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African Music Legend: Miriam Makeba

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Among the legends of African music is an icon whose legacy lives on as a pioneer and foundation of one of the most fruitful industries (the african music industry). She is a class above the rest with unrivalled international recognition. She is Miriam Makeba. miriam-makeba Born in Johannesburg in 1932, Miriam Makeba began her professional music career as a singer with the South African Afro-jazz/do-wop, the Manhattan Brothers in the 1950s , before later forming her own group that she called the Skylarks. Alongside her husband Hugh Masekela, and others such as Harry Belafonte, she was one of the founding pioneers of world music as a global phenomenon.   Miriam Makeba’s music flowed through the popular jazz fusion styles of the era while always maintaining the strong quintessence that has become over the last fifty years arguably the most recognizable style and form of African music. This was further typified by her legendary delivery of Xhosa language classic ‘The Click Song‘. It was an irony that has long been factor of black music that her powerful voice and extraordinary stage delivery enthralled white audiences but could not effect the social and political crossover that would only come in the autumn of her life.   She became internationally accepted as a member of the touring cast of the South African musical King Kong, performing alongside Hugh Masekela in the United States. Afterwards, she was driven into exile when her passport was revoked by the South African government after her appearance in an anti-Apartheid film, Come Back, Africa, a fictional production with sequences shot at the now famous black suburb of Sophiatown.   In 1966 Miriam Makeba became the first African woman to win a Grammy.Two years later she married Trinidad born civil rights activist and Black Panther member Stokely Carmichael. Soon afterwards the couple moved to Guinea where Carmichael became an aid to Guinean President Ahmed Sékou Touré and Makeba the African nation’s official delegate to the United Nations. In 1985 she moved to Brussels where she lived until her return to South Africa in 1990.   South African singer Miriam Makeba, a Xhosa, freedom activist and a pan-Africanist passed away after her last concert performed in Italy on 9 November 2008 at the age of 76. Her life spanned the militant phase of the anti-Apartheid struggle between the 1950s and the 1990s. Known as ‘Mama Africa’, her voice became prominent in the 1960s. She was not just a singer and African music ambassador but also a powerful influence in the anti-apartheid movement and the US civil rights stage of 1960s.       By: Azeez Temidayo

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