with a heavy heart she had to pack and go

Gugu Sibiya

Gugu Sibiya

Miriam Makeba had a dazzling and illustrious career that captured the imagination of the world.

A world icon, Makeba's career goes back to the dizzying and exciting times of the Sophiatown era.

Growing up around the glamour that characterised Sophiatown, she joined the Manhattan Brothers - one of the most sought-after bands, boasting some of the most elegant boys in town.

Not only did she do well but her association with the outfit put her on the map.

Turning into a household name overnight, she was successfully recruited for the Skylarks, with whom she took her career to the next level.

By then she had proved her prowess behind the mic and it was not surprising that she was lured into the film Come Back Africa.

Though she did well in the film she was never paid a cent for her contribution. But it opened other artistic doors for her that led to a dazzling performance in one of the highly acclaimed musicals to emerge from the country at the time, King Kong .

Unfortunately she had not reckoned with the pettiness and cruelty of the apartheid regime.

After the King Kong cast performed in the UK they were never allowed to return to the country.

As fate would have it, she bumped into Harry Belafonte, an American who was going to change the course of her musical career.

With a heavy heart, despite a bright future on the horizon, Makeba packed her bags for a career in the US.

There, instead of being sucked into the whirlpool of American creativity, she turned to home-grown sounds that finally saw her called the Queen of Click Songs.

Her influence spread to politics and in 1966 she addressed the United Nations about the plight of blacks under apartheid.

This further sealed her fate, with the apartheid regime refusing her entry to the country even after her mother had died.

Mama Africa had arrived. Her fame spread all over the world, but it was Mother Africa that embraced her, giving her passports that enabled her to travel the world unhindered.

Though her music was banned it still managed to find its way into township homes, remaining on high rotation. Every album became an anthem and symbol of hope. No wonder that she performed for, among others, president John F Kennedy.

The canary-like singer's idyllic music career was interrupted when she was expelled from the US after marrying Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael. He later became known as Kwame Toure after they moved to Guinea.

Her torture by the regime came to an end when the ANC government took over and Makeba was finally able to come home in 1990. For the first time she had opportunity to visit her mother's grave.

Makeba is gone but the love for her country and Africa, her ever-helping hand and generosity and the dedication to her craft spanning more than half a century will always set her apart.

May her soul rest in peace.