Celebrating Madiba’s 94th Birthday with the SA Navy Band at Cape Town’s Waterfront

Happy 94th Birthday, Madiba!

A very special event took place at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town this morning, the 18th of July 2012, in celebration of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s 94th Birthday.

By mid-morning, on an unseasonably summery day in the middle of winter, and after a particularly wet couple of days with torrential downpours, a crowd was starting to assemble at Nobel Square. It could not have been more glorious weather for such an auspicious occasion.

There are four larger-than-life-size bronze statues standing along one side of this square, honouring South Africa’s four Nobel Peace laureates: the late Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former presidents FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. It was a fitting place to pay tribute to Madiba on his birthday.

The two bands who were participating in the event – the local SA Navy Band and the visiting Royal Hospital School Band from the United Kingdom – had finished arranging their chairs and music stands, and were going through the final sound checks. Television cameras, loudspeakers and microphones were ready for action. Behind the Navy Band, where the four bronze statues are lined up, a group of Waterfront staffers were setting up tables with two large Birthday Cakes, complete with candles and colourful icing, to hand out to all the people who had come to listen to the music and to share in the joy and excitement of this event.

Nobel Square is buzzing

I had found out about this celebration quite by accident, when I spotted an update on the SA Navy Band’s Facebook page. Of course, I did not want to miss this opportunity to see them perform (after all, it was my birthday too!), so I asked Glynnis from the Pinelands Muse whether she felt like coming along. The two of us had such fun with our cameras, darting around and trying to get some nice images! It was the first time she had seen the Navy Band perform, which made it all the more special.

Punctually at 11h00, Zain Johnson, whose voice is familiar to radio listeners who tune in to the traffic report several times a day, stepped up to the microphone. He was responsible for MC’ing the event. He introduced Mr David Green, the CEO of the V&A Waterfront, who spoke about the significance of the day, and the 67 Minutes for Madiba initiative, and their support for The Homestead charity.

The Homestead is the charity for which the V&A Waterfront is fundraising on this year’s Madiba Day

“This year the V&A Waterfront and its tenants will be honouring Mandela by supporting the Mandela Day global call to action for people everywhere to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place, one small step at a time, just as Mandela did.

They have chosen to a charity that does a valuable work for the City of Cape Town, The Homestead. The Homestead is a charity organisation that has been helping Cape Town’s Street Children for the past 30 years and offers them Street Outreach work, Drop-In Centres and an intake shelter. Children end up alone on the streets because of difficult situations at home and in the disadvantaged communities they come from.

For the past decade, the Homestead has been working towards its vision of building a multipurpose centre in Khayelitsha. It is close to reaching its goal but still needs R1.5 million.

Visitors to the V&A Waterfront are invited to leave a monetary donation in one of the tins that will be provided for this initiative, giving a legacy to the Homestead children on Nelson Mandela Day.” (From the V&A Waterfront website)

The Navy Band doing what they do best: making beautiful music!

And then it was the turn of the amazing SA Navy Band to create a joyful, celebratory mood! The last time I had seen them perform in public – and also with a free concert – had been in December last year. I had written about their performance at the Amphitheatre on my blog (here’s the link). The Navy Band are always such professional performers, such fun to listen to, and so excellent at getting their audiences to sing and dance along – that they never fail to make us feel proud and patriotic.

Clearly, the audience is LOVING it!

The second group to perform was the Royal Hospital School Band, directed by former Royal Marines Corps Bandmaster Mr Roger Jones. This school is one of the UK’s leading independent co-educational boarding and day schools; they have a strong links with the Royal Navy, with the school band an important part of the school’s naval tradition. In addition to marching and concerts engagements, the band has undertaken bi-annual summer tours all around the world, including to South Africa. Apparently, they performed at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, at the KwaZulu Natal Military Tattoo in Durban earlier in July and at the Knysna Oyster Festival.

The Royal Hospital School Band perform against the backdrop of the Wheel of Excellence at the V&A Waterfront

The Izivunguvungu Choir, which is part of an outreach program of the South African Navy, offering music training to children from local disadvantaged schools, sang the “Happy Birthday Madiba” song, with all of us singing along and waving our little South African flags, which had been handed out at the start of the event.

And the end, we even got a slice of Madiba’s Birthday Cake! What a magical, unforgettable morning! 🙂

And I’m still humming this catchy tune:

“Nice to see you
We will meet again
Now we say goodbye…”

Happy Birthday, Madiba, and may you be blessed with much joy, love and vitality in the coming years.

And now, sit back and enjoy the slideshow!

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6 thoughts on “Celebrating Madiba’s 94th Birthday with the SA Navy Band at Cape Town’s Waterfront

    • Oh, don’t we ever, Richard! He may have only been our president for a few years, but I think we were incredibly fortunate and blessed to have him as the first president of democratic South Africa. Unfortunately, his successors have not lived up to the great ideals and noble aspirations held up at that time. I think many of us long for a time when we can again hold our heads up high as a nation and say, “I am proud of my country and proud of its leaders.” We’ve had a taste of what that is like, and I really, really hope that we will get there again.

      So yes, we need more Mandelas!

  1. I read your posts backwards. It is your birthday – what a wonderful way to celebrate 🙂
    And of course I remember the 4 statues honoring South Africa’s four Nobel Peace laureates. It was very moving.
    Love your pictures. Interesting that the The Royal Hospital School Band came all the way to CT to perform for the celebration.

    • Watching the Navy Band performing in such a setting, as part of Madiba’s Birthday Celebrations, made the day all the more special – it was like getting a really big and wonderful birthday present!

      Yeah, I hadn’t seen the RHS Band before – from their WordPress blog, I see that the boys and girls in the band must have had a marvelous time exploring the rest of South Africa.

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