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Remembering Miriam Makeba - "The Empress of African Song"

As we pay tribute to Mama Africa, and commemorate the anniversary of her passing, we remember that we don’t often see greatness like that and perhaps we will never see it again, this was Miriam Makeba, the imposing diva with the larger-than-life persona.

To be the voice of a nation speaking to the wider world is a tough mission for any performer, to be the voice of an entire continent is remarkably more difficult. These were shrouds that Miriam Makeba took on willingly and forcefully. Despite her lifelong claim that she was not a political singer, she became “Mama Africa” with an activist’s tenacity and a musician’s ear. She took a stand against apartheid and racism denouncing apartheid in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1963.

Treating her listeners as one global community, Mama Africa sang in any language she chose, from her own Xhosa to the East African lingua, Swahili to Portuguese to Yiddish. Who can forget melodies like “The Click Song,” with its percussive syllables, which became one of her international hits. We still dance to ‘Pata Pata” it’s impossible to guess what she may have been thinking when she sang it in 1967 in the full knowledge that she herself would not be welcome back in Johannesburg until a regime change.

You will forever live in your music Mama Africa!


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What's On

22 Nov 2023;
DSI Men’s Session
09 Dec 2023;
Ubuntu Festival

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