Miriam Makeba

South African singer and civil rights activist (1932–2008)

Miriam Makeba (4 May 193210 November 2008) was a South African Grammy-awarded singer, songwriter, author, actress, former UN ambassador, and civil rights activist, also known as "The Empress of African Song" and Mama Africa.

I will probably die singing
In every community, in every nation, people are doing little and big things to help make a better world. Think of what has been accomplished to date: space exploration; satellite communications; heart transplants. Today, we have managed to do what previous generations never dreamed of. But, you see, today, around the world, 820 million people still don't have enough to eat. And it doesn't have to be this way.[1]

Quotes Edit

  • African music, though very old, is always being rediscovered in the West. [2]
  • I always wanted to leave home. I never knew they were going to stop me from coming back. Maybe, if I knew, I never would have left. It is kind of painful to be away from everything that you've ever know. Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are in exile. No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them but not of them. That's when it hurts.[3]
    • As quoted in Bordowitz, Hank (2004). "Miriam Makeba". Noise of the World: Non-western Musicians in their Own Words. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull. p. 247. ISBN 1932360603. OCLC 56809540. 
  • When I was young, I never bought records because my brother Joseph played saxophone and had a record player. I loved listening to his records: The Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington, all the big American jazz bands, and vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Ernestine Anderson, and Kitty White, a singer from the US who was a friend of Nina Simone. Nobody in America seems to know about her, but she was quite popular in South Africa.[4]
    • As quoted in Poet, J. (11 February 2009)
  • My concerts were canceled left and right. Speaking about South African Apartheid was fine, but they were suddenly afraid I might speak about American Apartheid, although I never did. Bookers told me that my shows would finance radical activities and [Reprise Records] told me they were not going to honor my recording contract. I didn’t say anything, but if I was married to a troublemaker, I must be a troublemaker. I’d already lived in exile for 10 years, and the world is free, even if some of the countries in it aren’t, so I packed my bags and left.[4]
    • As quoted in Poet, J. (11 February 2009)
  • In those years, when I came to the States, people were always asking me why I didn’t sing anymore. I’d tell them, ‘I sing all around the world—Asia, Africa, Europe—but if you don’t sing in the US, then you haven’t really made it.’ That’s why I’ll always be grateful to Paul Simon. He allowed me to bring my music back to my friends in this country.[4]
    • As quoted in Poet, J. (11 February 2009)
  • I didn’t have much, but I was always happy to share what I did have. It seemed like every African that came to New York City would show up at my apartment door at dinnertime, and I couldn’t turn them away. I wasn’t much older than any of them, but they started calling me ‘Mama Africa’ and the name stuck.[4]
    • As quoted in Poet, J. (11 February 2009)

Al-Ahram Weekly interview (2001) Edit

  • In New York I heard A Piece of Ground, written by a white South African, Jeremy Taylor. I modified it a little and sang it myself. That song is very special to me because it deals with the land question in southern Africa. We were dispossessed of our land.[5]
    • As quoted in Nkrumah, Gamal (1–7 November 2001). Mama Africa. Profile. Al-Ahram Weekly.
    • About her favourite song.
  • The tragedy of civil wars in countries like Angola and Mozambique is that they left many civilians maimed. Poverty is the reason HIV/AIDS spread so rapidly in the African townships and slums. Poverty is the real killer.[5]
    • As quoted in Nkrumah, Gamal (1–7 November 2001)
  • The man at the desk took my passport. He did not speak to me. He took a rubber stamp and slammed it down. Then he walked away. I picked up my passport. It was stamped 'Invalid'. 'They have done it,' I told myself. 'They have exiled me. I am not permitted to go home — not now, maybe not ever. My family, my home. Everything that has gone into the making of myself, gone'.[5]
    • As quoted in Nkrumah, Gamal (1–7 November 2001)
  • I look at an ant and see myself: a native South African, endowed with a strength much greater than my size, so I might cope with the weight of racism that crushes my spirit.[5]
    • As quoted in Nkrumah, Gamal (1–7 November 2001)
  • That was the only time my mother saw me on stage. At one point in the play I am strangled and my mother jumped from her seat and screamed: 'No. You will not get away with murder. You cannot do this to my daughter.' Friends explained to her that this was not for real — that we were acting. But she made such a fuss. Everyone was so embarrassed. On stage my heart sank.[5]
    • As quoted in Nkrumah, Gamal (1–7 November 2001)

Interview with Robin Denselow (May 2008) Edit

  • I'm not a political singer. I don't know what the word means. People think I consciously decided to tell the world what was happening in South Africa. No! I was singing about my life, and in South Africa we always sang about what was happening to us — especially the things that hurt us.[6]
    • As quoted in Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008)
  • Belafonte sent his people to pick me up and I went back and shook his hand, then went back to my little flat. I was very happy to have met a president of the United States - little me![6]
    • As quoted in Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008)
  • [Belafonte]'d take me to perform for Martin Luther King's cause. But when they were marching I did not take part, because I was not a citizen[6]
    • As quoted in Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008)
  • [Belafonte] was a good teacher and looked after me. He said, 'You have such great talent, you must try not to be a tornado - be like a submarine. It was good advice when I found myself speaking at the UN Committee Against Apartheid and then the UN General Assembly.[6]
    • As quoted in Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008)
  • It was not a ban from the government. It was a cancellation by people who felt I should not be with Stokely because he was a rebel to them. I didn't care about that. He was somebody I loved, who loved me, and it was my life.[6]
    • As quoted in Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008)
  • [W]hen the President's visitors came to Guinea, we were all called on to go and entertain them. I've never seen a country that did what Sékou Touré did for artists. Even in South Africa today we are not nurtured like that.[6]
    • As quoted in Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008)
  • It's because they want to sound like Americans. I'd like to see them develop our music and sing it their way, but they think sounding American is going to take them higher, but it is not. They have beautiful voices, but they want to sound like Whitney Houston. You can't beat people like that at their own game. And they can't beat me at mine, either![6]
    • As quoted in Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008)
  • Girls are the future mothers of the , it is important we focus on their wellbeing.
    • As quoted in Nkrumah, Gamal (1–7 November 2001)

Quotes about Makeba Edit

  • Her voice and her battles influenced the process of liberation and democratic rebirth in South Africa.[7]
  • We will miss her energy and her respectful concern for the world's most vulnerable.[7]
    • Jacques Diouf, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations quoted in Jacobson et all. (10 November 2008)

References Edit

  1. Miriam Makeba. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Retrieved on 17 November 2010.
  2. [1]
  3. Bordowitz, Hank (2004). "Miriam Makeba". Noise of the World: Non-western Musicians in their Own Words. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull. ISBN 1932360603. OCLC 56809540. 
  4. a b c d e Poet, J. (11 February 2009). Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa Goes Home. Feature Story. Crawdaddy!. Retrieved on 18 November 2010.
  5. a b c d e Nkrumah, Gamal (1–7 November 2001). Mama Africa. Profile. Al-Ahram Weekly. Retrieved on 18 November 2010.
  6. a b c d e f g h Denselow, Robin (16 May 2008). Robin Denselow talks to African superstar and activist Miriam Makeba. The Guardian. Retrieved on 18 November 2010.
  7. a b Jacobson, Celean; D'Emilio, Frances; Diallo, Boubacar; Conde, Maseco; Isango, Eddy (10 November 2008). South African musical legend Miriam Makeba dies. The Seattle Times. Retrieved on 19 November 2010.

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