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  • WDCH
  • Dec. 8, 2004
  • Program Features World Music Pioneer's Unique Blend of Musical Styles


    Legendary South African vocalist Miriam Makeba fills the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the vibrant sounds of her native land on Wednesday, December 18, at 8 p.m., as the Los Angeles Philharmonic kicks off its 2004/2005 World Music series. Known as "Mama Africa," Makeba is the first black South African to attain international stardom and is credited with introducing the world to her native country's bountiful musical riches during the 1960s and '70s, opening the door for other African artists. A noted pioneer, she blended different styles long before the term "world music" was coined.

    In a career that spans more than five decades and includes more than a dozen recordings, Makeba, a human rights activist who was exiled from her homeland for 30 years due to her anti-apartheid actions, continues to delight international audiences with her warm and engaging personality and her repertoire of traditional Xhosa, Zulu, and Bantu songs, folk music, and jazz-influenced pop. She released her most recent CD, Reflections, to great critical acclaim in June 2004, at age 73.

    For her Disney Hall engagement, Makeba appears with an eight-piece band featuring Alain Agbo, guitar; Raymond Doumbe, bass; Nelson Lee, keyboards and musical director; Zenzi Lee, vocals; Zamokuhle Mbutho, vocals; Afrika Mkhize, piano; Innocent Modiba, vocals; and Bangukwazi Shange, drums and percussion.

    Upcoming performances in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's World Music series include a bluegrass program featuring bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolin player Chris Thile on January 24, 2005, 8 p.m. The Masters of Persian Music take center stage on February 26, 2005, 8 p.m. The series concludes on April 2, 2005, 8 p.m.
    with the renowned Kronos Quartet and vocalist Emil Zrihan performing the music of Osvaldo Golijov, who has collaborated on more than 30 works with Kronos Quartet.

    Shortly after MIRIAM MAKEBA began her singing career in early 1950, her powerful voice secured her the principal female role in the South Africa's Broadway-inspired musical King Kong. She went on to capture the collective heart of America, singing for President Kennedy at his 1959 birthday party in Madison Square Garden and working in New York with Harry Belafonte penning such hits as "Pata Pata" and "The Click Song."

    Born in 1932 in Johannesburg, this musical treasure and Grammy Award-winner first came to the public's attention as a featured vocalist with a local favorite called the Manhattan Brothers. She soon left to record with her all-woman group, the Skylarks, while touring Southern Africa with Alf Herberts' African Jazz and Variety. This tour led to invitations to perform in Europe and then America, where Makeba came upon an emerging folk scene that was looking to Africa and Latin America for inspiration. In 1963, after testifying about apartheid before the United Nations, the South African government revoked her citizenship. Harry Belafonte assisted Makeba in immigrating to America where the African-American community embraced her and where she found camaraderie among the likes of Nina Simone and Odetta.

    The "Empress of African Song" was the first Black performer to leave South Africa because of apartheid and was the first African singer to attain global renown. She remained in the U.S. and married Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, but after harassment in the U.S. - including the cancellation of concerts and her RCA recording contract - they fled to Guinea, West Africa at the invitation of President Sekou Toure. Makeba returned to world prominence in 1987 when she performed with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour. In 1990, 30 years after being exiled, she finally returned to her homeland as a free South African. Among her numerous recordings are Forbidden Games, The Voice Of Africa, and The World Of Miriam Makeba on RCA, and The Click Song on various labels.



    Walt Disney Concert Hall

    111 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

    Miriam Makeba

    Miriam Makeba, vocals

    Alain Agbo, guitar

    Raymond Doumbe, bass

    Nelson Lee, keyboards/musical director

    Zenzi Lee, vocals

    Zamokuhle Mbutho, vocals

    Afrika Mkhize, piano

    Innocent Modiba, vocals

    Bangukwazi Shange, drums/percussion

    Tickets ($25 - $80) are on sale now at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office, online at, or via credit card phone order at 323.850.2000. A limited number of $10 rush tickets for seniors and full time students may be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall box office two hours prior to the performance. Valid identification is required; one ticket per person; cash only. Groups of 12 or more may be eligible for special discounts for selected concerts and seating areas. For all information, please call 323.850.2000.

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  • Contact:

    Libby Huebner, 562.799.6055; Rachelle Roe, 213.972.7310; photos: 213.972.3034