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Tuesday, November 11, 2008


South African legend passes away at the age of 76.

Article on from Gallo Music

It is with great sadness that Gallo music announces the passing of recording artist Miriam Makeba.

“Her elegance, her grace, her voice will be remembered and revered beyond Africa and music. She was one of the first soldiers to step out onto the international landscape and cry against what was happening in our country at the time. She did more than just sing beautifully, she used her voice to announce who we where, not just as South Africa, but as Africa. Rest in Peace Mama Africa.’ Laz Serobe CEO Gallo Music.

Internationally renowned singer Miriam Zenzile Makeba, died aged 76 on November 9 after taking ill near the southern Italian town of Caserta following a concert. Affectionately referred to as "Mama Africa", she was the legendary voice of the African continent who became a symbol of the fight against apartheid. ‘I look at a stream and I see myself: a native South African, flowing irresistibly over hard obstacles until they become smooth and, one day, disappear -- flowing from an origin that has been forgotten toward an end that will never be.’.. Miriam Makeba.

She died just after having sung for half an hour where she was giving a performance to support writer Roberto Savaino in his stand against organized crime at Castel Volturno near Naples along with other singers and artistes. Ms Makeba collapsed half an hour into the performance and was rushed to a nearby hospital in Caserta, where she died after cardiac arrest.

Miriam Zenzi Makeba was born in Johannesburg in on March 4, 1932. Her mother was a Swazi sangoma and her father, who died when she was six, was Xhosa. As a child, she sang at the Kilmerton Training Institute in Pretoria, which she attended for eight years.

As far back as she could remember she’d always wanted to be a singer. By age 13, she was entering talent shows and walking away with first prizes for her efforts. Invitations to sing at weddings roused her popularity as more and more people became dazzled by the talent and charm of the young singer. Her professional career began in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers, before she formed her own group, The Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa.

In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela, her future husband. Though she was a successful recording artist, she was only receiving a few dollars for each recording session and no provisional royalties, and was keen to go to the US. Her break came when she starred in the anti-Apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa in 1959. She went to the premier of the film at the Venice Film Festival.

Makeba then travelled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who assisted her in gaining entry to and fame in the United States. She released many of her most famous hits there including Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa), and Malaika. In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under Apartheid. (She was the first African to ever win a Grammy)

She discovered that her South African passport was revoked when she tried to return there in 1960 for her mother's funeral. In 1963, after testifying against Apartheid before the United Nations, her South African citizenship and her right to return to the country were revoked. She has had nine passports, and was granted honorary citizenship of ten countries.

Her marriage to Trinidadian civil rights activist and Black Panthers leader Stokely Carmichael in 1968 caused controversy in the United States, and her record deals and tours were cancelled. As a result of this, the couple moved to Guinea. Makeba separated from Carmichael in 1973, and continued to perform primarily in Africa, South America and Europe. She was one of the African and Afro-American entertainers at the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman held in Zaïre. Makeba also served as a Guinean delegate to the United Nations, for which she won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986.

After the death of her only daughter Bongi Makeba in 1985, she moved to Brussels. In 1987, she appeared in Paul Simon's Graceland tour. Shortly thereafter she published her autobiography Makeba: My Story. Her commendable humanitarian work within South African, aimed in particular at women includes a school for girls and a rehabilitation centre for women were projects that she passionately worked on until her death.

Her recorded works number in at almost 40 albums, with two albums even being released two years ago, including the famous 1966 concert in Berns, Sweden that was ‘discovered’ as an archive from an old fan in Sweden, revealing Mama Africa to the younger generation as she was in her hey day. This was rereleased as a DVD album package.

Over the years her powerful voice maintained the tone and clarity that enabled it to be both forceful in a protest march and soothing in an African lullaby. Her most recent concert at home she brought together Africa and the West as she sang her long list of African classics backed by a full classical orchestra. Standing ovations are the norm for a performer as powerful as Miriam Makeba.

Her exceptional personal and artistic profile is part of our national history. The history books can only mention her as who she was, ‘Mama Africa,’ the one who sang us lullabies while we wept.

More information from Dolly Gaehler, Dreamcatcher on 072 155 4356 or email: or Nomsa Radebe, Dreamcatcher on 079 474 3633 or email: