Born on 4th March, 1932 in Johannesburg,Miriam Makeba as a young girl of thirteenentered a talent show at a missionary schoolwhere she came first. She was often invited to sing at weddings, and her popularity grew in leaps and bounds as more and more people became dazzled by her talent. In 1952 she was chosen to sing for The Manhattan Brothers and toured South Africa with them. As early as 1956, she wrote and released the song "PataPata".
She received invitations to visit Europe and America, where Harry Belafonte and Steve Allen picked an interest in herandso began her journey to stardom. 1959 saw her becoming the first South African to win a Grammy award for the album 'An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Miriam Makeba'.
During the apartheid era in South Africa, Miriam's music was seen as a provocation by thegovernment; she was deemed to be too dangerous and revolutionaryso banned from returning to her birth country - this was after she had appeared in an anti-apartheid documentary, entitled "Come Back Africa", and this upset the then white apartheid government of South Africa. Miriam returned to South Africa thirty years later.
In 1967, more than ten years after the song, "PataPata" was released in the United States, she became a hit worldwide. It has since been re-recorded by numerous international artists. Miriam was a darling of the American public, but they turned against her when she married the radical black activist, Stokely Carmichael, in 1968. Once again, she was at the receiving end of a dissatisfied and disgruntled country. Although the United States never banned her, her US concerts and recording contracts were suddenly cancelled.
She moved back to Africa, this time to Guinea where she was welcomed with open arms. Miriam continued to record songs and toured intensively. She was well respected by the government of Guinea and was asked to address the United Nations General Assembly as a Guinean delegate. She twice addressed the General Assembly, speaking out against the evils of apartheid.
She had always regarded herself as a singer and not as a politician, but Miriam's fearless humanitarianism had earned her many International awards, including the 1986 Dag Hammerskjold Peace Prize and the UNESCO Grand Prix du Conseil International de la Musique. Makeba is also known for having inspired an enduring fashion in the 60's when the slogan "black is beautiful" was launched:
She was received by such world leaders as Hailé Selassie, Fidel Castro, John F. Kennedy and François Mitterrand. She has toured with singers such as Paul Simon, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela and Dizzy Gillepsie. The ban on her records was lifted in South Africa in 1988 and she returned to her homeland in December 1990. Four years later she started a charity project to raise funds to protect women in South Africa. Her first concert in South Africa (1991) was a huge success and this was a prelude for a world-wide tour which included the USA and Europe.
With over thirty albumsto her name, Makeba's powerful and distinctive voice retains the clarity and range that enables it to be both forceful as a protest march and as poignant as an African lullaby.
Miriam was lovingly known as MamaAfrica, a lady with a special touch. She weathered many storms in her life, including several car accidents, a plane crash and even cancer. She remained as active in her latter years as she did as a starry-eyed young girl.
On 9 November 2008, she became ill while taking part in a concert being held in Castel Volturno, Italy. Miriam suffered a heart attack after singing her most famous song "PataPata", and was rushed to a clinic where doctors were unable to revive her.
Her exceptional personal and artistic achievements were part of the history of the 20th century, and the dramatic elements of her extraordinary life made Miriam Makeba a living legend.