The Dangerously Talented Miriam Makeba

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Parisian audiences famously rioted at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  Although often cited as evidence that the audience simply didn’t understand what they were hearing, the opposite is arguably true –they recognized the fact that they were hearing the aural equivalent of a revolution.

It is arguably a backhanded honor to have your art banned. In addition to making your work irresistible to the adolescent, the rebellious and the revolutionary, it also stands as a testament to the fact that the authorities recognize the power and the importance of what you have created. If the worst fate for an artist is to have her art disregarded and ignored, then being banned is the opposite.

Following that logic, it must be an even greater honor to be exiled, a painful and heartbreaking compliment paid to Mother Africa herself, Mirium Makeba, when her passport was cancelled in 1960, while she was away from her native South Africa on tour. In addition to being world music’s first global superstar, a powerful and transcendent performer who sang songs from every nation and genre and made them all her own, she was an outspoken advocate for the oppressed and disenfranchised.

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