For “Winnie”: Anti-Apartheid Songs of Protest

What’s This Playlist All About? This musical companion to the new PBS/Independent Lens documentary Winnie——which follows the life of Winnie Mandela and her heroic fight against apartheid——offers an extensive survey of South Africa’s most powerful protest anthems and stirring tales of murder and mourning.

What You Get: A rich but intense education on one of modern history’s darkest hours, and how music can be the most potent fuel in powering a revolution. Curator Sarah Bardeen starts the experience with Miriam Makeba’s steely yet steady interpretation of Vuyisile Mini’s “Beware, Verwoerd!,” a daring rebuke directed straight at South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd. She then spotlights harrowing choir laments (Lalela Cape Town Choir’s “Thina Sizwe”), fiery jazz movements (Hugh Masekela’s “Sharpville”), rousing youth chants (Chicago Children’s Choir’s “Toyi Toyi”), and even a few notable supporters from unlikely places, like Paul Simon and The Specials.

Greatest Discovery: The playlist’s evocative final track, “Senzeni Na,” which translates as “What have we done?” It’s placement at the end of this mix is telling: This is a struggle and a fight that is far from over.

Most Uplifting Song: For such a tragic topic, there’s a whole lot of infectious spirit running through this mix, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (“God bless Africa”).

How Can You Learn More?: See Bardeen’s full article on the inspiring stories behind her song selections here.