Born in Johannesburg South Africa in 1932 Zenzile Miriam Makeba became a celebrated songstess and an afropop icon. Miriam Makeba, famously referred to as Mama Africa was a talented songwriter, an actor and singer who received a Grammy Award in 1965 for her musical album.
Makeba is a lesson and inspiration to many upcoming and current artists for her role in the development and growth of the of the Arts and Entertainment industry in Africa and the world at large. She spent her first 6 months of childhood in jail after her mother was imprisoned for selling South Africa’s traditional beer- umqombothi. During her time as an artist, Makeba featured in the famous film Sarafina and also played a role in the anti-apartheid film Come Back Africa and this helped her gain international recognition.
Though hated by the apartheid administration in South Africa, she was loved by many international governments making her tour many countries across the world spreading the Afropop message. She was given recognition and a life passport in various countries including Guinea, Algeria, Belgium, Ghana among others when her South African passport was cancelled by the Apartheid regime.
Miriam Makeba released over 25 musical albums during her international tours in USA, Africa and Europe. Her only daughter, Bongi who had been a singer alongside her mother died in 1985 in childbirth leaving her children Lumumba and Zenzi Lee with their grandmother in the Afropop industry.
During the African independence struggles and later celebrations, Miriam Makeba performed her songs in countries like Kenya, Namibia and Mozambique. Makeba got recognition from Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Haile Selassie and Nelson Mandela who invited her to perform in Africa’s famous events e.g the launch of the O.A.U where she was the only invited singer.
Many musicians get their motivation from this icon who died a celebrated artist for being a UN Goodwill Ambassador, popularized African musician on the world stage and also with the partnership of Grace Machel-South Africa’s 1st lady she established the Makeba Centre for Girls after the release of Nelson Mandela.
Mama Africa is remembered for her touching and educative songs including Pata pata, Malaika, Umqombothi, Africa and Hapo Zamani among others. When she felt overburdened by breast cancer, Makeba announced her retirement from music but together with her grandchildren, she held a number of international tours and unfortunately died of a heart attack during her performance in Italy. Though referred to as the late, Miriam Makeba is commonly referred to as Mama Africa, Queen of South African Music, Empress of African Song and also Africa’s First Superstar.
Africa and the world misses you Makeba but your music inspires many.