Monday, November 10, 2008

Farewell, Miriam Makeba

"Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa and the people without even realising it."

Miriam Makeba, 'Mama Afrika', died this morning, apparently of a heart attack after an anti-Mafia concert in Italy. She was 76.

Her singing was some of the first I ever heard: my late parents, South African anti-apartheid emigres who left the place in the early 1950s, treasured, and frequently played, their LPs of her songs.

This video of her singing 'Under African Skies' with Paul Simon, is not just an excuse to hear one of my favourite numbers from the Graceland album, but also demonstrates how Makeba brought the sounds of South Africa to a universal public and, with them, the awareness of Mandela's imprisonment and the atrocities of life under that odious political system.

She will be much missed, but remembered forever.