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THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 8: South African singer Miriam Makeba performs on stage at The North Sea Jazz Festival on July 8 1984 in The Hague, Netherlands.

South African Poet Mandisa Vundla to Pay Homage to the Late 'Mama Africa'

Mandisa Vundla is set to release a collaborative poetry album this year which honours the legacy of the late veteran South African singer, Miriam Makeba.

Soweto-born South African poet and founder of the Poetry Zone ZA, Mandisa Vundla, is reportedly set to release a collaborative poetry album later this year titled A Love Song for Miriam. The poetry album honours the legacy of the late veteran South African singer, Miriam Makeba, who passed away thirteen years ago and whose birthday was at the beginning of this month.


READ: Film: 'Mama Africa' An Unforgettable Portrait Of Miriam Makeba

A description of the upcoming poetry album reads as follow:

"The poetry album is a collaboration of poetry and music and is composed in Makeba's honor. Poems such as Black-Out, Uyinene, Bloody Alphabet and the likes, are dribbled between jazz, a touch of the blues and African sounds. The album lends voice to the current state of emergency where black lives and woman's bodies are under siege. It moves between making salutations 'For Gogo Ester Mahlangu' to probing how "black men want to fight for land without returning women's bodies from the places where they have stolen us." And continues to ask: "Whose job is it to teach the men that no grows its own body?""

While Vundla's poetry album will only be released around the middle of the year, she will release the same-titled single on World Poetry Day (March 21st). Additionally the poet has called on other South African poets including Lebo Mashile, Makhosazana Xaba, MoAfrika wa Mokgathi and several others to share the varied ways in which Makeba influenced them creatively. These stories are set to be archived on the Poetry Zone ZA.

Makeba's influence continues even almost a decade after her passing. The legendary songstress was certainly in the same league as fellow veteran musicians Hugh Masekela, Oliver Mtukudzi, Jonas Gwangwa (and multiple others)—all of whom have since passed away. Most recently, Makeba's "Pata Pata" was reworked by Beninese singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo, in collaboration with UNICEF, in order to raise awareness around COVID-19 last year.

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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