*Alicia Keys, the Black Eyed Peas and Shakira were among dozens of high-octane performers who rocked Soweto’s Orlando Stadium Thursday night to mark Africa’s first ever World Cup tournament. [Scroll down to watch performances.]
According to AFP, a slew of local warm-up acts played for hours before the internationally televised portion of the concert began at 8 p.m.
Veteran South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela took the stage with “Grazin’ in the Grass” a No. 1 international hit in 1968. He was quickly joined by a new South African star, Lira, who covered the late Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata,” another worldwide hit that originated in South Africa.
The Black Eyed Peas were next with a medley of their hits, followed by the blind duo Amadou & Mariam of Mali.
Shakira, wearing an animal print, waka waka-ed — the anthem and dance of the World Cup. The turbaned Tinariwen brought the sounds of Mali’s desert nomads to the mix. The crowd swayed to Keys, and did the toyi-toyi — the protest dance of the apartheid era — to hometown favorites BLK JKS. Colombian rocker Juanes, in a multicolored warm-up jacket, debuted his newest single, “Yerbatero” to cheers from the crowd.
The closing anthem was Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” punctuated by fireworks.
Several other icons of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa attended the concert — including Mandela’s former wife, Winnie, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who at one point was dancing in his seat to the music.
Today, a sold-out crowd of 84,490 attended the World Cup opening ceremony at Soweto’s Soccer City, which featured hundreds of African drummers and dancers in vivid greens, reds and yellows; and a performance by R. Kelly with the Soweto Spiritual Singers.
Dressed in black with a shiny hoodie, the R&B singer began his performance in a crouched position before unfurling to deliver a rousing version of his own song “Sign of a Victory.” The song is the Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Anthem and the opening track on Sony Music’s “Listen Up! The Official 2010 World Cup Album.”
However, former South African president Nelson Mandela had to miss the country’s celebrations due to a family tragedy. As previously reported, his 13-year-old great-granddaughter Zenani died in a car crash on the way home from Thursday’s pre-World Cup concert, forcing the beloved 91-year-old father of post-apartheid South Africa to cancel his attendance.
Zenani, 13, was one of the nine great-grandchildren of Mandela, whose charisma and prestige is credited with helping South Africa win the World Cup bid in 2004.
“South Africans and people all over the world will stand in solidarity with Mr. Mandela and his family in the aftermath of this tragedy,” the former president’s foundation said.
Former South Africa President F.W. De Klerk, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for negotiating an end to white-minority rule, was present at the opening ceremony, organizers said. Other VIPS included the presidents of South Africa and Mexico — Jacob Zuma and Felipe Calderon — and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.