From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed May 24 18:42:00 2000
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 21:48:28 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <email@example.com>
Subject: PROFILE-US/AFRICA: Mama Africa And The Pata Pata 2000
Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Women as Leaders Series: Mama Africa And The Pata Pata 2000
By Katherine Stapp, IPS
2 April 2000
NEW YORK, 31 Mar (IPS/GIN) - After a recording hiatus of almost 10
years, the internationally beloved South African performer Miriam
Makeba is back with a new CD that celebrates the end of apartheid
and her subsequent return home after three decades in exile.
Titled "Homeland," the album was produced by Cedric Samson on
the California-based Putumayo Artists record label and contains
both re-recorded favourites - like the dance tune "Pata Pata 2000" -
and new songs.
Its release has been timed for two days before Freedom Day
South Africa on April 27, which commemorates the extension of
voting rights to all South Africans, and precedes a US tour this
"I'm just happy to be back here again," said the petite,
ageless singer as she spoke with IPS in a New York hotel room
"I love the people and I know they love me... I'm not sweet 16
anymore, but I am looking forward to touring."
Having spent 30 years as an involuntary "citizen of the world"
due to her outspoken criticism of white minority rule in her
homeland, Makeba said the new album expresses her joy at finally
being allowed to return to South Africa in 1990, and her hopes for
the nation's future.
"The word homeland is special in South Africa," she explained.
"They were trying to put us in corners, and we rejected that. Now,
all of South Africa is my homeland."
The song "Masakhane," for example, calls for reconciliation and
forgiveness in a nation still awakening from the nightmare of
centuries of colonial exploitation.
"You help me, I help you, and together we build. We want to
come together and build our country to make it the country that it
should have been in the first place," she said. "That's
The first African artist to take home a Grammy and break into
the Top 10 charts in the United States, Makeba isn't worried about
winning over a new generation of fans.
"I've never had a problem with generation (gaps) with my
music," she said. "Just that name, people come, and they bring
their children. Their children bring their children..."
Last May, she said, fans were turned away from the famed
Olympia Theatre in Paris, even though she had not appeared live
there in 12 years.
"There were teenagers, even little kids in the audience, and
that is so beautiful when I see that kids want to come and see
little old granny," said Makeba, who exudes a combination of
warmth and self-possession. "And I look at them and say, well, my
career has a much longer life than I do."
But despite her illustrious and wide-ranging career – which
includes three audiences with the Pope, more than five million
albums sold, the Dag Hammarskjold Peace Prize, and an acclaimed
autobiography - Makeba said she had difficulty getting a record
contract until Putumayo came along.
"The conditions (for artists in South Africa) are not so
great," she said sadly. "Some artists record and then - nothing."
"Before, we black artists in South Africa were never considered
artists. We were vagrants," she continued. "It has to be done all
over again, and I think that the present minister of culture and
science is really trying to listen to the complaints of the
artists and wants to do something."
The new CD includes songs in English, Lingala and other African
languages. When asked if singing in English alienates any of her
African fans, Makeba bristled.
"I always feel it's not fair to say that because we are
African, we must not sing songs in English," she said, her soft,
slightly scratchy voice rising with indignation. "The French came
to Africa, the English came to Africa, they imposed their
languages on us, if I can master it, why not?"
"I've always sang songs from my country. Even the songs I sing
in English are not from anywhere but Africa. I've never sung a
standard. So I have contributed to this English-speaking world
songs they may never have heard," she said.
And don't get her started on the genre of "world music" (a
phrase that happens to figure prominently in the name of her
record company). "What is world music?" she asks. "All music comes
from the world. So why are we world musicians, and others
are not? Where do they come from? Jupiter?"
An outspoken activist as well as a singer, Makeba is currently
the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation ambassador,
and she works with various charities. Her latest project has been
raising funds to renovate a home for street girls in a poor South
African township affected by recent flooding.
But despite the continuing problems there, Makeba was
optimistic about South Africa's future.
"If we can wait this long to vote, we still have to wait for
many things," she said with a laugh. "Our new president is trying.
And I think we must be praised for what happened. It could have
Makeba said the new CD was a celebration of both past victories
and struggles still being waged.
"I've been around the world talking about the troubles and the
suffering of my people," she said. "In that journey, I met a lot
of people who raised their voices against injustice. And they
helped me, which is why we are where we are today.
"I thank those people and I thank our mothers for their
prayers. And I thank the children for their role in the struggle.
I thank our leaders who have taught us how to be tolerant and how
to forgive. For while we will never forget, we must forgive."
[c] 2000, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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