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Miriam Makeba (1932 – 2008)


South African Grammy-awarded singer, songwrtiter, author, actress, former UN ambassador, and civil rights activist, also known as "The Empress of African Song" and Mama Africa.
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Miriam Makeba
I always wanted to leave home. I never knew they were going to stop me from coming back. Maybe, if I knew, I never would have left. It is kind of painful to be away from everything that you've ever know. Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are in exile. No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them but not of them. That's when it hurts.
Makeba quotes
I still don't know why they banned me" she says. "I said to them, 'What did I do? I never killed anybody. I was never arrested for anything bad, so why can't I go home?.
Makeba
In New York I heard A Piece of Ground, written by a white South African, Jeremy Taylor. I modified it a little and sang it myself. That song is very special to me because it deals with the land question in southern Africa. We were dispossessed of our land.




Makeba Miriam quotes
[W]hen the President's visitors came to Guinea, we were all called on to go and entertain them. I've never seen a country that did what Sékou Touré did for artists. Even in South Africa today we are not nurtured like that.
Makeba Miriam
I will probably die singing.
Miriam Makeba quotes
Belafonte sent his people to pick me up and I went back and shook his hand, then went back to my little flat. I was very happy to have met a president of the United States - little me!
Miriam Makeba
[Belafonte] was a good teacher and looked after me. He said, 'You have such great talent, you must try not to be a tornado - be like a submarine. It was good advice when I found myself speaking at the UN Committee Against Apartheid and then the UN General Assembly.
Makeba Miriam quotes
[Belafonte]'d take me to perform for Martin Luther King's cause. But when they were marching I did not take part, because I was not a citizen
Makeba
In those years, when I came to the States, people were always asking me why I didn’t sing anymore. I’d tell them, ‘I sing all around the world—Asia, Africa, Europe—but if you don’t sing in the US, then you haven’t really made it.’ That’s why I’ll always be grateful to Paul Simon. He allowed me to bring my music back to my friends in this country.
Makeba Miriam
I didn’t have much, but I was always happy to share what I did have. It seemed like every African that came to New York City would show up at my apartment door at dinnertime, and I couldn’t turn them away. I wasn’t much older than any of them, but they started calling me ‘Mama Africa’ and the name stuck.
Miriam Makeba
It was not a ban from the government. It was a cancellation by people who felt I should not be with Stokely because he was a rebel to them. I didn't care about that. He was somebody I loved, who loved me, and it was my life.




Miriam Makeba quotes
The man at the desk took my passport. He did not speak to me. He took a rubber stamp and slammed it down. Then he walked away. I picked up my passport. It was stamped 'Invalid'. 'They have done it,' I told myself. 'They have exiled me. I am not permitted to go home — not now, maybe not ever. My family, my home. Everything that has gone into the making of myself, gone'.
Miriam Makeba
We will miss her energy and her respectful concern for the world's most vulnerable.
Makeba quotes
I'm not a political singer. I don't know what the word means. People think I consciously decided to tell the world what was happening in South Africa. No! I was singing about my life, and in South Africa we always sang about what was happening to us — especially the things that hurt us.
Makeba Miriam
That was the only time my mother saw me on stage. At one point in the play I am strangled and my mother jumped from her seat and screamed: 'No. You will not get away with murder. You cannot do this to my daughter.' Friends explained to her that this was not for real — that we were acting. But she made such a fuss. Everyone was so embarrassed. On stage my heart sank.
Makeba Miriam quotes
The tragedy of civil wars in countries like Angola and Mozambique is that they left many civilians maimed. Poverty is the reason HIV/AIDS spread so rapidly in the African townships and slums. Poverty is the real killer.
Miriam Makeba
My concerts were canceled left and right. Speaking about South African Apartheid was fine, but they were suddenly afraid I might speak about American Apartheid, although I never did. Bookers told me that my shows would finance radical activities and [Reprise Records] told me they were not going to honor my recording contract. I didn’t say anything, but if I was married to a troublemaker, I must be a troublemaker. I’d already lived in exile for 10 years, and the world is free, even if some of the countries in it aren’t, so I packed my bags and left.
Miriam Makeba quotes
I look at an ant and see myself: a native South African, endowed with a strength much greater than my size, so I might cope with the weight of racism that crushes my spirit.
Miriam Makeba
It's because they want to sound like Americans. I'd like to see them develop our music and sing it their way, but they think sounding American is going to take them higher, but it is not. They have beautiful voices, but they want to sound like Whitney Houston. You can't beat people like that at their own game. And they can't beat me at mine, either!
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