Thursday, May 6, 2021

Jazz songstresses pay tribute to Makeba

Tributes have poured in from all over the world after Miriam Makeba’s death was announced last weekend..

It was reported that after singing her monster hit Pata Pata on Sunday at a concert held in honour of an Italian writer, she blew kisses and went off stage where she collapsed on the stairs.

Later the 76-year-old singing sensation, whose career spans over half a century, passed away at the Pineta Grand Clinic in Italy.

The new South African president has honoured the performer whom Nelson Mandela has named ‘mother of the struggle’. President Kgalema Motlante has declared Thursday 13th November, till Makeba’s funeral a period of morning and all state flags, including those at foreign missions, shall fly at half-mast.

Now anyone who has coasted the Botswana live circuit might ascertain that Botswana’s own popular jazz songstresses have taken to Miriam Makeba as the prototype of an Afro jazz vocalist.

Punah Gabasiane, who won the BOMU’s Best Female Award earlier this year, says, “In my formative years as a performer, my repertoire was mainly of Miriam Makeba’s hits.”

And taking stock of how greatly she was inspired, she had hoped that one day she would share a stage with Makeba who has had an illustrious career that included being the first African woman to win a Grammy award in 1966. Gabasiane says this is exemplary of the musical legacy she too hopes to have.

“However, I found it scary that she died on stage. While spectators may view it as poetic, I wouldn’t want it to happen to me,” she said.

Nono Siele, however, says that the romantic notion of Makeba dying on stage was not lost on her. “In fact, if there were choices on how to die…” she said.

Siele, who released her own album, Kgarebe, also counts the deceased musician as an inspiration.

“I have watched Makeba perform twice in South Africa at Moretele Park and have always been impressed by how she dances like a Le14,” Siele said. “I have learnt a lot from watching her perform.”
Siele says she was initially put on to Miriam Makeba’s music by her friend Kearoma who is a fan of Makeba’s,

“To this day, I still honour her in my performances.”

Kearoma Rantao beamed while speaking about Makeba.
“I have been a fan since I was a little girl; my parents would buy me Miriam Makeba albums while I was at Primary School. Years later, when I worked at the Grand Palm Hotel, I was appointed her hostess,” she said. “I was thrilled.”

As Kearoma ran minor chores, such as guiding the singer to her room and fetching her water, she had a chance to chat with Makeba and says that the singer told her, “I like you, and like your speaking voice too.”

The singer was unaware that Kearoma was an aspiring singer who had recorded before. “This was after I recorded with Excutedge,” she said.

“Then I told her about my aspirations to have a career in music and she said: ‘People like me are going to faint one day and it is you who can take it further that I did.’”

Kearoma says Makeba’s whole life has been inspiring.
“She has gone through a lot, including 6 divorces but went on with life,” she said.

It could be poetic justice that Makeba’s words of encouragement produced results as Kearoma has an afro pop album, titled Monate, recorded under Vee’s stable, Black Money Makers.
Her album will be released this year at a date still to be announced..


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