Monday, November 10, 2008

rip Mama Afrika

Last song for Mama Afrika - South African music legend Miriam Makeba has died in Italy.

Johannesburg - South African singer Miriam Makeba has died aged 76 in Italy, her publicist told a local radio station on Monday. Talk Radio 702 said Makeba died of a heart attack shortly after performing at an event near the town of Caserta.  "I'm not yet absolutely certain of the causes of her passing, but she has had arthritis, severe arthritis, for some time," her publicist told the station.

The legendary singer, affectionately known as Mama Afrika, died overnight after being admitted to hospital near the southern Italian town of Caserta, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP), quoting the Italian Ansa news agency.
Makeba, whose most famous hits included Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa) and Mailaka, died after taking part in a concert for Roberto Saviano, a writer threatened with death by the Mafia, the Italian agency said.  She sang for half an hour for the author of Gomorrah at Castel Volturno near Naples alongside other singers and artists.  "She had been the last one to go on stage, after the performances of other singers," an AFP photographer said.

"There were calls for an encore and at that moment someone asked if there was a doctor in the house. Miriam Makeba had fainted and was lying on the floor." Associated Press reported that the emergency room of the Pineta Grande Clinic, a private facility in Castel Volturno, confirmed reports of her death.

Mama Afrika was known for her songs about Africa's struggles for independence. "People gave me that name. At first I said to myself: 'Why do they want to give me that responsibility, carrying a whole continent?' Then I understood that they did that affectionately. So I accepted. I am Mama Afrika," she told AFP in an interview in 2005.

Miriam Zenzi Makeba was born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932. According to Wikipedia, her mother was a Swazi sangoma and her father, who died when she was six, was a Xhosa.  As a child, she attended a training institute in Pretoria for eight years, where she first started singing. Her professional career kicked off in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers, before she formed her own group, The Skylarks. She grabbed international attention in 1959 when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa. After that, she went to London where she met Harry Belafonte. He helped her get entry to the United States, where she released many of her famous songs.

She received a Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording in 1966 with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album was about black South Africans living under apartheid. When she tried to return to South Africa, she discovered that her passport had been revoked. She testified against apartheid before the United Nations in 1963.  She was married to singer Hugh Masekela and Trinidadian civil rights activist and Black Panthers leader Stokely Carmichael. When her only daughter, Bongi Makeba, died in 1985, she moved to Brussels. Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return to South Africa in 1990.


'Very good old lady'


She was always optimistic about post-apartheid South Africa, even though she acknowledged that it came with its own problems. "We have only had 11 years of democracy but we are moving, we are moving forward faster than many countries who have been independent a long, long time before. We all have to do it together, all of us, found ourselves this country regardless we are black, white or whatever," she said in the interview with AFP.


Asked who the next Makeba would be, she replied: "No, nobody can replace me as I can't replace anyone else," said the singer, who added that she wanted to leave a memory of, simply, a "very good old lady".




R.E.II™ 11:42 am  

She was a real mother; leaving me with such poignant memory, both tears and joy.
Here is a toast to celebrate this death...a sigh of relief that she has left this world of sorrow and trouble although this does not mean we must not celebrate her life as well.
Farewell mother

Anonymous,  8:51 pm  

Sad day...I am surprised at the relative silence on this board.

Truly we have lost a great voice, a great presence.

Aluta continua

Olu,  1:45 am  

This board may be silent. Her voice is not...

Rest well MaMA.

Anengiyefa 4:29 pm  

Its true that when a person dies, there's hardly ever a bad word said about him or her. Erm, well unless the person was an ex Nazi, or such like..

In Miriam Makeba's case though, it really would be very hard to find anything even remotely nagative to conceive of in one's mind, much less speak about. She really was a shining light from Africa, in the real sense of the phrase; the first black African female singer to take African music to the world. She lived a full and colourful life and brought joy to millions of people worldwide. Our sense of loss shouldn't bar us from joyously celebrating a remarkable African life.

Anengiyefa 1:44 pm  
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