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Sathima Bea Benjamin Receives Honor, Plays NYC

South African singer, composer, lyricist and band leader Sathima Bea Benjamin will receive the 2004 Silver Award for Excellence in Jazz Music, awarded by president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, in a ceremony on October 29.

Benjamin began her singing career in her late teens and eventually left South Africa for Europe in 1962. In Paris in 1963, she met Duke Ellington who was reportedly so captivated by her talent that he accompanied her (on piano) on her first recording, which was also made possible by Ellington. In 1965, Ellington invited her to swing with his band at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York and also helped her and her husband, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, move to New York City, where she still lives. She also has her own record label and has produced 10 of her own albums.

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