South Africa

Miriam Makeba, RIP

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The South African musician Miriam Makeba, who just died at age 76, was an anti-apartheid activist, Guinea's delegate to the United Nations, and Stokely Carmichael's first wife. She was also a hell of a good singer, one of the first figures to bring African pop to an American audience:

From The New York Times's obit:

Widely known as "Mama Africa," she had been a prominent exiled opponent of apartheid since the South African authorities revoked her passport in 1960 and refused to allow her to return after she traveled abroad. She was prevented from attending her mother's funeral after touring in the United States….

For 31 years, Ms. Makeba lived in exile, variously in the United States, France, Guinea and Belgium. South Africa's state broadcasters banned her music after she spoke out against apartheid at the United Nations. "I never understood why I couldn't come home," Ms. Makeba said upon her return at an emotional homecoming in Johannesburg in 1990 as the apartheid system began to crumble, according to The Associated Press. "I never committed any crime."

She finally returned to South Africa in 1990, as apartheid was overthrown. A wide selection of her music has been posted on YouTube; start here, here, or with the song posted above, then keep clicking.

[Hat tip: Saramin.]