Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Monday, 10 November 2008

Mandela mourns icon Miriam Makeba


Miriam Makeba's final concert took place in Italy

Former South African President Nelson Mandela has paid tribute to singing legend Miriam Makeba, who has died aged 76 after a concert in Italy.

She was the "mother of our struggle" and "South Africa's first lady of song", Mr Mandela said.

Makeba became a symbol of the fight against apartheid and spent three decades abroad after South Africa's government revoked her passport.

Mr Mandela said her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile.

"She... richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika," Mandela said in a message.

"Her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us. Even after she returned home she continued to use her name to make a difference by mentoring musicians and supporting struggling young women," Mr Mandela said.

Pan-African appeal

South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) also paid homage to her musical contribution "to the liberation of South Africa".

1932: Born Johannesburg, South Africa
1959: Stars in the jazz opera King Kong and anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa, met Harry Belafonte
1960: Barred from South Africa
1963: Testifies against apartheid at the United Nations
1966: Becomes the first African woman to win a Grammy award
1968: Marries Black Panther Stokely Carmichael and moves to Guinea
1985: Moves to Brussels after her child Bongi dies in childbirth
1990: Returns to South Africa after personal request from Nelson Mandela
2005: Begins a "farewell tour" of the world that lasts three years
2008: Dies in Caserta, Italy following a concert, aged 76

"One of the greatest songstresses of our time has ceased to sing," South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said.

"Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid and colonialism through the art of song."

Makeba was born in Johannesburg on 4 March 1932. Her singing career started in the 1950s as she mixed jazz with traditional songs.

She came to international attention in 1959 during a tour of the United States with South African group the Manhattan Brothers and performed for President JF Kennedy at his birthday party in 1962.

It was while living in exile in the US that she released her most famous songs, Pata Pata and the Click Song.

Songs banned

She was forced into exile soon after when her passport was revoked after starring in an anti-apartheid documentary and did not return to her native country until after Mr Mandela was released from prison in 1990.

In 1963, Makeba appeared before the UN Special Committee on Apartheid to call for an international boycott of South Africa.

The South African government responded by banning her records, including Pata Pata and the Click Song.

Makeba was the first black African woman to win a Grammy Award, which she shared with Harry Belafonte in 1965.

Charlie Gillett, who presents the BBC World of Music programme, says there is nobody to compare to her, as she was popular in West Africa - after living in exile in Guinea - and East Africa - she recorded a version of the Swahili song Malaika, as well as her home in South Africa.

She was African music's first world star blending different styles long before the phrase "world music" was coined.

After her divorce from fellow South African musician Hugh Masekela, she married American Black Panther Stokely Carmichael and moved to Guinea.

She appeared on Paul Simon's Graceland tour in 1987 in Zimbabwe.

"You sing about those things that surround you," she said. "Our surrounding has always been that of suffering from apartheid and the racism that exists in our country. So our music has to be affected by all that."

Makeba announced her retirement three years ago, but despite a series of farewell concerts she never stopped performing.

When she turned 75 last year, she said she would sing for as long as possible.

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