The Legacy of Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba, the world re-known South African singer & a personal inspiration of mine died after collapsing on stage in Italy. She was 76. Miriam was banned from her own country for more than 30 years under apartheid, because of her views against oppression. In her music career, she performed with musical legends like jazz star Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon — and sang for world leaders such as John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela. "Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us," Mandela said in a statement. He said it was "fitting" that her last moments were spent on stage. The Pineta Grande clinic in Castel Volturno, near the southern city of Naples, said Makeba died early Monday of a heart attack. Makeba collapsed on stage Sunday night after singing one of her most famous hits "Pata Pata," her family said in a statement. Her grandson, Nelson Lumumba Lee, was with her as well as her longtime friend, Italian promoter Roberto Meglioli. The first African woman to win a Grammy award, Makeba started singing in Sophiatown, a cosmopolitan neighborhood of Johannesburg that was a cultural hotspot in the 1950s before its black residents were forcibly removed by the apartheid government. She then teamed up with South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela — later her first husband — and her rise to international prominence started when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary "Come Back, Africa" in 1959. "Whilst this great lady was alive she would say: 'I will sing until the last day of my life'," the statement said. Castel Volturno Mayor Francesco Nuzzo said Makeba sang at a concert in solidarity with six immigrants from Ghana who were shot to death in September in the town, an attack that investigators have blamed on organized crime. The death of "Mama Africa," as she was known, plunged South Africa into shock and mourning. "One of the greatest songstresses of our time has ceased to sing," Foreign Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said in a statement. "Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid and colonialism through the art of song." Makeba wrote in her 1987 memoirs that friends and relatives who first encouraged her to perform compared her voice to that of a nightingale. With her distinctive style combining jazz with folk with South African township rhythms, she was often called "The Empress of African Song." When she tried to fly home for her mother's funeral the following year, she discovered her passport had been revoked. It was 30 years before she was allowed to return. In 1963, Makeba appeared before the U.N. Special Committee on Apartheid to call for an international boycott of South Africa. The South African government responded by banning her records, including hits like "Pata Pata," "The Click Song" ("Qongqothwane" in Xhosa), and "Malaika." Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording in 1966 together with Belafonte for "An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba." The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid. Thanks to her close relationship with Belafonte, she received star status in the United States and performed for President Kennedy at his birthday party in 1962. But she fell briefly out of favor when she married black power activist Stokely Carmichael — later known as Kwame Ture — and moved to Guinea in the late 1960s. Besides working with Simone and Gillespie, she also appeared with Paul Simon at his "Graceland" concert in Zimbabwe in 1987. After three decades abroad, Makeba was invited back to South Africa by Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon, shortly after his release from prison in 1990 as white racist rule crumbled. "It was like a revival," she said about going home. "My music having been banned for so long, that people still felt the same way about me was too much for me. I just went home and I cried." Makeba courted controversy by lending support to dictators such as Togo's Gnassingbe Eyadema and Felix Houphouet-Boigny from Ivory Coast, performing at political campaigns for the veteran leaders even as they were violently suppressing the movements for democracy that swept West Africa in the early 90s. The first person to give her refuge was Guinea's former President Ahmed Sekou Toure who was accused in the slaughtering of 10 percent of the population. Makeba, though, insisted that her songs were not deliberately political. "I'm not a political singer," she insisted in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper earlier this year. "I don't know what the word means. People think I consciously decided to tell the world what was happening in South Africa. No! I was singing about my life, and in South Africa we always sang about what was happening to us — especially the things that hurt us." Makeba announced her retirement three years ago, but despite a series of farewell concerts she never stopped performing. When she turned 75 last year, she said she would sing for as long as possible. Makeba is survived by her grandchildren, Nelson Lumumba Lee and Zenzi Monique Lee, and her great-grandchildren Lindelani, Ayanda and Kwame. Many parts of this is from CELEAN JACOBSON AP


Jason said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing Speech! This gave me more insight into her life. I want to buy her music now and will.

Terry Howcott said...

Great thank you much Brother Speech..

I scanned it and added it at my site, and look forward to reading it more deeply this evening.

Hail Queen Makeba.

Victoria said...

Oh we all have been extremely inspired by her embodiment of a woman . Thanks for taking your time to honor her. Victoria Moralez

fabrizo said...

she was right​ here,​ close​,​ down in Italy​ . and now she is in the wind . peace​.​ fabrizo

GINAJEW said...

Miriam Makeba was one of my favorites too. I always play the "Pata Pata" song. I introduced my children to her. My grandson loves that song also, we dance to it all the time. She will be truly missed.

CaliforniaAfrican said...

Speech,thank you for the post. Rest in peace,Mama Africa.

Cat said...

I had a video from 1966 after reading your bulletin, thought I would share it with you :) I always loved her

Much Luv & Respect

Thug life Army said...

Miriam Makeba passed from this life on Sunday night. South African President Kgalema Motlanthe on Wednesday declared a period of national mourning for music legend and anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba.

All national flags will be lowered to half-staff beginning on Thursday, until her funeral and cremation, which has yet to be scheduled, his office said in a statement.

"Her spirit will continue to live on in everyone's hearts, and the world would continue to celebrate and honour her for her significant contribution in making South Africa and the world a better place for all who live in it," he said.

The government will also open books of condolences for the public in the capital Pretoria as well as in Cape Town, the statement said.

Makeba made her final journey home Wednesday, as her body was flown to Johannesburg from Italy, where she died after collapsing as she left the stage of a benefit concert on Sunday. She was 76.

Born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932, Makeba was one of Africa's best known singers, famed for hits such as "Pata Pata" and "The Click Song" but also for speaking out about the abuses of apartheid.

South Africa's white regime revoked Makeba's citizenship in 1960 and even refused to let her return for her mother's funeral. The singer spent more than three decades in exile, living in the United States, Guinea and Europe.

Makeba won a Grammy award for Best Folk Recording with US singer Harry Belafonte in 1965. But her music was outlawed in her homeland after she appeared in an anti-apartheid film.

"I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots," she said in her biography. "Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa, and the people, without even realising."

While she was still in enforced exile, she performed with Paul Simon in the US singer's 1987 Graceland concert in Zimbabwe, neighbouring South Africa.

She finally returned to her homeland in the 1990s after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, as the apartheid system they had both fought for so long began to be dismantled.

But it took her six years to find someone in the South African recording industry to produce a record with her. She entitled it "Homeland." (* source - )

When we had our interview (or really our beautiful ‘talk’) with Afeni Shakur-Davis, she talked about Miriam Makeba and being blessed to meet her on the TASF trip to Africa.

Listen to Afeni talk about Miriam Makeba and what she meant to Afeni HERE

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