Miriam Makeba 1966 interview

Mama Africa Miriam Makeba

Mama Africa Miriam Makeba

Last year in November, South Africa, and the world, was deeply saddened by the passing of one of our greatest diva’s, Zenzile Miriam Makeba. She had just finished performing at a benefit concert in the town of Caserta in southern Italy for anti-mafia author Roberto Saviano (Gomorrah) when she collapsed, and died at a local hospital.

She was an amazing woman. With an amazing voice.

Whites only madness

Whites only madness

Miriam Makeba became a professional singer in the early 1950’s singing with the Manhatten Brothers for much of that decade before starting her own group The Skylarks. But because of repressive apartheid laws that were really starting to allow non-white South Africa less and less freedom – such as the Separate Amenities Act of 1953 which reserved municipal grounds and services for particular races, such as beaches, buses, hospitals, school and universities – Miriam left our shores to continue her career overseas, only to return 30-years later after the release of Nelson Mandela.

1966 Grammy winning album

1966 Grammy winning album

It must’ve been heart-breaking for her, not being able to return, as she found out that her passport had been revoked when she planned to attend her mothers funeral in 1960. She’d appeared in the 1959 anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa, by Lionel Rogosin, and I suppose that was just the final straw for the National Party. But little did they realise that the world would embrace her in the years to come, and though just one voice in a sea of noise, she was able to address the United Nations in 1963, and even won a Grammy with Harry Belafonte in 1966 for Best Folk Recording for the album An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba.

African beauty

African beauty

I found this interview, Live at Bern’s Salonger, in Stockholm, Sweden from February 3rd, 1966, where a gorgeous Miriam Makeba speaks about some of the issues she, and South Africans, had to endure. It must’ve been pretty difficult trying to create a career as an artist, while at the same time feeling the need to educate people about what was happening back at home. As she says, people wanted to be entertained, and didn’t always want to hear about the bad things that didn’t affect them personally.

Today we can look back and remember her as not only a vocal beauty, but a voice of freedom. As a person who stood up for her own rights, and remembered those that she had left behind. She was our gift to the world, even though, at the time, we weren’t aware of her value.

Mama Africa, we salute your memory.


One Response to “Miriam Makeba 1966 interview”

  1. […] A great post on Miriam Makeba by The Roots Cause […]

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