'Miriam Makeba is not given due credit'

Jazz legend Abigail Kubeka pours her heart out on her relationship with Miriam Makeba during the Sowetan Dialogues held at the Dr Miriam Makeba Concert Hall in Unisa, Pretoria./Ziphozonke Lushaba
Jazz legend Abigail Kubeka pours her heart out on her relationship with Miriam Makeba during the Sowetan Dialogues held at the Dr Miriam Makeba Concert Hall in Unisa, Pretoria./Ziphozonke Lushaba

One of the late Miriam Makeba's closest friends, Abigail Kubeka, has lambasted SA for not appreciating the role that Makeba played in the Struggle.

Kubeka poured her heart out during the Sowetan Dialogues held at the University of SA (Unisa) in Pretoria yesterday to celebrate Makeba who would have turned 87.

Kubeka said she met Makeba in Johannesburg when she was very young.

Seeing her talent, the young Makeba then went to Kubeka's parents and asked if she could join a group of singers called The Skylarks.

But her parents, who wanted her to be a nurse, refused and chased her from home for pursuing music over a respectable profession in those days.

With no place to go, Kubeka went and lived with Makeba at her home in Mofolo, Soweto.

It was at Makeba's home that the two became even closer and learnt various songs together.

"Miriam to me was a mother, a sister, she was everything to me. I am who I am today because of her. Dressing up, looking after myself, the discipline . just to be who I am is from Miriam. She was a disciplinarian, very strong, very powerful but [a] beautiful soul," Kubeka said.

"We used to go and record with The Skylarks, come back with the money and she would say 'you are taking the money home'. She would go with me and when we arrived at home she would say 'mama, here is money from Sibongile; we've just recorded."

Makeba died in November 2008 in Italy. She had travelled all around the globe introducing people to South African music and raising awareness of the injustices of the apartheid government.

Kubeka lamented how SA treated Makeba while she was alive.

"Miriam never got what she is getting now while she was alive. There was no respect or honouring. No thank you. The people who celebrated Miriam were people from overseas and Africa, not here at home. Miriam died a very sad person . I sometimes feel that the reason why she wanted to be cremated and her ashes thrown into the sea was
because she felt nobody cared for her here in South Africa."

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