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Miriam Makeba, and the fight goes on

Miriam Makeba, and the fight goes on (prologue). PAM pays tribute to the South African singer and publish a series of articles about her life. The life of a woman who thought that the fight should never end.

Listen to our Miriam Makeba playlist on Spotify and Deezer.

Castel Volturno (Italy), 9 November 2008

Just moments after leaving the stage, the singer passes out. She is rushed to the Pineta Grande hospital near Naples, in Southern Italy. Victim of a heart attack, her eyes would no longer open to the world, to its beauty and its inequalities she spent her life fighting against. It was precisely the reason why she went to that small Italian town. She took part in a benefit concert for Roberto Saviano, a local writer hunted down by the Camorra, the sprawling Neapolitan mafia organization he had detailed the influence in the book Gomorra. And this is exactly where Miriam had agreed to play: in the wolf’s den.

Indeed, the diva had not retired from musical yet, any more than she had traded her commitments for quieter days in a country where, after decades of exile, she had finally been able to return. No, Zenzile Makeba Qgwashu Nguvama (her full name) had spent her life fighting, and she died the same way: the words on her lips and a cartridge belt full of songs slung over the shoulder. Her repertoire also bore witness to the pan-African struggles she had taken part in: songs from Guinea, Tanzania, Mozambique… The fights for liberation had their soundtrack, and Makeba was their spokeswoman all over the world. As in the song “A luta continua”, a revolutionary slogan used by the Frelimo (Mozambique Liberation Front). 

As she recounts in this concert in 1980 (she participated many times in the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands), she was part of the Guinean delegation that had came to Mozambique to celebrate the independence of the country in 1975.

She alone embodied the convergence of the pan-African struggles: against segregation in South Africa as well as in the United States; against the colonial presence in Africa; for an African unity… and beyond, for human rights in the whole world. Shortly before her death, she had gone to DRC (Congo), once again, to denounce the sexual violence inflicted upon women. She was an equally inspired mind in the tribune as she was on stage, and she would often put music into politics, and always politics in her music. 

Upon hearing of her death, the South Africa, government decreed a day of national mourning. Her body was repatriated, but there’s no use looking for her grave: her ashes were dispersed from the peak of the Cape of Good Hope, just where two oceans meet, so that, as she had confided, the currents would carry them wherever she had set foot during her lifetime.

Discover soon the other episodes from our series Miriam Makeba, and the fight goes on.