Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba was born on March 4th 1932 in Johannesburg, and was a very influential and famous South African singer. She began singing at a very young age and in the 1950s she sang with the Manhattan Brothers, a South African jazz group. As time passed she grew in popularity and created The Skylarks, an all woman music group that produced their first hit single, Pata Pata.  The song birds represented a new genre that went against apartheid and the repressive nature of the government.  The ‘Pata Pata’ is a song that sexually satirizes the strict police and their methods of frisking.  Not only were their lyrics antiapartheid, but their dance style of ‘Patha Patha’ was a  sensual jive that also went against the strictly traditional apartheid limitations.

As Miriam Makeba toured internationally, she represented her anti-apartheid sentiments strongly through her music. Her growing popularity and strong anti-apartheid campaign lead to her exile from South Africa. When Pata Pata was released internationally it gained incredible worldwide popularity, making Miriam Makeba an even bigger star. Although she was a big hit in the United States, upon divorcing her husband Hugh Masekela and marrying Stokely Carmichael, a civil rights activist and black panther, her tours and record deals in the US were canceled. Makeba and her husband then moved to Guinea where she continued playing and touring internationally. At the time of her death in 2008 Miriam Makeba had won a Grammy, released over 30 albums, created “the Afro-look”, been named “Mama Africa” and she had become famous for being an incredible musician as well as a strong anti-apartheid activist. (1) (2) (3)

Miriam Makeba had appeared in an anti-apartheid documentary which marked Makeba’s big break. This not only proved to be a boost for her musical career, but also a boost for the anti-apartheid movement.  Makeba had campaigned against apartheid and spoke against it before the United Nations, which lead to her exile from South Africa in 1963.  She was without a home country, yet many countries stepped in to adopt her into theirs.  Makeba was one of the first to popularize African music in the U.S and did not stop there.  Due to her music as well as her campaign against apartheid, she gained citizenship to several different countries.  Although she was exiled, she did not cease to make music.  Makeba was able to return to South Africa in the late 1980s.  (1) (2)

Miriam Makeba – “Pata Pata”



(1)  “Miriam Makeba.” African Music Encyclopedia. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <http://africanmusic.org/artists/makeba.html>.

(2)  “Miriam Makeba Biography – Albums.” Wrasse Records – Homepage. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www.wrasserecords.com/Miriam_Makeba_13/biography.html>.

(3) Credit to Elena Wong

(4)  “Pata Pata by Miriam Makeba.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Web. 30 April. 2007. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-VrfadKbco>.


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