Miriam Makeba Google logo, South African singer best known for Pata Pata
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 28 seconds
Maybe you know the song Pata Pata and if not you probably will recognize the song when you hear it, it was a worldwide hit in 1967 after it was wrote ten years earlier. The singer of the song was the South African Miriam Makeba who Google honours globally on Monday with a static logo. Miriam Makeba, also called Mama Africa and a civil rights activist was born on March 4, 1932 in Johannesburg and would have turned 81 years on Monday. Her mother was a Swazi sangoma and her father was a Xhosa. The Xhosa are a people living in south-east South Africa, Nelson Mandela is the most famous Xhosa.
When Miriam Makeba was just eighteen days old her mother was arrested for selling Umqombothi, an African homemade beer. She received a sentence of six months and so Miriam lived her first six months in jail. Her father died when she was only six years old. She started early with singing, Makeba joined the choir of the Kilmerton Training Institute in Pretoria where she studied for eight years. At the age of seventeen she gave birth to her first child, Bongi Makeba, a baby girl. Unfortunately shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with breast cancer and the father of the child, James Kubay left her and their daughter soon after.
The professional career of Miriam Makeba started in the 50s. As a jazz singer, she initially was part of the South African jazz group the Manhattan Brothers but Makeba left the group in order to proceed with The Skylarks, a group of only women who sung a combination of jazz and traditional South African melodies. In 1956 the song Pata Pata was released and because almost all radio stations in South Africa played the song Miriam Makeba acquired great fame throughout the country. It took more than ten years before the song was a worldwide hit.
During here career show won a Grammy in 1966 for the album An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba made with Harry Belafonte. She became increasingly known and various numbers grew to hits such as The Click Song and Malaika. Time called her the “most exciting new singing talent to Appear in many years” and Newsweek compared her to Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. She could even perform for President John F. Kennedy but she cancelled at the last moment because she was ill, Kennedy wanted to speak to here so he send a car to bring her to him.
On November 10, 2008 Miriam Makeba died at the age of 76 of a heart attack after a concert against the Camorra (mafia) organized by Roberto Saviano in the Italian town of Castel Volturno in the province of Caserta. Although she was rushed to the hospital the doctors couldn’t revive here. Three days earlier, she performed in Amsterdam. Below a video of Pata Pata performed live.