Sathima Bea Benjamin, Jazz Singer And Activist, Dies At 76

s-SATHIMA-BEA-BENJAMIN-large.jpgSouth African Jazz singer and composer Sathima Bea Benjamin (1936-2013), wife of South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, performs at the JVC Jazz Festival in Bryant Park, New York, New York, June 27, 1996. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Sathima Bea Benjamin, jazz singer and activist, has died at age 76.

According to the New York Times, Benjamin passed away on Tuesday, August 20, at her home in Cape Town. Her cause of death has not yet been determined.

Born in Johannesburg, the South African vocalist recorded alongside the likes of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, before she reportedly went on to become an ambassador for her homeland and a beacon of principled objection to apartheid.

After relocating to New York City with her husband and acclaimed pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim, the internationally renowned jazz singer gave birth to her son, Tsakwe, and daughter, Tsidi (who is also known today as rapper Jean Grae).

During an interview with Revolt TV, Tsidi reflected on her parent’s decision to enrich their lives with a wealth of African culture. “I think they were so ahead of their time in thinking in terms of being individuals and saying, ‘we’re going to make this huge leap forward. And our circumstances and our background don’t have to dictate what the rest of our lives and our children’s lives can be.’ But still letting it be important,” she said.

“My mom and my dad came back to South Africa for both of us to be born there, because they thought it was important that we still carry on our heritage and know who we were. So it was, be a world citizen, be all of that, but love your heritage, love where you come from and then go do whatever you want to do.”

In addition to her son and daughter, Benjamin is also survived by her two sisters Edith Green and Joan Franciscus.


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