Mama Africa is Gone

South African singer Miriam Makeba passed away after a performance in Italy, of an apparent heart attack. (Since she was performing in support of a journalist under death threats for writing a book about organized crime, I have to wonder if she could have been poisoned, but I guess that's neither here nor there.)

Ms. Makeba's talent was recognized early, and she performed before Queen Elizabeth II. Her outspoken criticism of the South African apartheid system resulted in her being barred from re-entering South Africa after an international concert tour in 1959. With true heartlessness, the government did not allow Ms. Makeba entry to attend her mother's funeral the following year. It was not until after the end of apartheid in 1990 - over 30 years later - that she was allowed to return to her homeland.

Two of her husbands were American activist Stokely Carmichael and fellow South African and fellow exiled citizen Hugh Masekela.

Miriam Makeba is best known to American audiences for her 1967 hit song, Pata Pata. I remember running to get that record as a 10-year-old and playing it over and over. Even now I have it on CD. I dare you to listen to this song and keep still. It's impossible.

Rest in peace, Mama Africa.


Patricia W. said...

I had not heard this.

I remember my elementary school teachers, 3rd and 4th grade sista-teachers, talking about Ms. Makeba. Those teachers made sure we talked about real people and things happening in the AA community.

shelia said...

I didn't learn of her until later on in life. I'm glad she blessed us with her music.

bettye griffin said...

Patricia, her death wasn't a huge story, but I did hear it mentioned on the local Monday morning news, as well as on the Today show. You were fortunate to have teachers who kept their students well-informed.

Shelia, it's understandable you weren't that familiar with Ms. Makeba's work. It's been over 40 years since her one big U.S. hit, and nearly that long since her marriage to Stokely Carmichael (which damaged her career due to public disapproval).