by Robert Wilkinson
Today we send up a big Happy birthday tribute to the legendary Miriam Makeba, South Africa's musical ambassador to the world. Though she passed on a few years back, if you've never heard her amazing voice, prepare for a real treat!
Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed “Mama Africa,” was an extraordinary singer, civil rights activist, and the first artist from South Africa to bring South African music to the world at large. Her Grammy-winning global career began in the 1950s, and over the years she recorded and toured with musical heavyweights such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and her husband, South-African musical legend Hugh Masekela (who became a global figure as a result of performing at the 1967 Summer of Love "Monterrey Pop festival.")
She tirelessly campaigned against the South African system of Apartheid, due to which the South African government revoked her citizenship and right of return in the early 1960s. By then she had been introduced to the US and global music community, and several nations issued her passports, making her a true "citizen of the world." During her years in exile, she became an international superstar and political figure, at one point becoming the official delegate to the UN for the nation of Guinea, for which she won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986.
After the end of Apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela, she returned home where her musical career continued to hit the heights through her recordings with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, and Masekela. She embodied the spirit of "world music," and continued to rack up major international awards for her work in a multiplicity of fields until she died of a heart attack in 2008.
So if you haven't heard this global musical legend before now, you're in for a real experience! This is African culture at its best. To kick off the party, we'll begin this musical treat with Miriam performing one of the most revered songs in African history, the legendary "Mbube." This is the original Solomon Linda tune later ripped off and retitled "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Check it out! And for an amazing piece of history, here's a link where you can hear the original "Mbube" done by Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds in 1939.
From Stockholm in 1966, here's 8 ½ minutes of Mama Africa doing an interview and performing "Khawuleza."
From early in her career, a great live performance of “Ask The Rising Sun”
Here's pure gold! For your enjoyment, Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon performing at the Graceland tour!
For our closer, from the early 1990s, Miriam Makeba and Dizzy Gillespie in a live performance of “Live The Future”
For our encore, one of her last performances. From Oslo, Norway in 2008, here’s Miriam Makeba performing “Africa is Where My Heart Lies”
I'd post more videos, but I have other things I must compose, so I'll leave you with these sweet tunes for today, tomorrow, and all time. Happy Birthday, Mama Africa. You changed our world forever, and showed us all what true courage looks like. You spoke truth to power in a way that moved the world!
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson