10 November 2008

Monday's mp3: Farewell, Mama Africa

Only once did I have the pleasure of seeing Miriam Makeba perform live. It was at the now-defunct WOMAD USA near Seattle in 2000, when she performed on a sunny afternoon at an outdoor stage before thousands. Her granddaughter Zenzi joined her on stage, and I snagged a coveted front-row seat, from which I snapped the somewhat fuzzy photo below. Now she's gone, and I have nothing more profound to say than the words uttered by former South African President Nelson Mandela:Miriam Makeba - Mama Africa - photo ©Scott Allan Stevens, all rights reserved

The sudden passing of our beloved Miriam has saddened us and our nation.

For many decades, starting in the years before we went to prison,MaMiriam featured prominently in our lives and we enjoyed her moving performances at home.

Despite her tremendous sacrifice and the pain she felt to leave behind her beloved family and her country when she went into exile, she continued to make us proud as she used her worldwide fame to focus attention on the abomination of apartheid.

Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and disclocation which she felt for 31 long years.

At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.

Even after she returned home she continued to use her name to make a difference by mentoring musicians and supporting struggling young women.

One of her more recent projects was to highlight the plight of victims of land mines.

She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Africa.

She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours. It was fitting that her last moments were spent on a stage, enriching the hearts and lives of others - and again in support of a good cause.

[mp3]Miriam Makeba: I'mm You'mm We'mm
from the album Live au Palais du Peuple de Conakry

Other tributes are pouring in for this giant of African music, who gained worldwide popularity in the 1960s with "Pata Pata" and "The Click Song," among others. She sang jazz as well as African songs, and was a friend and an inspiration to countless other musicians. The world is a richer place becuse of her, and a poorer place with her passing.

More Miriam Makeba
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