Ella Grealy, 12, had no idea her tinkering on the piano would result in an anthem for the 67 Blankets for Mandela campaign.

With lyrics honed by songwriter Neill Solomon and voices added by music industry heavyweights PJ Powers, Tim Moloi and Proverb, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela The Anthem was released on iTunes last week for R7.99.

Ella, a Grade 7 pupil at Clifton Prep in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, was ecstatic and slightly overwhelmed when her lyrics, combined with those of two inmates, Ntutuzelo Mdingi and Nkosinathi Majola from the Zonderwater Prison in Gauteng, were arranged into a song. The inmates have previously knitted blankets for the campaign.

Ella said it was a “great honour”.

“It’s not something usual for a normal girl to write a song and for it to be used in such a big campaign. I’m hoping that it will help raise money for it.”

Ella’s actor dad Brendan Grealy, who has starred in local movies such asThe Angel, The Bicycle and The Chinaman’s Finger and Jock: A True Tale of Friendship, said:

“I thought it would be great if Ella’s lyrics were used for an official song for the 67 Blankets for Mandela campaign.” He approached his friend Solomon to hone the lyrics into a song.

Ella is the goddaughter of Carolyn Steyn, the founder of the campaign, which has gained momentum since Steyn launched it two years ago.

In 2013 she was challenged by Mandela’s former assistant Zelda la Grange to make 67 blankets in time for his birthday on July 18 the following year.

Steyn took the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day campaign to Facebook, reaching beyond South Africa to India, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Ghana. Since then thousands of blankets have been hand-crafted and, with the help of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the blankets have been distributed to old-age and children’s homes.

Each time the song is downloaded, it will raise funds for the 67 Blankets journey. And it’s going for a song on various platforms from as little as R7.50. Two versions of The 67 Blankets Anthem are already available, and a third is in the pipeline. Some of the money raised from sales of the song will go towards having Buskaid play on version three.

Who knows maybe the combination of Ella, the two Zonderwater prisoners, acclaimed flautist Wouter Kellerman and Buskaid could notch up another Grammy win for Kellerman. The rest of the sales will go to wool.

As 67 Blankets gears up to take back its world record for the biggest crocheted blanket recently snatched by a blanket measuring more than 11000 square metres in India on April 22, it is also getting ready for a huge recording of the new anthem.

Prior to the world record attempt, there will be an event at Steyn City, near Sandton, on 10 April with Lead SA, said founder of 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, Carolyn Steyn. “We need all knit-wits to buy the song so that we can film them singing the song on 10 April at Mandela Park.”

Brendan Grealy, who was the driving force behind the song, explained how his daughter, Ella (who is also Steyns god daughter) starting writing it in January 2015. We were seated at the piano and, as is her want, she just plays and sings.

“Grealy approached his old mate Neill Solomon about writing the music, the other lyricists and musicians signed up and all of a sudden we had a very good backing track.”

“PJ Powers, Tim Moloi and Proverb recorded in Neills Passage One Studios. A video was produced by Richard Nosworthy of Plum productions. The fact that world-famous recording artists agreed to perform on the record was testament to how highly people regard Carolyn Steyns 67 Blankets initiative,” said Grealy.

A second version of the anthem has been recorded Nate Butler, a well-known producer from the United States, who re-arranged the original and came up with a different version of the same song. This second rendition of the 67 Blankets Anthem also features Blaze Johnson, a finalist on “The Voice USA” team Adam Levine, and once again Tim Moloi.

Both songs are available on iTunes. To download just type 67 Blankets into the information box for R7.99 for one or both tracks for R15.98. On MTNplay, the song is available for R7.50 and the ringtone for R2, and the songs are also available on CCA (Content Connect Africa).

Stitch by stitch, note for note, and download for download, the 67 Blankets team of volunteers will continue to endeavour to keep people warm this winter.

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Brent Lindeque
About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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