Miriam Makeba

On Monday, March 4, Google reminded us about Miriam Makeba’s birthday. Most websites wrote text articles about her life and work.

I went straight to her music after reviewing a short piece recorded by Ofeibia Quist-Arcton for NPR’s In Your Ear. I had heard Ofeibia describe her love of Miriam Makeba’s music. Then she played an excerpt from ‘The Click Song.’ The song is titled this way because the ‘English’ of South Africa cannot pronounce the title in Xhosa, a fact to which she attests at the beginning of the song.

In a televised special in Holland, Makeba’s defiance against the apartheid system is even more pronounced, referring to the ‘English’ as colonizers. (I can’t embed the video but watch it, if you have a time).

Makeba was the first musician to popularize African music in the West. Her song ‘Pata Pata’ became in a hit in the United States in the late 1960s. During her career, she toured and performed with the likes of Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon.

Her defiant stance against the apartheid regime resulted in the South African government revoking her right of return. When she attempted to enter South Africa for her mother’s funeral in 1960 she learned the government had cancelled her passport, thus denying her entry to her homeland.

Miriam Makeba lived in exile for more than 30 years.

May her songs and valiant efforts against tyranny and injustice be remembered for always.

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