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Miriam Makeba

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South Africa (1932 – 2008)

Miriam Makeba, also known as Mama Africa, was beyond dispute one of South Africa’s true legends. Born March 4, 1932 in Johannesburg, Miriam Makeba was barely 21 years old when she, as a member of the Manhattan Brothers, reached for the stars in her home country. It didn’t take long before Miriam Makeba’s career was brought to another level. In 1966 she received a Grammy Award for the album An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Miriam Makeba, making her the first African artist to win a Grammy. Her star rose further when she released her 1967 globally acclaimed Pata Pata, including the worldwide hit “Qongqothwane” (better known as the ‘Click Song’). Shortly thereafter she published her autobiography .

Miriam Makeba used her voice to entertain, but also to give a voice to millions of oppressed fellow South Africans who suffered as a result of apartheid. The price she had to pay for her actions was high, namely her South African citizenship. After she appeared, in 1960, in the an anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa, the South African regime banned her from returning to her home country and took away her citizenship.

This event didn’t stop her from continuing to raise her voice against the apartheid regime. Between 1964 and 1975, as a United Nations delegate of Guinea where she was granted asylum, Miriam Makeba addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations regularly on the tragic developments in South Africa.

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