An Ideological Critique of the legacy of Nelson Mandela in Brenda Fassie' s “Black President”


  • Mlamli Diko

    Department of African Languages, University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria 0003, South Africa

Received: 5 March 2024 | Revised: 10 April 2024 | Accepted: 20 April 2024 | Published Online: 15 June 2024


The intrarelationship between language and music is an enthralling and intricate interplay that spans various dimensions of human expression. Both language and music are complex forms of communication, and their interaction can be observed in several ways. Words, phrases, and sentences in a language underpin specific meanings and convey information. The structure and choice of words enable precise communication of thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Musical elements such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and dynamic forces contribute to the emotional and expressive power of music. Even without lyrics, instrumental music has the capacity to evoke a wide range of sensibilities. With this in mind, the primary aim of this article is to uncover Brenda Fassie's “Black President” in an attempt to unravel Nelson Mandela’s political and leadership discourse. To achieve this, employing an ideological critique framework as a theory is applied to the discussions. Ultimately, this article makes two notable findings and discussions. First, Fassie's “Black President” stands as a potent symbol in the context of postcolonial and post-apartheid South Africa. In fact, the clause “Black President” is laden with historical significance, representing a departure from the era of racial subjugation. Through linguistic choices and symbolic language, the song contributes to the ideological critique by illustrating Mandela's presidency as a transformative moment in the nation's history. Second (last), Fassie’s lyrical craftsmanship introduces a layer of narrative complexity, offering an ideological critique that goes beyond simple glorification. While the song acknowledges Mandela's heroic stature, it equally confronts the challenges and disparities countenancing in post-apartheid South Africa. Linguistic choices convey a multifaceted reflection on the “Black President's” legacy, questioning whether the dreams of liberation have materialized into concrete improvements for all citizens. The language used becomes a tool for critique, urging listeners to grapple with the intricacies of societal transformation and the realization that, despite the monumental changes, there remains unfinished business in the pursuit of liberty and justice. The concluding remarks underline the necessity to continue to examine political and leadership figures as (re)produced in musical linguistics.


Ideological critique; Music; Language; Nelson Mandela; Postcolonialism; Post-apartheid; Freedom; Legacy


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