Midem 2010 Tribute to Miriam Makeba Dinner

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25 Jan 2010

MIDEM CEO, Mr Paul Zilk
MIDEM Director, Ms Dominique Leguern
Ambassador of South Africa in France, Dr Konji Sebati
Director General – Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa
The Media
Honourable guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed a pleasure to be here with you today and to participate in a ceremony that acknowledges and honours the contributions made by the late Mama Miriam Makeba.

“Mama Africa” – as she is known to millions around the world – is one of the few African women singers in the 1960’s to bring African music to the world, especially in America and Europe. The original world music ‘super-star’ and the first African recording artist to be awarded a Grammy with Harry Belafonte. She is also the first African female vocalist to make it to the Top Ten worldwide hit with her original version of “Pata Pata” in 1967. Miriam Makeba was loved by the world, African presidents and kings bowed to her. The African masses just adored her and her music.

She grew up during the era of apartheid and Ms Makeba used the struggle against apartheid as an inspiration, to continue seeking change. She was a true African daughter of the soil.

The year 1959 was a landmark for Miriam. First, she took South Africa by storm as the lead singer in South Africa’s All-Star African jazz opera, King Kong; featured in Lionel Rogosin’s film - Come Back Africa

In 1960, Miriam was banned from returning to the country of her birth; she was forced to spend most of her adult life, 30 years in exile as a “citizen of the world.” A trend setter, the African girl who charmed the New York sophisticates and started a fashion trend with her short cut hair and her African couture.

She became one of the most important voices to expose the brutality of apartheid - she addressed the United Nations on the horrific conditions of life under apartheid South Africa. Her fearless humanitarian spirit earned her many international awards including becoming a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

To us Mama Makeba was a great mother, teacher and courageous soldier of our people. During the apartheid days she spread her wings around the world, spreading messages of hope. She remained a true ambassador of the oppressed people of Africa, throughout her life.

Miriam Makeba continued to be popular and in demand around the world, and we all know that she died doing what she loved most. She touched the lives of millions around the world and remained active in world issues through her work with human rights, women’s rights, and anti-drug campaigns. Her exceptional personal and artistic profile is part of the history of both the 20th and the 21st centuries, all adding to the dramatic elements of an extraordinary life.

Tonight as we celebrate Mama Africa, we are also joined by her family represented by her beloved grandson, Lumumba Lee, and her colleagues and comrades, Mr Jonas Gwangwa, Ms Letta Mbulu and Mr Caiphus Katse Semenya, Ms Angelique Kidjo and Mr Vusi Mahlasela and our young generation of musicians, including Thandiswa Mazwai. We thank you very much for blessing this occasion. Miriam Makeba was indeed an icon of our people and all music loving people the world over. We are all here to celebrate a great life.

Her work will forever be embellished in the memory and history of Africa and the world, through her music, our heritage. Please enjoy some of her work, that will be performed by some of our younger artists tonight.

I thank you