Muntu concert series to pay tribute to ‘Mama Africa’

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Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago will dedicate its December 4-7 concert series to the late Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba. The Johannesburg, South Africa native collapsed on stage in Italy last month and later died of a heart attack. Makeba was 76.

Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago will dedicate its December 4-7 concert series to the late Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba. The Johannesburg, South Africa native collapsed on stage in Italy last month and later died of a heart attack. Makeba was 76.

During her phenomenal career, Makeba sang with some of the world’s greatest entertainers, including Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon. She also entertained for a number of national and international leaders, like John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela.

“Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and separation that she felt for 31 long years. At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us,” Mandela said in a statement. He also said it was “fitting” that her last moments were spent on stage.

South African tunes she introduced were Patha, Patha, The Click Song and Malaika, which denounced apartheid. In 1963, Makeba gave an impassioned testimony before the United States Committee Against Aparteid, which caused South Africa to prevent her records from entering the country.

In 1966, Makeba was the first African woman to win a Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording with Belafonte for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. She toured with Simone and Gillespie, and performed with Simon at his Graceland concert in Zimbabwe in 1987.

Exiled for her outspokenness against apartheid, it was Mandela who invited her back home to South Africa.

“It was a revival,” Makeba said about going home. “My music having been banned for so long, that people still felt the same way about me was too much for me. I just went home, and I cried.”

The theme for Muntu’s fall concert series is transformation and will feature Senegalese choreographer Babacar N’Diaye’s works, called N’Dage Mandingo. The dances will be accompanied by new musical arrangements by the Muntu Musicians.

The performances feature a collage and fusion of dance styles originating from the regions of Mali, Tambacounda, Guinea Bissau, and Senegal, West Africa.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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