Miriam Makeba, “Mama Afrika”, passed away this week, at the age of 76. She died as most performers would hope to die–after performing a concert, in Italy. She was performing in honor of Roberto Saviano, an author who has received death threats after writing about organized crime.
She, with fellow musicians Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semanya, and Jonas Gwangwa, were exiled from South Africa. Miriam, with her then husband Hugh Masekela, found their way to the U.S. with the help of their friend, Harry Belafonte.* Her music stood against apartheid and for freedom. Her versitility is virtually unmatched by any other performer and she was uniquely capable of blending South African music and language with global pop stylings.
As Pete and I are in the middle of research on political music, I am achingly aware of how critical her leadership was, and how important hopeful music is to a movement.
In this clip, from Brazilian TV in the 60s, you can see she was also hot, hot, hot. She’s performing her hit song “Pata Pata” with Sivuca on guitar!
Enjoy! RIP, Miriam.
* She would also marry Black Power activist Stokley Carmichael.