“Mama Africa”, Miriam Makeba, dies after concert

Miriam Makeba

The legendary singer and artist Miriam Makeba died of a heart attack early Monday morning after performing at a concert in Italy. Makeba collapsed after leaving the stage and was rushed to hospital. She was 76.

Miriam Makeba “was one of the greatest songstresses of our time", South Africa ’s Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in a statement on Monday.

"One of the greatest songstresses of our time, Miriam Makeba, has ceased to sing. Miriam Makeba, South Africa 's Goodwill Ambassador, died performing what she did best -- an ability to communicate a positive message through the art of singing," the South African Foreign Minister said.
"Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid colonialism through the art of song."

Mai Palmberg, coordinator of the “Cultural Images in and of Africa” programme at the Nordic Africa Institute, writes that “Miriam Makeba embodied black Africa’s determination to be free from white racism”:

“In Baltimore, Maryland, in 1963 I was one of several thousand who attended her open-air concert under the star-spangled sky. It was in the midst of the American civil rights movement and at the beginning of the global anti-apartheid movement. Miriam Makeba had already testified before the United Nations. It was an electrifying moment. If there ever was a need for a reminder this was one: music can be a social force, music can galvanise the will to freedom.
Now I hear on the radio that Makeba’s voice has been silenced. But of course it never will be.”

Makeba, affectionately known as “Mama Africa”, sang about Africa 's struggles for independence.

"People gave me that name. At first I said to myself: 'Why do they want to give me that responsibility, carrying a whole continent?' Then I understood that they did that affectionately. So I accepted. I am Mama Africa," she told AFP in an interview in 2005.

Makeba, whose most famous hits included Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in her native Xhosa language) and Mailaka, was born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932. As a child, she attended a training institute in Pretoria for eight years where she first started singing. She grabbed international attention in 1959 when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa.

She then went to London where she met Harry Belafonte who helped her get entry to the United States, where she released many of her famous songs. When she tried to return to South Africa, she discovered that her passport had been revoked. Her testimony against apartheid before the United Nations in 1963 galvanised public opinion around the world against the South African oppression of its own people.

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