June 27, 2008 – Friday night’s 46664 concert in Hyde Park, London, was a huge success with top international and South African artists playing to a sold-out audience.
With 46 664 tickets up for grabs American hip-hop legend Will Smith and his famous wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, hosted arguably the biggest birthday celebration ever.
The concert, held as part of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebration, was part of 46664’s initiative to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and served as a fitting tribute for a nation which had protested the imprisonment of Madiba during apartheid. 46664 is one of Nelson Mandela’s official charities, and seeks to improve global awareness about HIV/AIDS.
“The reason why Mr Mandela is coming to this concert is that it is his way of saying thank-you to the British people for the Free Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley in 1988,” a 46664 spokesperson told AFP on Friday.
Andrea Eaton, a South African living in London, described the concert as “one of the best nights she’s ever had”, and was moved to tears by Nelson Mandela’s address to the crowd.
“When Mandela came out ... oh my word ... the whole crowd was in tears. He’s an exceptional speaker.”
With every artist highlighting the fact that “AIDS is not a disease it’s a human rights issue”, something Mr Mandela is renowned for saying, Eaton said that the concert had certainly made her more aware of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“I’ve thought about it obviously, but now I really understand just how important the fight against HIV/AIDS really is,” Eaton said.
Among the artists appearing on stage was Amy Winehouse, and South Africa’s Johnny Clegg who “rocked the whole place”, according to Eaton. Clegg was not the only South African artist at the event with the Soweto Gospel Choir, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, Vusi Mahlasela and Kurt Darren also performing at the event, among others. Adding some African flavour was Papa Wemba from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal and Kenyan diva Suzanna Owiyo.
Other performers included Annie Lennox, the Sugababes, Jamelia, who performed a duet with South Africa’s Loyiso, Josh Groban and Queen. A host of celebrities including formula one racing driver Lewis Hamilton also appeared on the stage throughout the evening, to reinforce HIV/AIDS awareness. In a pre-recorded message, Bono sang Happy Birthday and called for Nelson Mandela’s birthday to become a holiday, while The Edge from U2 played guitar.
Mr Mandela addressed the crowd with a short speech, encouraging concertgoers to make a difference in the world. “Where there is poverty and sickness, including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all ... We say tonight, after nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now, I thank you.”
Mr Mandela’s life has been dedicated to the fight for freedom and injustice. Read a biography of him here. Today, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is using his legacy to engage people in dialogue about challenging issues, including HIV/AIDS. Read more about the Dialogue Programme here.