroes and mythical heroes mainly determined by the stories told about them. There's a word for that - apocryphal. Story telling has another almost synonym - propaganda. If you control what's said and told you control what's thought, especially so if you can demonize and punish unfavored thoughts and tellings.

Which brings me to "Charles Fischbein," who may be a real person or have been a real person but may also be a front for a hundred different ghosts telling stories about happenings and occurrences that they claim to have intimate knowledge of through personal experience. I've been waiting for "you" to claim you were the Queen (taken any way one cares to) of England for fourteen years. You just don't write good enough to have been a professional writer, but then again George W. Bush became President of the United States.

You know, the MBA compassionate conservative.

Dec. 07 2013 02:51 PM

Being labeled a "terrorist" by the US, the greatest exporter of arms and the greatest sponsor and financier of terror and guerrilla around the world, should be an honor.

“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” - Nelson Mandela

Dec. 07 2013 01:15 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va

Silversalty, you zig zag more than a mountain road in Tibet. Ho Chi Min, George Washington, the Koch Brothers, where are you going?
If you are going to use bandwidth why not make your point.
I did author a piece on Mandela back in 1984, that was done with the help of scholars at Heritage Foundation, American University and the Embassy of South Africa.
If Mandela himself was not willing to renounce terror as a means to be released from jail, than who are you to speak for him.
In his later years he put on the finely tailored suit of a statesman, but in the same way as a tiger cannot change his stripes, he never changed his core beliefs against the white leaders and farmers in South Africa. There are documented videos of his singing and chanting ANC slogans while serving as the top official in South Africa.
What is even worse was the response I personally received after we published the article on Mandela and Sheransky, commissioned by The Government of South Africa. For several months my farm was a virtual armed camp, I had sheriff deputies patrolling the area on their watches, and needed a full time security person to drive and guard my children, I received hundreds of death threats, and Liberty Lobby which I admit was very controversial, needed to step up its paid security since our receptionist no longer was safe behind our bullet proof doors with a remote entry system.
I lived through that, and I know exactly what supporters of terrorists are capable of doing, and to this day keep a close watch for people who may want to take pay back for past facts I reported. However to report the truth I would do it again and have no regrets. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 07 2013 11:37 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

I think the key to what was special about Mandela was that when he had the power to act vengefully he chose not to. Everyone expected a violent retribution but it never happened. The feared new Haiti .. wasn't. The quote "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" didn't apply to him. How many "heroes" of history can claim their fame other than by being the winners that could write the story.

As for any suggestions of terror, fighting - actual fighting - is often the necessary method of freedom and rights fighters. How long can you be beaten till you fight back (if possible)? America's "founders" could easily be described as terrorists today. Ho Chi Minh was an admirer of George Washington and a student of his guerilla war methods against a much more powerful violent force. Where would the gay rights movement be without the "Stonewall riot" response to regular police abuse (terror)?

Look at Obama. He was basically elected on the basis that he would have voted against the authorization of military force against Iraq while the other potentials were on record as acquiescing to the tidal wave of propaganda for war at the time. This Obama myth was mainly based on a video from the time where he presents points indicating the illogic of war with Iraq. But he finishes the piece with the comment that he didn't have all the facts and was waiting to hear what Colin Powell had to say. It was "identity" politics to his then constituents. There was no moral or logical strength to his comments. It was pure politics. No Mandela there.

Consider what the current conservative movement would do to a modern day Jesus. Persecute, vilify and then crucify a Jew and then blame it on Jews and all their offspring. Sweet.

Don't think so. Look at the Occupy Wall Street movement. A billionaire mayor (whose billions greatly expanded while being the 'dollar a year' mayor) used his "personal army" to transport derelicts to the Occupy site (to get all the free stuff there) and then claim it was a dangerous health hazard that had to be cleared. When the Occupy movement set up on Staten Island to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, Bloomberg had them shut down again.

Can't have average people appear to be the source of aid - the only real source. Instead we have a city with names like "David H. Koch" on buildings like some great philanthropist, while the reality is that the billionaires of the world are on a never ending hunt for more ways to bleed average people. The Kochs have apparently purchased two million acres of Athabasca Tar Sand land. Is it any surprise that they are one of the prime sources of efforts to have the Keystone Pipeline built? I've read that they stand to make $100 billion from that possibility. That on top of the $74 billion they're already worth. No Mandela there either.

Remember Gandhi failed in South Africa. Mandela didn't.

Dec. 07 2013 10:59 AM
J.L, ; New Jersey from Old Bridge, NJ

In the mid 1980's I worked in Washington D.C. for the South African News Agency called The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)
Around the middle of 1984 there was a serious move by some South African religious leaders to arrange a simultaneous release of the Jewish prisoner of the Soviet union, Natan Sheransky, and Nelson Mandela on compassionate grounds. The move became very strong in South Africa among certain leaders, not the traditional government however.
The South African Embassy in Washington D.C. went to Liberty Lobby, publisher of a national newspaper called Spotlight and commissioned a "scholarly study" that would prove Sheransky was a true religious prisoner while Nelson Mandela was a true terrorist. The published piece had a title like "Sheransky no Mandela"
The lead author of that piece, which was circulated through South Africa by having some 250,000 copies paid for by the embassy was Charles M. Fischbein. Liberty Lobby and Charles M. Fischbein were very well paid for the piece labeled by some a "hit piece". I believe both received close to a dollar a copy and they published 250,000 copies.
The piece was instrumental in keeping Mr. Mandela in jail for an additional five years.
The theme that Mr. Mandela was a terrorist is however not revisionist, when I logged online today I saw the following banner "U.S. labeled Mandela a terrorist until 2008" and that is from MSN directly, not a right wing agency.
The verdict is out on Mr. Mandela and only history will sort out if his reformation in his later years as a statesman overcame his years as a terrorist, even labeled a terrorist by the United States Department of State.
This is an interesting string and shows just how deep divisions of political belief are in The United States today.

Dec. 07 2013 09:34 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Please stop. I know I have jumped into these discussions and had some fun but this is distressing.

Dec. 07 2013 08:23 AM
Bernie from UWS

Wow, I didn't think it was possible to come out against Nelson Mandela in 2013 but this blog comments thread proves me wrong. I guess there are people who'll actually argue in favor of apartheid. It's like I stepped into the Reagan administration circa 1986 all over again.

Dec. 06 2013 07:43 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Bravo David B, it is good to see a New Yorker willing to speak out for the truth in an environment that is so politically correct, re Ms.Bey calling Mandela a "great American" I think she has her geography a bit mixed up. He is an African terrorist adopted by a communist/socialist movement that swept through Africa in the name of Black Nationalism. He co founded a terror group much like Al Quida which specialized in killing White people through South Africa and inciting other acts of violence. Those who feel otherwise are frankly to lazy to do the research needed to show this mans history.
He is a terrorist, an avowed communist, an anti-semite and a killer, just the type of person that should have never been let out of jail, and should have been forced to die in jail for the lives he was responsible for taking. What is very sad is that in order to appease certain ethnic voting blocks in the United States, our present and former Presidents will be attending his funeral.
He should be tossed into the sea the same way Ben Laden was, and forgotten.
Thank you Dave B for speaking the truth, those who mourn him are ignorant or misguided and deserve our prayers and pity.
Mandela was offered release from prison many times if he would only renounce terrorism, but each time the offer was made he refused to renounce terror. He himself held the keys to his jail cell but held such hate for the white people of South Africa he would not agree to renounce terror and his plans to kill more white people.
There are authenticated videos showing Mandela singing the African National Congress theme song "Kill the Boar", meaning "kill the white farmer", after his release from prison, and he has conspired with the present South African President to usher in a wave of genocide against white South African businessman, farmers and Jewish leaders.
Once finally released, he surrounded himself with skilled spin masters who were successful in remaking his image, but he was born with hate in his heart for the white race, lived with hate in his heart for the white race and died with hate in his heart for the white race. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 06 2013 06:46 PM
Dave B. from New York, NY

Th truth is that he was a terrorist and a murderer. This adulation is unbecoming.

Dec. 06 2013 04:01 PM

Mr. Fishbein I see that you're a victim of the American public education system, which teaches kids that dropping 2 atomic lives somehow saved lives. It's inhuman and perverse to the extreme. The rest of the world, and Mr. Mandela, know the truth.

And telling people to 'just move' is not an argument. Love it or leave it is a right-wing bumper sticker that's recycled over and over to shut up dissent. Love of the country doesn't mean enabling genocide, illegal wars and social injustice. Remember that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Brainwashed enablers are the ones who need to leave.

Mandela's a greater American than you'll ever be, though he wasn't born here. And a much greater defender of the US constitution as well.

Dec. 06 2013 03:27 PM
Levi from Northern Virginia

Mr. Fischbein - please enlighten us and tell us what industries in South Africa did "communist" Nelson Mandela nationalize when he led that nation?

Dec. 06 2013 02:38 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Bey, if you don't like the United States, and in fact live here, why not pack and go. There are compaines like " who can arrange direct flights to the Communist island, or I am sure so long as you agree with Mr. Putin's stand on gay's in Russia, he would welcome you with open arms.
I personally resent the comment re the atomic bomb.
The use of that against Japan saved hundreds of thousands of American lives. My father served in Pearl Harbor during WWII and would have been called out to invade japan were it not for the bomb. Blood is thicker than water, and if you are not with our great country I am sure there are many Americans like myself who would gladly pay for a one way ticket for you to go anywhere you wish so long as you leave
Let me know and I will meet you at the airport of your choice buy your one way ticket.
I forgot to mention in my first post Mandela was supporter of traditional communism, but you did that for me. Charles Fischbein

Dec. 06 2013 02:29 PM
connie from Long Island

May he rest in peace despite the bad. There was a lot of good as well.
He chose not to tear up the country when he finally got out of jail. Many nuances to his character. My objection is to the orchestrated grief from the media. And Mr. Bey is right in writing about the use of the atomic bomb as a threat to the Soviets, even our military was against this atrocity. Yes, a war crime. Kill, kill, kill. This keeps going on. Sick of it.

Dec. 06 2013 01:56 PM

Mandela was a giant who fought apartheid, racism and genocide of South Africans by the white illegal invaders. Because of that he spent 27 years in prison. If any human being had good cause for being filled with hate and bitterness, it was Nelson Mandela. He rose above it, you detractors should learn from that.

Now even Jews are coming out of the woodwork to praise him, the same people who support an apartheid Israel. Hypocrisy does not lack for adherents.

Here's a great Mandela quote you won't see repeated in the corporate media today:

"If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care for human beings. Fifty-seven years ago, when Japan was retreating on all fronts, they decided to drop the atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; killed a lot of innocent people, who are still suffering the effects of those bombs.

Those bombs were not aimed against the Japanese, they were aimed against the Soviet Union to say, 'look, this is the power that we have. If you dare oppose what we do, this is what is going to happen to you'. Because they are so arrogant, they decided to kill innocent people in Japan, who are still suffering from that.

Who are they, now, to pretend that they are the policemen of the world? To want to decide for the people in Iraq what they should do with their government and with their leadership?" - Nelson Mandela, 2003

Dec. 06 2013 12:38 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, va.

The post from David here is 100% correct. As a journalist I did a five week series on the crimes of Mr. Mandela and had access through The Embassy of South Africa to the United States to original trial documents. During Mandela's trial for treason he pleaded guilty and admitted mobilizing 156 acts of public violence including terrorist bombings causing over 20 deaths. In fact after he was put in prison Amnesty International refused to take up his cause do to his many acts of terrorist bombings.
Honoring Mr. Mandela in any way what so ever would be akin to honoring the Boston bomber with a Broadway musical.
If there were an opera to be made on the history of Mr. Mandela perhaps a pyrotechnics expert should be hired to start it off with a bang.
When I did my five part series in the mid 1980's on Mr. Mandela which was widely published in the U.S. and Europe I got so many death threats that I had to apply for concealed carry permit which I still have and pack to this day in states where it is legal to do so. Sometimes the truth is not very pretty, in this case the link David suggested in his earlier post is quite correct, however don't rely on just one website, anyone who googles (crimes committed by Nelson Mandela) can get a full rundown.
Before I am called a racist let me say that in 1975 I adopted a Vietnamese child fathered by a black soldier, and raided him through a Masters Degree and he is now a senior engineer for a major telecommunications company. So, lets not fall back on the racist label so loosely applied to people who do not follow political correctness..
For those who say Mandela was forced to admit these activities he never once alleged he was forced into confessions, but freely and proudly admitted the groups he co-founded consistently used violence for their gain.
After all his years in prison he was able to mold a new image which today would be to the delight of any Madison Avenue publicist.
Sadly this man who so many uninformed people venerate was nothing more than a terrorist in a well tailored garment. God will ultimately judge him and may God have mercy on his soul. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 06 2013 11:54 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

May he rest in peace.

Dec. 06 2013 09:49 AM
connie from Long Island

I guess QXR will jump in with the orchestrated grief for Mandela. 1 in 5 Americans do not have enough to eat and really do not give a damn about him. Yeah, he was a brave man and suffered. The world is full of brave people who have suffered.

Dec. 06 2013 07:12 AM

3 Things You Didn’t (Want To) Know About Nelson Mandela

Dec. 06 2013 12:33 AM

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