South African singer Miriam Makeba, ”one of the greatest songstresses of our time”, died on Sunday night after collapsing as she left the stage following a performance in Italy, the Foreign Minister said on Monday.
”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,” said South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
”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.”
The ministry said the 76-year-old Makeba died at the Veneto Verde hospital near Naples after performing at the Castel Volturno.
”She collapsed as she was leaving the stage. She received paramedic assistance and was rushed to hospital where she unfortunately passed away,” the ministry said in a statement.
”On behalf of our President Kgalema Motlanthe, our ambassadors and high commissioners stationed abroad, management and staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs, we convey our heartfelt condolences to members of the bereaved family,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
Makeba, affectionately known as Mama Africa, sang about Africa’s struggles for independence.
”People gave me that name. At first I said to myself: ‘Why do they want to give me that responsibility, carrying a whole continent?’ Then I understood that they did that affectionately. So I accepted. I am Mama Africa,” she told Agence France-Presse in an interview in 2005.
Makeba, whose most famous hits included Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa) and Mailaka, died after taking part in a concert for Roberto Saviano, a writer threatened with death by the Mafia, the Italian news agency said.
Miriam Zenzi Makeba was born in Johannesburg on March 4 1932.
As a child, she attended a training institute in Pretoria for eight years where she first started singing.
Her professional career kicked off in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers, before she formed her own group, The Skylarks.
She grabbed international attention in 1959 when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa.
She then went to London where she met Harry Belafonte. He helped her get entry to the United States, where she released many of her famous songs.
She received a Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording in 1966 with Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba.
The album was about black South Africans living under apartheid.
When she tried to return to South Africa, she discovered that her passport had been revoked.
She testified against apartheid before the United Nations in 1963.
She was married to musician Hugh Masekela and Trinidadian civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, who was also the leader of the Black Panthers.
When her only daughter, Bongi Makeba, died in 1985, she moved to Brussels.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return to South Africa in 1990.
She was always optimistic about post-apartheid South Africa, even though she acknowledged that it came with its own problems.
”We have only had 11 years of democracy but we are moving, we are moving forward faster than many countries who have been independent a long, long time before. We all have to do it together, all of us, found ourselves this country regardless [whether] we are black, white or whatever,” she said in an interview.
Asked who the next Makeba would be, she replied: ”No, nobody can replace me as I can’t replace anyone else,” and added that she wanted to leave a memory of, simply, a ”very good old lady”. – Sapa