Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba: “Pata Pata” (1979)

This is Miriam Zenzi Makeba (1932 – 2008) singing one of her most famous songs "Pata Pata" during a performance in the VARA TV-studios in Holland, 1979. Joining her on stage towards the end of the song is her granddaughter Zenzi. Zenzi's mother (the late Bongi Makeba) is one of the backing vocalists (in the blue dress). Makeba was known affectionately as "Mama Africa." She died earlier today.

Her professional career began in the 1950s singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa.

Makeba then travelled 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She discovered that her South African passport was revoked when she tried to return there in 1960 for her mother's funeral.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.

Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return to South Africa in 1990. Makeba continued to perform onstage and record new albums. She was a proud United Nations goodwill ambassador and also set up a school for destitute young girls in South Africa.

On 9 November 2008, she became ill while taking part in an anti-Mafia concert in southern Italy. Makeba suffered a heart attack a few minutes after her performance and died soon after. In his condolence message, former South African president Nelson Mandela said it was “fitting that her last moments were spent on a stage, enriching the hearts and lives of others - and again in support of a good cause.”

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