November 12, 2008

Mama Africa passes on

Filed under: testimonies — newritings @ 12:15 pm

The first notice got about Mariam Makeba passing on, was from Sion Assidon, human rights activist in Morrocco writing to share the tears at the moment of her death. The news in Europe covered her death (partly because of she died aged 76, in Italy after taking ill whilst taking part in a concert in Caserta, Italy). Former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela says it’s “fitting” that Miriam Makeba spent her last moments on a stage. She collapsed on stage after singing 1 of her most famous songs, “Pata Pata” at a concert to protest racism and mafia rule.

No one can lay claim to being Mama Africa but Mama Miriam, who lived, sang and loved and was loved in every corner of our beloved continent Ironically, our loss through exile of 30 years gave her to Africa and the world. A committed Pan-Africanist she sang in many languages. At our home, as a tribute to her genius, we have begun to play a collection which includes Aluta Continua, (in Portuguese, about Mozambican liberation and Frelimo), but anyone who knew her work knows that she sung in songs in French, English, Swahili, Spanish, isizulu, isixhosa, English, Arabic and I believe a few more. To test my assertion I looked her up and found this in Arabic.

Her fame in the west rocketed especially in the 1960s with records such as “Pata Pata”, “The Clique Song”, and “Malaika” in Swahili the latter song, more often heard these days done by a Makeba fan: Angelique Kidjo, born in Benin, now a mega World Music star.

On hearing of Makeba’s death she said that “when I first started singing in Benin , I could not imagine what my life could be. Then one day I heard about Miriam Makeba and her career, singing around the world and fighting injustice. I heard her songs and the power of her voice. From that day on, I knew that if Miriam had accomplished all of this, it was possible for an African woman to be famous and respected. She has been my role model and inspiration ever since.”

Rest in peace African warrior

— For you, youtubers out there, there is a lot of Makeba to still enjoy, try for desert Amampondo.

(Picture: Makeba making a case against apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations General Assembly)


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