Monday, November 10, 2008

Adieu, Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba, the great South African singer who chanted in the key of resistance against the apartheid regime in her native land, passed away today while doing what she did best: Lending her luminous musical gifts in defense of liberty and in defiance of tyranny.

The 76 year-old Makeba passed away from an apparent heart attack while performing at a concert in Italy in support of Roberto Saviano, an Italian journalist whose exposé of the Camorra organized crime syndicate in Naples in his book Gomorrah has earned him death threats and worse.

Coming only a year after the murder of South African reggae legend Lucky Dube, it may seem another terrible blow to the music scene in that country, where I first ventured in a very moving visit that brought me face-to-face with Robert Mugabe's brutality and South Africa's own tortured history earlier this year. But like all eternal voices, such as those of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Woody Guthrie, the music of Miriam Makeba will continue to give succor and sustenance to oppressed and downtrodden people the world over. Amen, Miriam, and ayibobo.

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