Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Farewell, "Mama Africa"




We were all saddened to hear of the death yesterday, November 10 of the esteemed South African singer Miriam Makeba. She was 76 and suffered a heart attack during a concert in Italy.

Makeba, known as "Mama Africa," was an artist who suffered greatly for her outspokenness on behalf of the oppressed, but she shouldered that burden gladly. Already a major star in South Africa, she was stripped of her passport in 1960 after speaking out against the apartheid system while on a world tour. In exile, she achieved global fame with her hit song "Pata Pata" in 1967, but her career suffered another setback in 1968 when she married civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael. Without a recording contract and unable to find bookings in the United States, she and her husband took up residence in the republic of Guinea as guests of President Sekou Touré. It was in Guinea that she suffered the tragedy of her daughter Bongi's mental illnesss and subsequent death.

In 1987 her career was reborn in the wake of Paul Simon's album Graceland. She toured the world with Simon and other South African musicians and released Sangoma, an album of the traditional Xhosa songs of her youth.

To promote Sangoma, Warner Brothers Records made available to media outlets Miriam Makeba: The Sangoma Interview (Warner Brothers PRO A-2974, 1988), a recording of a one-hour session with journalist Roger Steffens. In honor of Mama Africa, I'm pleased to present it here:

Miriam Makeba - The Sangoma Interview Pt. 1

Miriam Makeba - The Sangoma Interview Pt. 2

Miriam Makeba - The Sangoma Interview Pt. 3

Miriam Makeba - The Sangoma Interview Pt. 4



Update: As you might expect, the blogs have been all over this story. Matsuli and With Comb and Razor, of course. Also Spinning in Air and Undercover Black Man. World Service offers a rare "pre-mix" version of Sangoma, while Zero G Sound features a download of her 1960 debut US LP. Meanwhile, Global Groove has the 1965 RCA Victor album Makeba Sings! There are many more tributes than I can list here, naturally.

5 comments:

matthew said...

Hello John,

To add to this week's crappy news... I just got word that Keletigui Traore the longtime bandleader of 'Keletigui et ses Tambourinis' passed away this afternoon in Conakry.

Anonymous said...

Age is catching up with the living legends.

Also an excellent post with a pre-release version of Sangoma (to accompany this) over at the World Service blog:
http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com/

dj earball said...

Thanks for this -- great to have these invaluable interviews made public as part of her musical legacy. Such a loss for South Africa and the world...

Cheers,
dj earball of SoundRoots

Tor Hershman said...

I didn't know you could do a performace without having a heart attack.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor

Renegade Eye said...

Yma Sumac and Studs Terkel died that week as well.


RIP