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Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba

Biography

Miriam Makeba occupies a unique position in the realm of African music. She was blessed with a remarkably powerful voice, but it was her history of struggle as an African woman that ultimately defined her career. Getting her start with the Manhattan Brothers and later the Skylarks in 1950s South Africa, she began to perform and record with Harry Belafonte in 1959. She gained the world as a stage with Belafonte, but was eventually banished from her homeland for openly criticizing apartheid. In 1967, her song "Pata Pata" became a worldwide hit (even reaching No. 12 on the U.S. singles chart), but the outspoken vocalist's career was cut short in America following her marriage to black activist Stokely Carmichael. She relocated to socialist Guinea in west Africa and even addressed the U.N. General Assembly as honorary ambassador from her new country. Her prolific body of work ranges from traditional African songs to pop standards she sings in English, French and various African languages. In recent years, she was finally granted the official respect she deserved in both her homeland and the U.S. Makeba died on November 10, 2008 of a heart attack after finishing a benefit performance in Italy, prompting outpourings of sorrow from around the world. She was 76 years old.

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