My Introduction to Miriam Makeba

black-history_feb-8_copyright-shila-iris-2017When I started to entertain the idea of learning Swahili and visiting Tanzania, I turned to Miriam Makeba’s song “Malaika” to help me get a feel for what the culture was like. However, I remember Miriam being on an episode of the Cosby Show. She was having a conversation with Raven Simone’s character. When asked if she was “from around here,” meaning New York, Miriam replied “I’m from the continent of Africa.” Her voice was soothing and kind. I thought she was a beautiful woman. I wondered what it would be like to go to the place where she was from. Miriam is from Johannesburg, South Africa. She worked as a servant during her teens under the harsh conditions of apartheid. Starring in a film called, “Come Back Africa” made her famous throughout the world, but made her a threat to the rulers of her native country, since the film was anti-apartheid. She then moved to America and became an immediate success. Her 1965 album with Harry Belafonte won her a Grammy. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement and married Black Activist, Stokely Carmichael who became Kwame Ture. Miriam Makeba is affectionately known as “Mother Africa” because she was one of the first artists to bring the sound of her homeland to the Western world. She is the first artist I heard, singing spiritual and rhythmic music. I adore the sound of her.

Thank you for reading,

Shila Iris