Mandela pays tribute to Makeba

Nelson Mandela on Monday paid tribute to singer and fellow anti-apartheid icon Miriam Makeba, calling her "South Africa's first lady of song.""The sudden passing of our beloved Miriam has saddened us and our nation, " the former South African president and Nobel laureate said.

"It was fitting that her last moments were spent on a stage, enriching the hearts and lives of others - and again in support of a good cause, " he added.

Makeba, 76, collapsed shortly after a performance in southern Italy on Sunday evening and died in hospital early Monday. Her performance had also meant to pay homage to six African killed by a Mafia-like organization in Italy in September.

"Her haunting melodies gave a voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years. At the same time her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us, " Mandela said.

Makeba began her musical career in South Africa in the 1950s but left the country a decade later after she was banned by the apartheid government.

After his release from prison as apartheid began crumbling, Mandela urged exiles like the Grammy Award-winning Makeba and her ex- husband jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela to return to the country.

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