One of South Africa’s celebrated singer Miriam “Mama” Makeba has died. Makeba died in Italy overnight aged 76 after being taken ill following a concert near the southern Italian town of Caserta, reports say.
Makeba was the legendary voice of the African continent, who became a symbol of the fight against apartheid in her home country.
She died overnight after taking part in a concert for Roberto Saviano, a writer threatened with death by the Mafia.
After singing for half an hour for the young author of Gomorrah at Castel Volturno near Naples along with other singers and artistes she was taken ill and was quickly taken to a clinic in Castel Volturno where she died of a heart attack.
SA Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma has said paid tribute on behalf of the nation.
“One of the greatest songstresses of our time, Miriam Makeba, has ceased to sing. Miriam Makeba, South Africa’s Goodwill Ambassador died performing what she did best – an ability to communicate a positive message through the art of singing,”
“Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid colonialism through the art of song.”
According to a biography published on the BBC, Miriam Makeba who was popularly known as Mama Africa, was born in Johannesburg on 4 March 1932 and was a front figure in the struggle against apartheid.
Her singing career started in the 1950s as she mixed jazz with traditional South African songs. She came to international attention in 1959 during a tour of the United States with the South African group the Manhattan Brothers.
She was forced into exile soon after when her passport was revoked after starring in an anti-apartheid documentary and did not return to her native country until Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
Miriam Makeba was the first black African woman to win a Grammy Award, which she shared with Harry Belafonte in 1965.
She was African music’s first world star, blending different styles long before the phrase “world music” was coined.
After her divorce from fellow South African musician Hugh Masekela she married American civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael.
It was while living in exile in the US that she released her most famous songs, Pata, Pata and the Click Song.
It was because of her dedication to her home continent that Miriam Makeba became known as Mama Africa.
In 1987 she appeared on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour and in 1992 she had a leading role in the film Sarafina!
Africa mourns the death of a legend.