By Sweet Sound of Sunrise
Miriam Makeba was born in 1932 in apartheid South Africa, where opportunities for black citizens were limited by state-imposed segregation. She started playing professionally in 1952, but had her professional breakthrough in the musical King Kong, a jazz opera about the career of South African boxer Ezekiel Dlamini. This was followed by an appearance in the documentary Come Back, Africa, which introduced her to a worldwide audience.
With some help from Harry Belafonte in launching her career – including a 1966 Grammy for a folk album the two made together – she began living and touring extensively abroad. Her testimony before the United Nations against apartheid resulted in her losing her South African citizenship and right of return to her home country. As a result, she was granted honorary citizenship in several countries. However, when living in the United States, she married civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael and was harassed by the American government. As a result, the couple moved to Guinea.
Her music was most famously exposed to the West when she appeared on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour in the late 1980s. She returned to South Africa when apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela was in office. Since then, she has been nominated Goodwill Ambassador, nominated for another Grammy, and has received the Otto Hahn Peace Medal and the Polar Music Prize. She suffered from a heart attack immediately after performing at a show in Italy on November 9, 2008, and died shortly afterward.
Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba