Miriam Makeba Biography
A short biography on Miriam Makeba, one of Africa's legends, singer and humanitarians.
She is known to millions all over the world as "Mama Africa". Miriam Makeba is a singing legend and is someone who embodies everything good about the continent of Africa. She is stately, beautiful and has a strong personality.
She is best known for her wonderful singing voice - once you have heard her singing, you will never forget her again. Internationally, the song that she is remembered for is "Pata Pata", but in South Africa her most loved song is "The Click Song".
Miriam Makeba is not only a singer with a remarkable voice. She is also a humanitarian who fearlessly speaks her mind and has never let even personal traumatic events get in her way of fighting for the rights of the oppressed.
Miriam, The Early Years:
Miriam was born on 4 March 1932 in Johannesburg, South Africa. As a young girl of thirteen, she entered a talent show at a missionary school and walked off with the first prize. 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 "Pata Pata".
The World Beckons Miriam The Singer:
Miriam found herself at a crossroad in her life in 1958. She had to choose between staying in South Africa and continue touring, or leaving for London to find international stardom. She chose the latter and her path soon crossed that of the American singer, Harry Belafonte who encouraged her to move to the United States of America.
Miriam Makeba made her US debut in November 1959 on The Steve Allen Show. She was a huge hit and soon after starred in the jazz musical, King Kong.
In 1959 Miriam won a Grammy Award for the album "An Evening With Harry Belafonte & Miriam Makeba".
Miriam became an exile in 1960 when South Africa banned her from returning to her birth country, she was deemed to be too dangerous and revolutionary, 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 only returned to South Africa thirty years later.
In 1967, more than ten years after she wrote the song, "Pata Pata" was released in the United States and became a world-wide hit.
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.
Miriam Makeba is a lady with a special touch. She has weathered many storms in her life, including several car accidents, a plane crash and even cancer. She remains as active in her latter years as she did as a young girl with stars in her eyes.
This lady has starred in films such as "Sarafina" in 1992, tours the world giving concerts, protects the weak and oppressed, receives Honorary Doctorates in Music and Art from universities throughout the world, and still has time to cut records. She has released over thirty albums over the years.
In 1988, her autobiography "Makeba - My Story" was published and subsequently was translated from English into other languages such as German, French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish. Her autobiography was even released in Japan in 1994.
She has toured with singers such as Paul Simon, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela and Dizzy Gillepsie. Her first concert in South Africa (1991) after her return home in 1990, was a huge success and this was a prelude for a world-wide tour which included the USA and Europe.
Miriam Makeba never considered herself to be a politician, but was, and still is, an activist for human rights. World leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, the Pope and François Mitterrand were always glad to receive her. Over the years she has received many international awards for her humantirianism from countries such as the USA, Libya, several European countries and eventually her birth country, South Africa. Here are just some of the awards that have been given to her over the years:
"Woman Of The Century Award" - from The Bedford Styversant Community, New York.
"Los Angeles Certificate Of Recognition In The Field Of Music" - for her humanity and perseverance against apartheid.
"Certificate Of Appreciation" - from the U.S. District of Columbia for contributing to the quality of life for the oppressed and disadvantaged.
"Corita Kent Peace Award" from Los Angeles
The President of Tunisia awarded her the highest decoration of this country for her cultural achievements and her commitment to the just African cause.
The University of Fort Hare, South Africa awards Miriam an Honorary Doctorate in Arts, for "her contribution to the unfolding culture of liberation in her birth country".
Cities from around the world have honoured her by having "Miriam Makeba Days" and giving her honory citizenship and she has even had streets named after her.
Miriam Makeba - may she live on for many more years; certainly she will never be forgotten. The lady with the golden voice and the heart of gold, Mama Africa.