Mama Afrika celebrated in style

Miriam Makeba, fondly known as Mama Afrika, would have turned 90 earlier this month. Fourteen years after her death, the celebrated South African singer continues to inspire artists and audiences across the globe. 

So it was fitting that African-American musician, Somi Kakoma, performed her Makeba tribute album for the first time this month at the iconic Apollo Theatre in New York City. The performance featured internationally acclaimed South African artists Thandiswa Mazwai and Msaki. Somi’s album, ZENZILE: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba, took seven years to make and was released last year

The performance was a poignant moment as Makeba performed at the same venue in September 1961. Makeba’s very existence was a revolution in the space at the time, and she famously introduced isiZulu and isiXhosa music to Western audiences. Makeba also championed the fight for democracy in South Africa during her long and painful exile from her homeland during apartheid. 

Somi has now brought the concert to our shores with a show at the State Theatre in Tshwane over the weekend. It featured SA musicians Thandiswa Mazwai, Msaki, Nduduzo Makhathini and Sipho Hotstix Mabuse.  

As Somi said: “I owe her. We all do.”

In a time of escalating nationalism and xenophobia globally, voices like Makeba’s and others remind us of our commonality – and power in unity. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 31 March  2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.