Monday, 10 November 2008

Meeting Miriam Makeba in 1987...

I never saw Miriam Makeba performing live. So many friends and family had always told stories of how she smiled, how she sang from her heart, how she ...there are so many sincere words in her autobiography which i read in 1988. In one of the many remarkable lines, she says she loves singing so much that she wouldn't mind dying on stage.


So one day I am in London.
It is Winter 1987...
My first time in the city and a writer I had met at a bookfare, recomended African food at Stroud Green near Finsbury Park station. His name was Ben Okri and he wasn't famous yet.
Nor had he won the Booker.
In i went and as i sat down to order my Egusi and other succulent Nigerian dishes, I saw her. She was chatting to a young pretty woman. I went over and greeted her. I could not believe i was talking to Miriam Makeba.
She was polite, soft spoken, motherly, soft and warm. She reminded me of the wise, powerful women you meet in remote villages, friendly unselfish nurses in thousands of hospitals across the globe; lovely mammas selling you fruits and fish at markets around huge cities...
Miriam Makeba wasn't the diva that many of superstars are today. She could out-perform, out-sing most ( or all) of them; but here she was talking to me a total stranger, introducing me to her granddaughter...
Two years earlier she had lost her daughter Bongi also a fantastic singer who died giving birth...and here she was.
That was the first and last time i saw Miriam Makeba in person. And this is the only image i hold and cherish about her...like a prized ornament, a hug, a purse, a precious memento...
May God rest her soul in peace...

2 comments:

David Rosenberg said...

habari Freddy
Mimi ni huzinisha sana sana kusikia asubuhi hii kwamba Miriam Makeba alikufa

Very sad - you were very lucky to meet her. I was fortunate enough to see her live in concert three or four times here in London and hear her sing Pata Pata and the Click Song and so many others.

Physically she is not with us but while we play her music she lives on with us and among us.

wasalaam,

rafiki yangu,

David R

Anonymous said...

Thats a lovely tribute and blog Freddy. I hadn't read yr blog before either, very well written (poetic).

How great that you met her...I would love to have met her.
Its a huge loss to the african and Jazz community.

Mutsa