South Africa: Jazz Singer, Composer Sathima Bea Benjamin Dies

Cape Town — Renowned jazz singer and composer Sathima Bea Benjamin has died, the South African Broadcasting Corporation has reported. Sathima returned to Cape Town from New York in 2011, where she was born in 1936 – continuing to work as a vocalist.

Benjamin had toured the world, first with husband and jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim, then going on to record more than 10 albums. She became well-known in jazz and theatre circles in the early 1960s, also helping the African National Congress with fundraising concerts during the struggle for liberation.

In October 2004, South African president Thabo Mbeki bestowed upon her the Order of Ikhamanga Silver, a national honour,  in recognition for her “excellent contribution as a jazz artist” in South Africa and internationally, as well as for her contribution “to the struggle against apartheid.”

Sathima Bea Benjamin’s most recent CD, SongSpirit, was released on 17 October in celebration of her 70th birthday. A compilation record, it includes tracks from her earlier albums, starting with A Morning In Paris and going through Musical Echoes, plus a previously unreleased duet with Abdullah Ibrahim from 1973.

In 2007, Benjamin began the process of reissuing her now out-of-print back catalogue for download. Her life was the subject of a 2010 documentary film titled Sathima’s Windsong, directed by author and professor, Daniel Yon.

In December 2008, she brought an Apollo Theater crowd to their feet as the closing act of of the Jazz concert Bricktop at the Apollo, hosted by film director Jordan Walker-Pearlman.

A fortnight ago, Standard Bank Joy of Jazz awarded Benjamin with the Lifetime achievement award.

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