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4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008
Zenile Miriam Makeba, also known as “Mama Africa,”
died of heart failure at the age of 76, after taking part in a concert
near Naples. This final tour was in support of an Italian writer
Roberto Saviano in his campaign against the mafia-like organisation
Camorra. Makeba Suffered a heart attack after a gig and doctors
were unable to revive her.
Makeba was born in Johannesburg. Her mother was a Swazi sangoma
and her father, who died when she was six, was a Xhosa. As a child,
she sang at the Kilmerton Training Institute in Pretoria, which
she attended for eight years.
Makeba’s a career spanned over 50 years, she began singing
with the Manhattan Brothers, a traditional jazz, ragtime band that
played to an exclusively black audience during the apartheid era
in South Africa. She later formed the all female Skylarks. In 1959,
she took the lead in the huge Broadway hit, King Kong, and received
the chance to emigrate to the USA, when she was offered the star
role in the anti-apartheid documentary “Come Back Africa”
in 1959 by independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin.
Anti-Apartheid campaigning had always been a big part of Makeba’s
life and while in America she released an album with Harry Belafonte
titled “An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba”. The album
highlighted problems black people suffered under apartheid. The
album received a Grammy for “Best folk recording”.
Because of her Anti-Apartheid campaigning, her South African passport
and citizenship had been revoked by the South African Government.
She had gained honorary citizenship in many countries after testifying
against apartheid before the United Nations in 1963.
She caused controversy in 1968 when she married political rights
activist Stokely Carmichael, this resulted in all of her tours and
record deals being cancelled in the USA. This resulted in her touring
in Africa, Europe and South America from then on. She returned to
South Africa in 1990 and since then made many film and TV appearances
such as the film “Sarafina!” and the documentary “Amandla!”.
Makabe’s most recent album “Homeland” was nominated
for a Grammy. Other lifetime achievements included many awards such
as the “Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize” in 1986,
“Otto Hahn Peace Medal” by the United Nations, and was
voted 38th in the 100 Great South Africans in 2004.