Page last updated at 07:49 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 08:49 UK

Stars prepare for Mandela concert

By Genevieve Hassan
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Stars of the international music world are gathering in London for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday concert.

Loyiso Bala
Loyiso will perform a duet with British singer Jamelia

Annie Lennox, Leona Lewis, Amy Winehouse and Simple Minds are among the artists performing at the Hyde Park gig.

Many South African acts have also flown in to participate in the celebrations.

R&B star and multi-South African Music Awards winner Loyiso Bala, who will be singing a duet with Jamelia, is one such performer.

He is also an ambassador for Mandela's 46664 Aids charity.

"It's such a great honour to have been asked to come and sing and be part of the celebration," he says.

"Especially when I'm only one of three or four South African artists who have asked to come, so there's no greater honour. Of the many highlights I've had in my life this one is definitely the biggest."

Loyiso will be performing Stevie Wonder song As at the concert.

'Excitement'

"I did the song with Corinne Bailey Rae at a previous 46664 concert in Johannesburg in December," he says.

"This time I'm singing the parts Corinne did and Jamelia is doing parts I did so I have to re-learn the song.

"But it's been great - there's a great excitement and there's a great spirit from everyone because everyone knows why they're here. It's not about how big the artists are."

Kurt Darren, one of South Africa's most popular Afrikaans singers, is also on the bill.

Kurt Darren
Kurt Darren is one of the most popular Afrikaans singers in South Africa

"Rehearsals are going fine although I've not seen the stage yet - we're doing sound-checks for the first time on Thursday," Darren says.

"I'm doing one song with Eddy Grant - Give Me Hope Johanna. It's straight after we sing Happy Birthday to Mr Mandela so it's an awesome slot."

The opportunity of performing for Mandela has added significance for the pair, who were both born in South Africa.

"The reason I am able to enjoy the freedom I now have and be able to travel around the world and enjoy the privileges I now have is because of Mr Mandela," Loyiso says.

"I'm very grateful to God for having brought such a great man into my life and I'm grateful I'm living in his time because if I was living 10 years earlier I wouldn't be able to enjoy this freedom I now enjoy."

'Mad skills'

Darren has also previously met the former South African president: "I can honesty say that nothing or no one will ever impress me again - there's just something about the man that is great," he says.

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse is expected to perform at the event

"You can ask anyone in South Africa or in the world about who they'd like to meet and they'll say Mandela because he's got this aura."

As well as performing, the stars are also looking forward to seeing other artists on stage.

"It's an amazing and awesome opportunity to be with all those stars. There's going to be such a vibe backstage," says Darren.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Queen and Paul Rodgers, Leona Lewis and Amy Winehouse."

Loyiso is also excited at the prospect of meeting other stars.

"I went to rehearsal a couple of days ago and it was right after Amy Winehouse so I was pretty starstruck as she's got mad skills," he says.

"But it's really not about us - we're merely just here to celebrate Mandela's birthday and he'll be the star for the night."




SEE ALSO
Bassey pulls out of Mandela gig
23 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
Winehouse 'still hopes to sing'
20 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
Mandela concert line-up unveiled
06 May 08 |  Entertainment
Profile: Nelson Mandela
01 Jun 04 |  Africa

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