Monday, November 10, 2008

Passings: Miriam Makeba has died

From BBC news:
November 10, 2008

South African singing legend Miriam Makeba has died aged 76, after being taken ill in Italy. She had just taken part in a concert near the southern town of Caserta and died of a heart attack.

Makeba, known as "Mama Africa", spent more than 30 years in exile after lending her support to the anti-apartheid struggle. She appeared on Paul Simon's Graceland tour in 1987 and in 1992 had a leading role in the film Sarafina!

Makeba, was born in Johannesburg on 4 March 1932 and was a leading symbol in the struggle against apartheid.

Her singing career started in the 1950s as she mixed jazz with traditional South African songs. She came to international attention in 1959 during a tour of the United States with South African group the Manhattan Brothers.

She was forced into exile soon after when her passport was revoked after starring in an anti-apartheid documentary and did not return to her native country until after Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990.

Makeba was the first black African woman to win a Grammy Award, which she shared with Harry Belafonte in 1965.

Charlie Gillett, who presents the BBC World of Music programme, says there is nobody to compare to her, as she was popular in West Africa - after living in exile in Guinea - and East Africa for recording a version of the Swahili song Malaika, as well as her home in South Africa.

She was African music's first world star blending different styles long before the phrase "world music" was coined.

After her divorce from fellow South African musician Hugh Masekela she married American civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael.

It was while living in exile in the US that she released her most famous songs, Pata Pata and the Click Song.

"You sing about those things that surround you," she said. "Our surrounding has always been that of suffering from apartheid and the racism that exists in our country. So our music has to be affected by all that."

It was because of this dedication to her home continent that Miriam Makeba became known as Mama Africa.

1932: Born Johannesburg, South Africa
1959: Stars in the jazz opera King Kong and anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa, met Harry Belafonte
1960: Barred from South Africa
1963: Testifies against apartheid at the United Nations
1966: Becomes the first African woman to win a Grammy award
1968: Marries Black Panther Stokely Carmichael and moves to Guinea
1985: Moves to Brussels after her child Bongi dies in childbirth
1990: Returns to South Africa after personal request from Nelson Mandela
2005: Begins a "farewell tour" of the world that lasts three years
2008: Dies in Caserta, Italy following a concert, aged 76