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South African Miriam Makeba, aka Mama Africa, is known as much for her activism on behalf of human rights as she is for singing. After speaking out against apartheid at the United Nations in 1964, she was barred from returning to her homeland for nearly three decades. Moving to the United States with her then-husband, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, she benefited from the support of Harry Belafonte, and, in 1967, became the highest-charting African artist ever in the American hit parade when her single “Pata Pata” reached No. 12. In 1968, her marriage to Black Power advocate Stokely Carmichael again put her in the political spotlight. Makeba’s record company dropped her, and many American venues refused to book her performances. At the invitation of the president of Guinea, she moved there and became that country’s delegate to the United Nations. She continued to tour and record intermittently and was finally able to return home after the dissolution of apartheid in 1990. On Homeland, her first new studio album in six years, the 68-year-old Makeba shows she still has her vocal gifts. Although the disc disappoints with its overproduction and reliance on bland, middle-of-the-road ballads, Makeba manages to shine regardless—alternately wailing in a township-jazz-meets-Broadway bellow and cooing softly in a lullaby-sweet tone. Find out how she sounds without all the studio gimmickry at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 10, at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $39.50. (703) 549-7500. (Steve Kiviat)