She sang, she danced, she fought apartheid.
I was saddened this evening, after hearing the legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba has passed away.
I had just listened to some of her music the week before last.
From the Miriam Makeba website;
Issued by: ZM Makeba Trust and Siyandisa Music
10th November 2008
The world was dealt a blow early this morning, in a small town outside Naples, Italy when Zenzile Miriam Makeba..Mama Afrika to the world, passed away.. and left this earth, aged 76 years. She was born on 4th March 1932.
Whilst this great lady was alive she would say “I will sing until the last day of my life”
Zenzile Miriam Makeba collapsed on stage, at the end of her set, after singing Pata Pata,. She was immediately attended to by her grandson Nelson Lumumba Lee and others before being rushed to the nearest hospital. Tragically, in the early hours of this 10th of November 2008 morning, the doctors pronounced that they were unable to revive her.
Ambassador Makeba, was with her band, and was performing before an outdoor audience, in the open air at Via Verde, in the small town of Castelvolturno, not far from Naples. The audience included her long time friend, Italian promoter, Roberto Meglioli, who she had called on Friday from Holland, and asked to attend her show. He was on stage with her at the end of the show, and there she collapsed into his arms.
Dr Miriam Makeba never forgot her struggle through her life, and never stopped identifying with those who were downtrodden and who suffered. An activist to the end, the event where she was performing at, was an Anti-Racism and Anti-Mafia Event. “Mazi” as she was affectionately known by those who knew her well, never shied from speaking her mind and standing for her beliefs. She was an outstanding South African, a and indeed a gracious and true citizen of the World.
Zenzile Miriam Makeba is survived by her grandchildren Nelson Lumumba Lee and Zenzi Monique Lee, and her great- grandchildren Lindelani, Ayanda and Kwame.
In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela, her future husband. Though she was a successful recording artist, she was only receiving a few dollars for each recording session and no provisional royalties, and was keen to go to the US. Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa in 1959 by independant filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. She attended the premiere of the film at the Venice Film Festival.
Makeba then traveled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who assisted her in gaining entry to and fame in the United States. She released many of her most famous hits there including "Pata Pata", "The Click Song" ("Qongqothwane" in Xhosa), and "Malaika". In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid.
She discovered that her South African passport was revoked when she tried to return there in 1960 for her mother's funeral. In 1963, after testifying against apartheid before the United Nations, her South African citizenship and her right to return to the country were revoked. She has had nine passports,  and was granted honorary citizenship of ten countries.
From the International Herald Tribune;
In a statement on Monday, Mandela said the death "of our beloved Miriam has saddened us and our nation."
He continued: "Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us."
"She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours," Mandela's was one of many tributes from South African leaders.
BBC - S African icon Miriam Makeba dies; South African singing legend Miriam Makeba has died aged 76, after being taken ill in Italy
ABC/AP - South African Musical Legend Miriam Makeba Dies; Miriam Makeba, who sang about apartheid in South Africa, dies in Italy at age 76
Reuters - "Mama Africa" Miriam Makeba dies after concert
NPR - South African Singer Miriam Makeba Dies
World Music Central - South African Star Miriam Makeba Dies in Italy of a Heart Attack
LA Times - Miriam Makeba dies at 76; South African singer spent 31 years in exile
She was a bright, shining sun, in a country for so long kept in darkness.
Her spirit, her talent, helped many overcome so much.
RIP Miriam Makeba!
We’ll take you out with her signature tune ...
Pata Pata-Miriam Makeba-1967
Monday, November 10, 2008