Miriam Makeba and the power of music

NPR’s All Things Considered tonight will air a tribute to Miriam Makeba. the South African singer and anti-apartheid activist who died this morning after a performance in Italy. She was 76.

Let’s not wait for it.

True to her nature, she was at a concert against organized crime in Italy when she had a heart attack.

Says the Guardian:


As the first black South African to win international stardom, Makeba performed alongside the likes of Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie in the US. Fusing township melodies with jazz ballads, she sang for world leaders from President John F Kennedy to Nelson Mandela, who led the tributes today, describing Makeba as “South Africa’s first lady of song”.

Here’s a performance with Paul Simon:

Her music was banned in South Africa and she was forced into exile for three decades until Nelson Mandela, now 91, asked her to come home.

Her career was starting to take off in America until she married Stokeley Carmichael of the Black Panthers. “She was in immediate trouble with the FBI and all her American concerts and recording contracts were cancelled,” according to the Times Online.

Like South Africa, the FBI realized the power of music. They couldn’t stop it.

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