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A Final Farewell for "Mama Africa", Miriam Makeba

Hundreds of South Africans over the weekend paid their last respects to legendary singer Miriam Makeba widely known as “Mama Africa”. Makeba collapsed a week ago after a performance in Italy and died of heart attack afterwards at a hospital. She was 76.

In July 2004, Makeba spoke to VOA soon after the release of her new album “Reflections”. She first explained the inspiration behind the new album.

“I decided to call that because I wanted to do some of the songs that people here at home never heard me do because of the fact that my music was banned. And so I was reflecting on my musical past,” she said.

The CD “Reflections” includes some of Makeba’s most popular hits like the Click Song, I Shall Sing and Pata Pata. But she said was tired of Pata Pata.

“Each time I do a recording the powers that be want Pata Pata. I said but how many times shall I sing this one song. You know Pata Pata and the Click Song. I really don’t know why people want this song. Since 1956 I’m singing this song,” she said.

Makeba said while Pata Pata made many people world wide to know her music, she was really introduced to Africa when she sang at the launching of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

“Pata Pata just made more people to know me. But to Africans really I was introduced when I went to sing for the heads of state in Addis Ababa in 1963 at the birth of the OAU (Organization of African Unity). That’s when African leaders discovered Miriam Makeba and started inviting me to their country,” she said.

Makeba also reflected on her special connection to Liberia.

“I was invited many times to Liberia by Mrs. Tolbert (wife of former President William Tolbert). Even before that by President Tubman and earlier there was a nice lady who I took as a big sister to me, Sister Gertrude Brewer. She was very nice to me. She even helped me with my grandchildren. So Liberia was almost like home because it was closed to Guinea so I was going back and forth from Guinea to Liberia,” Makeba said.

Makeba said she liked all her songs, but on the new album “Reflections” she liked “Iyaguduza”.

“I like all my songs, but you know on this one I try to sing some Brazilian songs. So I like ‘Xica Da Silva’ one and then the African ones I like ‘Iyagoduza’. It’s about a man who doesn’t work and his wife goes to work and he stays behind searching money to go an drink,” Makeba said.

In 1963 Makeba testified before the United Nations about apartheid in her native South Africa. For that, the apartheid South African government revoked her citizenship and the right to ever return to South Africa.

Makeba said she felt terrible, especially when she could not return to South Africa to bury her mother.