Effect Measure

In the 1960s, long before anyone ever heard of “World Music,” a young South African artist by the name of Miriam Makeba made us fall in love with the music of her continent. Known throughout the world as Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba collapsed and died on Monday just after leaving a concert stage in Italy. I am glad she lived to see the United States, a country where she lived and performed for many years, just days before turn a corner on race.

Miriam Makeba has a special place in the hearts and lives of so many of us she inspired then and continued to inspire through the many dark decades she fought for freedom through song and example. This is a long (15 minute) clip from a joint 1987 appearance with Paul Simon in Zimbabwe while she was still a political exile. They sing a lovely duet to conclude but there is much music to precede it, including Soweto Blues, written by her former husband Hugh Masakela. At this point the 1976 Soweto uprising was still fresh. You can read about it here. So many heroes. And she was one.

RIP, Mama Africa:


  1. #1 C. Corax
    November 12, 2008

    Thank you for the wonderful remembrance of a great woman.

    Years and years ago, I was on music duty at a party put on by a college dean. Folks pretty much ignored the danceable rock music, but the second Miriam Makeba came on, plates were set down, conversations cut short, and the guests all started to dance with big smiles on their faces.

    Her music was magic. I’m glad she died quickly, and doing what she loved.

  2. #2 JJackson
    November 13, 2008

    Here is another version of Soweto Blues with Masekela and her thoughts about Sharpeville and the release of Mandela.

    And Masekela’s wonderful Stimela for good measure.

    Thank you Miriam RIP

  3. #3 JJackson
    November 13, 2008

    While we are on the subject – sort of – Revere are you following what is going on in Gaza at the moment. You have not blogged on it for a while but it is getting really bad again in this internment camp.

  4. #4 revere
    November 13, 2008

    JJ: I confess not to have kept up. Got a link with a quick overview?

  5. #5 JJackson
    November 13, 2008

    UN ‘has run out of Gaza food aid’
    is a start.

  6. #6 Cathie Currie
    November 13, 2008

    When I first heard Grazing the the Grass by Hugh Masakela, I knew that the music was from a place far removed from the US — it started my education about South Africa, and the true meaning of freedom for all.

    Miriam Makeba had many concerts here in New York — always wonderful. She will be greatly missed in all of the world. Thanks, Revere, for noting that before she left us she saw a new day dawned on a better world.