Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Miriam Makeba - Mama Africa

Miriam Makeba is dead. She has been nicknamed “Mama Africa”, which refers to her being the musical symbol of the struggle against apartheid. One of my favourite songs of hers is Pata Pata. Very rhythmic and a very good voice. In The Click Song, she sings in the Xhosa Click language from South Africa. I cannot imagine how people do it - clicking while you speak and sing. (I guess people may also say Cantonese is impossible, with the many tricky tones.) Many of her songs can be found on youtube. Highly recommended.

She started her singing career in South Africa. Because of her criticism of apartheid, she was forced into exile in 1960. She continued to speak out against apartheid with her music for years. while it seemed hopeless in South Africa. Her South African citizenship was revoked but she was granted honorary citizenship of ten countries.

Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return to South Africa in 1990, when he himself was released from prison.

Nelson Mandela and the fall of apartheid in South Africa is, of course, nothing short of a miracle. People can scarcely believe that such an entrenched evil system can be brought down without a bloody revolutionary civil war. Yet that’s what happened and Miriam Makeba is part of that miracle. As is Nelson Mandela and many others who believe truth and justice are mightier than evil and violence. Today South Africa still has its problems, but apartheid is no more, and it is one of the free-est and wealthy-est countries in Africa.

This is what I imagine an African sunset may be like (it is actually California). I have never been to Africa, so I don’t have a photo of Africa to put here (I do hope to remedy that sometime).

By the way, it is a sad commentary on the South China Morning Post that I cannot find any mention of her death in the newspaper today, and the fact that international news is now relegated to only four pages starting from page 10.

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