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Miriam Makeba's 81st birthday: 10 things to know

IBNLive.com
Mar 04, 2013 at 11:09am IST

New Delhi: Commemorating Miriam Makeba's 81st birthday, Google has posted a doodle. But who was Miriam Makeba? Here are some interesting facts about Miriam Makeba:

1. She came from humble beginnings in a shantytown near Johannesburg. The former domestic servant first started to sing in her school choir and learned new songs by listening to recordings of American jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald.

2. "Throughout her life, Mama Makeba communicated a positive message to the world about the struggle of the people of South Africa and the certainty of victory over the dark forces of apartheid colonialism through the art of song," said Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Miriam Makeba's 81st birthday: 10 things to know

Commemorating Miriam Makeba's 81st birthday, Google has posted a doodle. But who was Miriam Makeba? Here are some interesting facts about Miriam Makeba.

3. Makeba spent 31 years in exile after speaking out against apartheid. One of her songs demanded the release of Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail for fighting white-minority rule. She returned home in 1990.

4. Makeba also always stressed her African pride through her hairstyles and traditional clothes.

5. Mixing jazz with traditional African sounds, Makeba punctuated some songs with the clicks of her Xhosa language, creating classics such as "The Click Song" and "Pata Pata".

6. Makeba won attention on the international stage as lead singer for the South African band The Manhattan Brothers. In New York, she worked with Harry Belafonte. While she won over millions on the stage, Makeba's personal life was marred by tragedy. Makeba had said her first husband often beat her, and she left him after finding him in bed with her sister.

7. Makeba married American "black power" activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968 and they moved to the West African country of Guinea, but later split. She was divorced four times.

8. South African singer Miriam Makeba, one of Africa's best known voices and a champion of the fight against apartheid during three decades in exile, died of a heart attack after a concert in Italy. She was 76. Makeba fell ill after a concert against organised crime in the southern Italian town of Baia Verde late on Sunday, her publicist said. She died after being rushed to a clinic in the town of Castel Volturno.

9. Known as "Mama Africa" and the "Empress of African Song", Makeba was the first black South African musician to gain international fame, winning renown in the 1950s for her sweeping vocals. She was loathed by South Africa's white minority rulers. Former South African President and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela paid homage to the singer, calling her "South Africa's first lady of song" and saying her music inspired hope.

10. She was the first black woman to speak at the United Nations, in 1963, and gained her nickname 'Mama Africa' for the way she brought together the African continent and the attention she brought it from the rest of the world.

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