Miriam Makeba Biography
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Miriam Makeba whose full name is Zenzile Miriam Makeba was born on 4th March 1932 in Johannsburg in South Africa. She was a South African musician, actor, United Nations goodwill ambasador and civil rights activist. She died on 9th November 2008 in Castel Volturno in Italy.
Miriam Makeba Music Career
When she was young she sang in the choir of the Kilnerton Training Institute in Pretoria, a Methodist primary school that she attended for eight years.
Her professional musical career began with the South African band the Cuban Brothers, with whom she sang covers of popular American songs.
At the age of 21 she joined she joined the ‘Manhattan Brothers’, a South African jazz group, who sang a mixture of South African songs and pieces from popular African-American groups.
She later joined ‘The Skylarks’ (previously known as The Sunbeams), an all woman group, singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa.
In 1956, Gallotone Records released “Lovely Eyes”, Makeba’s first solo success, in both English and Xhosa.The record was also released in the US, and became the first South African record to chart on the Billboard Top 100.
In 1959, Makeba sang the lead female role in the Broadway-inspired South African musical King Kong.She signed with the recording label RCA Victor, and released Miriam Makeba, her first studio album, in 1960, backed by Belafonte’s band. However, RCA chose to buy out Makeba’s contract with Gallotone Records, and despite the fact that Makeba was unable to perform in South Africa, Gallotone received 45,000 US dollars in the deal, which meant that Makeba received no royalties for her debut album.
In 1963 Makeba released her second studio album for RCA, The World of Miriam Makeba. The album peaked at number eighty-six on the Billboard 200.
Miriam Makeba Apartheid
After the 1960 Sharpeville massacre Makeba became an increasingly outspoken critic of apartheid and the white minority government.
She visited Kenya in 1962, and later that year she testified before the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid about the effects of the system, asking for economic sanctions against the National Party government in South Africa. She specifically requested an arms embargo against South Africa, stating that weapons sold to the government would likely be used against black women and children. As a result, her South African citizenship and her right to return to the country were revoked. Makeba thus became a stateless individual, but she was soon issued international passports by Guinea, Belgium and Ghana.
Throughout the 1960s Miriam Makeba became more involved with the civil rights movement in the US, the Black consciousness movement, the Black power movement, and the movement against apartheid. While engaged in activist work she met Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the Black Panthers. In 1964 she testified at the UN a second time, quoting a song by Vanessa Redgrave in calling for quick action against Pretoria.
In 1990, as a result of a growing movement against apartheid within the country and increasing domestic and international pressure, State President of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk reversed the ban on the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela, who was effectively released from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February 1990, persuaded Miriam Makeba to return to South Africa. She returned home on 10 June 1990, on her French passport.
Miriam Makeba Songs
- Pata Pata
- The Click Song
- African Sunset
- Hapo Zamani
- Soweto Blues
- The Retreat Song
- Lakutshn Ilanga
- Thulasizwe / I Shall Be Released
- Sing Me A Song
- Iya Guduza
- I Shall Sing
- To Those We Love
- Pole Mze
- Where Does It Lead
- We Got To Make It
- Forbidden Games
- Beware, Verwoerd!
- The Naughty Little Flea
Miriam Makeba Awards
- 1986: Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize.
- 1996: Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording.
- 2001: Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold by the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin, “for outstanding services to peace and international understanding”.
- 2002: She shared the 2001 Polar Music Prize with Sofia Gubaidulina.
Miriam Makeba Family
Miriam Makeba’s mother Christina Makeba was a Swazi traditional healer, a sangoma, who also worked as a domestic worker. Her father, Caswell Makeba, who died when she was six years old, was a Xhosa teacher.
In 1949 she married James Kubay, a policeman in training, with whom she had her only child, Bongi Makeba, born in 1950 but passed on in 1985. Makeba was then diagnosed with breast cancer, and her husband, who was said to have beaten her, left her shortly afterwards, after a two-year marriage
Miriam Makeba was married to Hugh Nasekela from 1963 to 1968.
In 1968 she married Stokely Carmichael, Trinidad-born civil rights activist and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader. The marriage brought a lot of controversies that led to banning of Makeba from America and they settled in Ghana but they later divorced in 1973.
Miriam Makeba Death
Miriam Makeba died on 9th November 2008 in southern Italy after performing at a concert against organized crime she apparently suffered a heart attack just at the end of the concert, where she had sung for about 30 minutes to show solidarity for Italian journalist Roberto Saviano, who received death threats after writing a book about the Camorra, the Naples-area crime syndicate.