/ 10 November 2008

SA mourns Makeba, musical ‘mother’ of the nation

Nelson Mandela praised Miriam Makeba as a ”mother” of modern South Africa, who gave voice to the anti-apartheid struggle, as tributes poured in on Monday for the legendary singer.

Makeba (76), who was widely known as ”Mama Africa”, collapsed on Sunday after a concert in Italy. She later died of a heart attack in hospital.

”She was South Africa’s first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Africa. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours,” Mandela said in a statement.

”Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation, which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us,” he said.

The African National Congress hailed her musical contribution to the fight against the white-minority government.

”The passing of this African songstress leaves a gaping hole in the cultural life of our country and the African continent,” said party leader Jacob Zuma.

”Miriam Makeba used her voice, not merely to entertain, but to give a voice to the millions of oppressed South Africans under the yoke of apartheid,” said Zuma.

”Miriam was an indefatigable African patriot who used her immense talent in the service of her people and the struggle for freedom and democracy, not only in South Africa, but in the continent as a whole.”

Fellow African musical giant Youssou Ndour mourned her death as a loss to the world’s music.

”It really is a great loss for Africa, for African music and all music,” he told a Senegalese radio station. ”She was somebody who did a lot for Africa, and in general for black people. It is a great loss.”

In Sierra Leone, where Makeba was well known for frequent weekend shopping trips or playing concerts when she lived in neighbouring Guinea in the early 1990s, radio stations played her songs, including her famous hit Pata Pata.

”We have received the death with shock as she has no comparison,” said Samuel Richards, a senior Culture Ministry official.

‘We will surely miss her’
Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo said one of the continent’s finest voices had disappeared, while the South African government also mourned her.

”One of the greatest songstresses of our time, Miriam Makeba has ceased to sing,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Fellow artists remembered her as someone who nurtured young musicians.

”She is a legend. We will surely, surely miss her,” South African diva Yvonne Chaka Chaka said.

”She was a mother, a friend, an extraordinary woman who survived many tribulations in her life. She was an icon,” said Gugu Sibiya, the arts and entertainment editor of the Sowetan

Veteran Congolese musician Ray Lema praised her for taking African music to the world.

”She was the first great African singer to take the voice of Africa beyond Africa. She was a passionate artist and a great activist,” the 62-year-old jazz pioneer said in Paris.

”It was a beautiful death, worthy of her memory. I would be proud to go like that,” he said.

Makeba, famed for hits such as Pata Pata and The Click Song, died of a heart attack in a Naples hospital after she collapsed as she left the stage at a benefit concert in Castel Volturno on Sunday.

Born in Johannesburg on March 4 1932, Makeba was one of Africa’s best known singers. While Mandela was in prison, she took up the battle against apartheid through her music.

South Africa revoked her citizenship in 1960 and even refused to let her return for her mother’s funeral. Makeba spent more than three decades in exile, living in the United States, Guinea and Europe. — AFP