Taking a Closer Look at the Music of ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

Director Justin Chadwick’s dramatization of the life of one of the world’s most iconic leaders, Nelson Mandela, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom was recently released to theaters. Based on South African President Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, the film chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rally against Apartheid and rebuild the country’s once-segregated society. Idris Elba (Prometheus) stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris (Skyfall) stars as Winnie Mandela.

As the film follows Mandela’s (and South Africa’s) journey through the decades, the film’s official soundtrack provides a musical documentary of the times. The classic Afro-Jazz sounds of the Havana Swingers takes us from the 1940s of Mandela’s youth, through Art Blakely and the Revolutionary ’50s and ’60s period, right up the international condemnation of the Apartheid regime with The Special AKA’s classic song “Nelson Mandela”. During the filming the cast recorded versions of traditional ANC protest songs for use in the film, bringing the group’s struggle for equality to vivid life. The Soundtrack also features a new song by U2 titled “Ordinary Love”, while composer Alex Heffes’ emotive score features both choir vocals and South African singing legend Caiphus Semenya.

After working in South Africa, Heffes conducted and recorded the rest of the score at London’s Abbey Road with a 65-piece orchestra. “The film provided me with a vast emotional canvas,” says Heffes. “My aim was for the music to guide the audience through this emotional journey and come away with a joy for what this story can inspire in us,” he continues. “The score starts sparsely using African instruments and becomes more orchestral as the story darkens. As the years become more up to date, it adds electric guitars and synths to give the audience the subliminal feeling of the decades having passed,” says Heffes.

The soundtrack, featuring U2, Gil Scott Heron and more will be available December 10th and the full length score by Heffes is available now. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, from The Weinstein Company, is now playing in theaters.