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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 09:55 GMT
Cover versions: Miriam Makeba
All this week, BBC World Service's The World Today programme is looking at cover versions - songs re-recorded by another artist - to find what makes a great cover, and why.

South African singer Miriam Makeba is known throughout the world as Mama Africa. Here she talks about her version of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released, a song she re-recorded in part with Nelson Mandela in mind - at the time, Mr Mandela was still in prison.

Bob Dylan has always been someone who wrote very profound and interesting songs.

Miriam Makeba
Miriam had reservations about trying to follow in Dylan's footsteps
His songs dealt with real life and real feelings of people.

I Shall Be Released is one of those songs that, when I first heard the lyrics, just touched me.

I decided I would try to sing it too. I was afraid, because after all he was a big star.

I said, "I can try to sing it my way, with my own little accent" - and then later, when I came home, I revisited the song again.

This time, I asked my friend and sister, the late Nina Simone, to join me in singing the song.

What was interesting was that we mixed that song with a South African song - Thulasizwe - by a young bass player by the name of Victor Masondo. We started to sing the song like a choir.

It's an interesting version, where I felt that we were bringing two worlds together - South Africa and the United States - both music and artists, in that Nina Simone was also singing it with me.

Thulasizwe is like saying, "It's alright," to the nation - no matter how we are struggling, God will be with us and we will make it.

I first saw my ex-president for the first time since he had gone to prison when he took his first trip to Europe.

He went to Sweden. I had been on tour to Madrid, and I flew to meet Baba Mandela and his ex-wife Winnie in Stockholm.

I was late for the dinner - when I got there they were having dessert.

He didn't know I was there, and Winnie saw me first and she said "Zanzi!"

He looked and he saw me - you should see the picture when we hugged, it's so beautiful. I started crying, because I'd not seen him - none of us had seen even a picture of him - since the time they took him to jail.

Miriam Makeba
"I felt that we were bringing two worlds together"

Listeners' poll
Laurence Pollard counts down World Today listeners' top 5 cover versions

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