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    Thread: Miriam Makeba

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      Miriam Makeba


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      The Afrikan singer par excellence. Also known as Mama Afrika. She\'s a once-in-a-lifetime sound. She was the first African to win a Grammy (in 1959!), the first to have an international hit, with \"Pata Pata\" in 1967. She\'s an icon in her native South Africa.
      Born in 1932 in South Afica, Makeba\'s life has been consistently marked by struggle. As the daughter of a sangoma, a mystical traditional healer of the Xhosa tribe, she spent six months of her birth year in jail with her mother.
      She first came to the public\'s attention as a featured vocalist with the Manhattan Brothers in 1954. She soon left to record with her all-woman group the Skylarks while touring Southern Africa with Alf Herberts\' African Jazz and Variety.

      In 1959, Makeba\'s incredible voice help win her the role of the female lead in the show, King Kong, a Broadway-inspired South African musical. She then went to conquer America where she sang at President Kennedy\'s birthday and worked in New York with Harry Belafonte creating such classics as \"The Click Song\" and \"Pata Pata\".

      Makeba\'s successes as a vocalist were also balanced by her outspoken views about apartheid. In 1960, the government of South Africa revoked her citizenship. For the next thirty years, she was forced to be a \'citizen of the world.\' Makeba received the Dag Hammerskjold Peace Prize in 1968. After marrying Black Phanter leader Stokely Carmichael, many of her concerts were cancelled, and her recording contract with RCA was dropped, resulting in even more problems for the artist. After harassment by U.S. authorities she fled to exile in Guinea and agreed to serve as Guinea\'s delegate to the United Nations. In 1964 and 1975, she addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on the horrors of apartheid.

      Makeba returned to world prominence when she performed with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour. Finally in the late 1980\'s she returned to her homeland as a free South African.

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      Miriam Makeba
      She is a South African singer, entertainer, and activist.

      From Prospect, South Africa, throughout her life and singing career, Miriam Zenzi Makeba has used her voice to draw the attention of the world to the music of South Africa and to its oppressive system of racial separation, apartheid. For eight years she attended the Kilmerton Training School in Pretoria, where she sang in the school choir. During her teenage years, Makeba helped her mother with the domestic work she did for white families.

      She also pursued singing and, in 1950, joined an amateur Johannesburg group called the Cuban Brothers. In 1954, a successful professional South African group, the Black Manhattan Brothers, noticed her. Eventually she left with the group in 1957 to become a member of a touring revue show, African Jazz and Variety. With her appearance in the semi-documentary antiapartheid film Come Back, Africa 1959, Makeba drew the attention of international audiences. That same year, Makeba traveled to London where she met African-American performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, who had requested a private screening of the film.

      Belafonte became her sponsor and promoter in the United States. Through him, she appeared on the Steve Allen Show, which led to nightclubs around New York City and recordings of South Africa music. Some songs became hits in the United States, including Patha Patha, Malaika, and The Click Song. Her music also contained a political component, the denunciation of apartheid, which earned Makeba the hostility of the South African government, who revoked her passport when she attempted to return for her mother’s funeral in 1960. Makeba pressed on and, in 1963, she addressed a United Nations special committee on apartheid, characterizing South Africa as "a nightmare of police brutality and government terrorism."

      Her marriage to African-American civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael (now Kwame Ture) derailed her career in the United States. The entertainment industry virtually blacklisted Makeba. According to one account, her record company never called her in to record again after the marriage. She and Carmichael eventually moved to Guinea in West Africa. Makeba’s career continued outside of the United States, however, during the 1970s and 1980s she toured Europe, South America, and Africa appearing regularly at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Berlin Jazz Festival, and the Northsea Jazz Festival.

      In 1977 she traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to serve as the unofficial South African representative at Festac, a Pan-African festival of arts and culture. In 1982 "Mother Africa," as she was known, reunited with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, to whom Makeba was married from 1964 to 1966. Continuing her activism, in 1975, she served a term as a United Nations delegate from Guinea. In addition, she was awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986. In 1987, Makeba performed on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour. She finally returned to South Africa in 1990.


      **
      Following a three decade long exile, Miriam Makeba’s return to South Africa was celebrated as though a queen was restoring her monarchy. The response was fitting as Makeba remains the most important female vocalist to emerge out of South Africa. Hailed as The Empress Of African Song and Mama Africa, Makeba helped bring African music to a global audience in the 1960s. Nearly five decades after her debut with the Manhattan Brothers, she continues to play an important role in the growth of African music.

      Makeba’s life has been consistently marked by struggle. As the daughter of a sangoma, a mystical traditional healer of the Xhosa tribe, she spent six months of her birth year in jail with her mother. Gifted with a dynamic vocal tone, Makeba recorded her debut single, "Lakutshona Llange," as a member of the Manhattan Brothers in 1953. Although she left to form an all-female group named the Skylarks in 1958, she reunited with members of the Manhattan Brothers when she accepted the lead female role in a musical version of King Kong, which told the tragic tale of Black African boxer, Ezekiel "King Kong" Dlamani, in 1959. The same year, she began an 18 month tour of South Africa with Alf Herbert’s musical extravaganza, African Jazz And Variety, and made an appearance in a documentary film, Come Back Africa. These successes led to invitations to perform in Europe and the United States.

      Makeba was embraced by the African-American community. "Pata Pata," Makeba’s signature tune was written by Dorothy Masuka and recorded in South Africa in 1956 before eventually becoming a major hit in the U.S. in 1967. In late-1959, she performed for four weeks at the Village Vanguard in New York. She later made a guest appearance during Harry Belafonte’s ground-breaking concerts at Carnegie Hall. A double-album of the event, released in 1960, received a Grammy award. Makeba has continued to periodically renew her collaboration with Belafonte, releasing an album in 1972 titled Miriam Makeba and Harry Belafonte. Makeba then made a special guest appearance at the Harry Belafonte Tribute at Madison Square Garden in 1997.

      Makeba’s successes as a vocalist were also balanced by her outspoken views about apartheid. In 1960, the government of South Africa revoked her citizenship. For the next thirty years, she was forced to be a 'citizen of the world.' In 1964 and 1975, she addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on the horrors of apartheid. Makeba received the Dag Hammerskjold Peace Prize in 1968. After marrying radical Black activist Stokely Carmichael, many of her concerts were cancelled, and her recording contract with RCA was dropped, resulting in even more problems for the artist. She eventually relocated to Guinea at the invitation of president Sekou Toure, but remained a harsh critic of apartheid. Agreeing to serve as Guinea’ s delegate to the United Nations, she twice addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations.

      Makeba remained active as a musician over the years. In 1975, she recorded an album, A Promise, with Joe Sample, Stix Hooper, Arthur Adams, and David T. Walker of the Crusaders. Makeba joined Paul Simon and South Africa ’s Ladysmith Black Mambazo during their world-wide Graceland tour in 1987 and 1988. Two years later, she joined Odetta and Nina Simone for the One Nation tour.

      Makeba published her autobiography, Miriam: My Story, in English in 1988 and had it subsequently translated and published in German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Japanese. Following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, Makeba returned to South Africa in December 1990. She performed her first concert in her homeland in thirty years in April 1991. Makeba appeared in South African award-winning musical, Sarafina, in the role of Sarafina’s mother in 1992. Two years later, she reunited with her first husband, trumpeter Hugh Masakela, for the Tour Of Hope tour. In 1995, Makeba formed a charity organization to raise funds to help protect the women of South Africa. The same year, she performed at the Vatican’s Nevi Hall during a world-wide broadcasted show, Christmas In The Vatican. Makeba’s first studio album in a decade, Homeland, was released in 2000.
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