The title of this song, sung by a French singer who performs under the stage name Jain, has become a popular meme. Even citizens who do not know any language other than English quickly guessed that this word sounds African. Something like “kalebasa,” or “ukulele,” in short, a real “Akuna Matata!” – they decided. So the word “Makeba” came to mean “fun,” “high,” or “good cheer.” In addition, the video, which was a worldwide hit, sounded so dynamic and energetic that fans of light music had no doubt that their guess was a hundred percent correct. They didn’t know that Makeba was the name of a singer from South Africa, also known as “Mama Africa.” But compatriots and fighters against racial oppression around the world also know Miriam Makeba as a political activist, author and performer of songs with a sharp social sound and a courageous fighter against apartheid.
History of the song “Makeba”
Life has not spoiled Miriam Makeba, like many of her black compatriots born in the 1930s. Her father was unemployed for a long time, so the girl hardly knew what real poverty was from the cradle. She herself married a drunkard and tyrant at the age of 17, from whom she soon separated. When Miriam was under thirty, doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer. In the 1950s Miriam, who had begun singing in a church choir when she was still in school, became well-known as a talented singer, performing a mixture of traditional African music, jazz and religious chants. It was then that the young woman met Nelson Mandela, who said, “This girl is destined for a great future.
In 1959, Miriam Makeba left her native country, which had outlawed her activities and her songs, and moved to the United States, where she became a star and a political activist for equality between black and white people not only in the United States, but around the world. She spoke from the podium of the United Nations, where she gave denunciations against apartheid policies. She has successfully toured Europe, won Grammys and other prestigious music awards, performed in the first operas written by African composers, and been the girlfriend of extraordinary and brilliant men. In short, when Miriam Makeba passed away in 2008, having seen the collapse of the apartheid system in her final years, she could say “I lived a full, real life and fully displayed my talents.
It was Miriam Makeba’s emotional performance style, her active citizenship and world fame that inspired Jain to create an original composition dedicated to the “queen of African music”. However, the singer admitted that she was also impressed by the personal life of Miriam, who was not afraid to break up relations with men who were boring her, was not afraid of slander and gossip and always took responsibility for her decisions, without complaining about the evil fate, false friends or envious colleagues.
The Meaning of the Song “Makeba”
Compared to such an impressive biography, any attempt to praise the talent, courage, and civic stance of a prominent African singer pales in comparison. But Jain succeeds, especially since she does not retell the life of Miriam Makeba, but expresses her own feelings about her appearance, her charisma, and her voice with its extraordinarily rich range. Jain calls Miriam “beautiful” and “magnificent,” a woman whose voice inspires the heart and makes the feet go into a rousing dance.
And at the same time, Jain wants not only to hear Miriam Makeba sing, but also to fight with her, which is quite natural for a true daughter of France, who imagines herself to be the inspired Joan of Arc, or the symbol of the French people, the legendary Marianne, who has appeared as the most famous French actresses and singers. Jain refers to Miriam as “Maqueb’s mother,” which gives her composition credibility and intimacy, and speaks of their deep spiritual kinship. And perhaps Miriam Makeba would melt as she listened to her spiritual daughter’s confession that her “black mother’s” smile could melt a thousand years of ice and relieve “a thousand sorrows.”