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Sathima Bea Benjamin Dies, Jean Grae Mourns Mother’s Death

Jean Grae Sathima Bea Benjamin
Donald Bowers, Getty Images / Afropop.org

It’s with great sadness that we report Jean Grae‘s mother, Sathima Bea Benjamin, has died. The 76-year-old legendary jazz vocalist passed away Tuesday (Aug. 21) in her homeland of Cape Town, South Africa. The cause of death is unclear at the moment.

Benjamin was a world-renowned South African vocalist who performed with jazz legends like Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. She was married to fellow jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, and was a doting mother of two children: daughter Tsidi Ibrahim (better known as Jean Grae) and son, Tsakwe.

In a 2008 interview with Hype Magazine, Grae described her mother as her musical inspiration:

“Understood and praised by jazz purists and scholars, those of us who believe in honest and beautiful music and weep at the moment a note pulls at our heartstrings. This woman is a force and the reason I do what I do. Even when I want to stop. The only reason I exist and the music that I make exists.”

Benjamin recorded several classic jazz albums including what some consider her finest effort, ‘African Songbird,’ in 1976.

In 1979, Benjamin launched her own record label, Ekapa, not long after she and her husband relocated to New York. Under her independent label, Benjamin released eight recordings, including her 1982 album, ‘Dedications,’ which was nominated for a Grammy.

Throughout her career, Benjamin was bestowed many honors, including the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver by the South African government for her artistry and work to end apartheid in her country.

We send heartfelt condolences to Jean Grae and her family. May Sathima Bea Benjamin rest eternally in peace.

Next: 10 Tragic Hip-Hop Deaths

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