Miriam Makeba


Miriam Makeba was born in Johannesburg (4 March 1932). Her mother was a Swazi sangoma and her father, who died when she was six, was Xhosa.
Her professional career began in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers, before she formed her own group, The Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa.
In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela, her future husband. Though she was a successful recording artist, she was only receiving a few Rand for each recording session and no provisional royalties, and was keen to go to the United States.
Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa (1960). When the Italian government invited her to the premier of the film at the Venice Film Festival, she decided privately not to return home. Her South African passport was revoked shortly afterwards.
Makeba then travelled to London where she met Harry Belafonte who assisted her in gaining entry and fame in the United States.
She released many of her most famous hits there including ‘Pata Pata’, ‘The Click Song’ (‘Qongqothwane’ in Xhosa), and ‘Malaika’.
In 1963, after an impassioned testimony before the United Nations Committee Against Apartheid, her records were banned in South Africa and her South African citizenship and her right to return to the country were revoked.
In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for ‘An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba’. The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid.
Her marriage to Trinidadian civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968 caused controversy in the United States, and her record deals and tours were cancelled.
Lekker Links
1966 Concert
The Leopard Man’s African Music Guide
Listen to an extract of The Click Song Abdullah Ibrahim; Dolly Rathebe; Hugh Masekela; Letta Mbulu
 As a result of this, the couple moved to Guinea, where they became close with President Ahmed Sékou Touré and his wife. Makeba separated from Carmichael in 1973, and continued to perform primarily in Africa, South America and Europe. She also served as a Guinean delegate to the United Nations, for which she won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986.
After the death of her only daughter Bongi Makeba in 1985, she moved to Brussels. In 1987 she appeared in Paul Simon’s Graceland tour. Shortly thereafter she published her autobiography Makeba: My Story.
Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return to South Africa in 1990. In 1992 she starred in the South African film Sarafina!, about the 1976 Soweto youth uprisings, as the title character’s mother, Angelina.
In 2002 she shared the Polar Music Prize with Sofia Gubaidulina. In 2004, Makeba was voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans.
Copyright
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation Licence. It uses material from the Wikipedia article ‘Miriam Makeba’
The Click Song
This song was made famous by Miriam Makeba and incorporates many of the tongue clicks typical of isiXhosa. There are only 2 lines to the song which are repeated and roughly translated they mean:
The Witchdoctor, who is a black beetle, is coming to be in our village.
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
ubeqabe legqithapho ahi uqo ngqotwane
ubeqabe legqithapho ahi uqo ngqotwane
ubeqabe legqithapho ahi uqo ngqotwane
ubeqabe legqithapho ahi uqo ngqotwane
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
Igqira lendlela nguqo ngqotwane
(Words and music by The Manhattan Brothers)


Latest posts

  • Johnny Clegg

    Jonathan (Johnny) Clegg was born June 7, 1953 in Rochdale near Manchester in England. Already in his youth, Johnny Clegg, a white, English-speaking person with what he called a ‘secular Jewish’ upbringing in Britain, Israel, Zimbabwe and South Africa, became interested in Zulu street music and took part in traditional Zulu dance competitions. As a […]

    Read more

  • Wessels

    Away fro city life… I met a European couple (the guy from the Netherlands and the girl from UK) in Australia a couple of years ago. They are now planning to come visit South Africa later this year and I thought it may be useful for European travellers to hear a South African’s opinion of […]

    Read more

  • how many months income do you need for a mortgage in south africa

    It is a common misconception that you need a large deposit to get a mortgage in South Africa. You can actually get a mortgage with a deposit of as little as 3% of the purchase price. However, the size of your deposit will affect the interest rate you are offered and the amount you will […]

    Read more