Posted Nov. 10, 2008- Miriam Makeba, the South African singer nicknamed “Mama Africa,” suffered a heart attack after performing and died Sunday in Italy. She was 76.
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Makeba was known for using her music to fight against apartheid in her native land which resulted in her being exiled from the nation for over 30 years.
She performed for only a half an hour at Sunday night’s benefit concert in Castel Volturno, reports the AFP. “She had been the last one to go on stage, after the performances of other singers,” said a photographer who covered the event. “There were calls for an encore and at that moment someone asked if there was a doctor in the house. Miriam Makeba fainted and was lying on the floor.”
After her anti-apartheid lyrics caused her citizenship to be revoked in 1960, South African authorities refused to let her back into the nation, even for her mother’s funeral.
The country also banned her music, but that didn’t slow her popularity worldwide. She won a Grammy Award in 1965 for her album with Harry Belafonte, “An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba.” Her biggest hit was “Pata Pata” in 1967, but she made the uninformed decision to sign away all royalties on the song.
“Though my music I became this voice and image of Africa, and the people, without even realizing,” she said in her biography.
Her only daughter, Bongi Makeba, died in 1985. After living in the United States, Guinea and Europe, she returned to South Africa in the 1990s when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the apartheid system she fought so hard against crumbled.
South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma released a statement about Makeba’s death. “One of the greatest songstresses of our time Miriam Makeba has ceased to sing,” it he said. She “died performing what she did best – an ability to, communicate a positive message through the art of singing.” “Though my music I became this voice and image of Africa, and the people, without even realizing.”
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