Miriam Makeba died last night.


What a career she had, and what a life. I became familiar with her music through the song "Pata Pata," which was a big hit when I was a little kid, and through her work with jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela. My jazz trumpeter dad was a fan of his, and of many types of world music, come to think of it, and I had free reign over his record collection. I knew very little of South Africa when I was small, had some vague hazy idea of apartheid, which I somehow linked in my baby brain with the civil rights struggles here that I would see on the news. I don't know that I ever asked anyone why this was happening, or if it would ever stop.

I think about Miriam, denied her homeland for 30 years, denied going to her own mother's funeral. I think about the amazing resources of the human spirit, and the joy and healing of music that crosses all cultures, all boundaries. Music can come from joy or pain; it is such a primal, basic human response, maybe even a need. It can ease sorrow, pass time, make something good greater, and bring people together. Miriam was able to transcend her own very substantial obstacles in life to bring her talent and message to others. I find this deeply honorable, and it touches me. It is one thing to suffer and survive; another much greater thing to find a way to thrive.

How it comes to pass that a displaced South African woman can make a preschooler in rural Wisconsin dance to her wonderful music is quite something, is it not? Music traveled that far, all the way from Miriam to Marianne. Thank you, Miriam.