Hamba kahle, Mama Africa.

Posted on 10 November, 2008. Filed under: Africa, The world | Tags: , , , , , |

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Miriam Makeba born 4 March 1932, Johannesburg, South Africa

                         died 9 November 2008, Castel Volturno, near Caserta, Italy

I remember, as a child, loving the sounds of “The Click Song”. For a white South African, the various clicking sounds so typical of the Xhosa language, are incredibly difficult, if not impossible to emulate. That never stopped me from trying. If you ever had to hear me contort, abuse and strangle the wondrous sounds of one of your most iconic songs, you would have wept. but I think you would have been proud, as well.

Your music represents a bitter-sweet era. When I listen to you sing, I imagine myself in the hustle and bustle of Sophiatown in the fifties and sixties. Kwela and pennie whistles. Mielies and paraffin heaters. But I never forget that for many years, you were denied access to the sights and sounds and smells of our beloved country. In my mind, because of this, and because of your stature, and your dignity, I often seat you next to Celia Cruz at the dinner table of my mind. I am just glad that you, unlike Celia Cruz, had the opportunity to return home, and to treat us to your copper voice on South African soil. And I think you would have been filled with an inner satisfaction that, though you had to die in a foreign land, you died after having done what you so loved to do – sharing your soulful music with others, and in pursuit of a good cause.

Your music inspired so many, in South Africa, black and white, in the United States, where Broadway was woed, in Europe, where you were celebrated and revered, and Cuba, where you were offered honourary citizenship, having been denied that of your homeland. (One of Castro’s few redeeming acts.)

Mama Africa, you said you’d like to be remembered as a good old lady. I am sorry, but in my mind’s eye you will forever dwell on the good side of 50, and therefor the best I can do, is to say you were a great lady.  You, like your music, can never be old.

Thank you for the music. Hamba kahle, mama.

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