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Miriam Makeba. "Pata Pata" and "Soweto Blues" Printer friendly page Print This
By Miriam Makeba. Axis of Logic commentary
African Heritage. Axis of Logic
Thursday, Jan 17, 2013

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba was born in Johannesburg in 1932 and was the first African singer to make African music popular in the US and Europe. She campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and the government revoked her citizenship and right to return home. Her mother, a Swazi sangoma (traditional healer-herbalist) was arrested for selling umqombothi, an African homemade beer brewed from malt and cornmeal when Miriam was an infant so she spent the first six months of her life in jail. Her mother died during her exile, which she laments in the second video below, "Mama Africa." Her father died when she was six years old. She finally returned home after
the end of apartheid and she died on tour in Italy in 2008 after a concert organized to support a writer-dissident.

Makeba and Dizzy Gillespie
Calvados, France, 1991

Miriam became known as "Mama Africa" and was probably best known as a singer for her song, "Pata Pata." The first video below is a live recording of her performance of Pata Pata in Holland in 1979. Her granddaughter Zenzi joins her at the end of the performance and Zenzi's mother, Bongi Makeba, is one of the backup vocalists (in the blue dress). In the second video, "Mama Africa," Miriam sings Soweto Blues and speaks of Mandela asking her to come home after he was released from prison.

- Axis of Logic


  1. Miriam Makeba official website
  2. Rudo Mungoshi, "Hamba kahle, Mama Africa", Joburg official website
  3. All Music

Mama Africa tells of her return home and sings Soweto Blues

More about Mama Africa

Dr. Y writes on African Heritage :

Miriam Makeba in Concert
"Dear all, today we will be talking about a great true African legend: Miriam Makeba! Well… where should I start? Zenzile Miriam Makeba, affectionately named Mama Africa was a singer who truly showed that music had no boundaries, and that music could be used as a platform to launch a revolution; above all, if you are passionate and excel in something, you can always do great things! Miriam Makeba started as a singer in South Africa, and was even married to the great South African trumpetist
Hugh Masekela at one point. This woman sang about her love for her country, her people, and the struggle of her people. Like she said herself: “I was never politically involved. People always think that I’m political or that I sing politics, but I’m not. I just speak the truth. When I say we’re oppressed, I’m not lying. I’m glad I’ve been vindicated, in a way. I could have been in parliament, but I’m not a politician, I’m a singer. I love to sing, that’s what makes me happy” Miriam was a true warrior dedicated to the liberation of African people.


Miriam Makeba on the cover of her album Pata Pata

Miriam Makeba was never allowed the right to return home for 30 years by the apartheid government (from 1960-1990). She was not able to go to her mother’s funeral. Her song Welela is about a child yearning for her mother. In 1961, she sang at President Kennedy’s birthday, as she puts it: “I was the only foreign artist among the big giants of America paying tribute to him.” She spoke at the United Nations in New York, where she said: “I ask all the leaders of the world: would you act differently, would you keep silent and do nothing if you were in our place, would you not resist if you were allowed no right in your own country because the color of your skin was different from the color of the rulers?” Her records were subsequently banned in South Africa. She used her fame to let the world know about the suffering of Black South Africans. Her most popular songs include Pata Pata, the Click Song, and her beautiful rendition of Malaika! She later sang about the Soweto uprising (1976) in her title “Soweto Blues” written for her by Hugh Masekela.

"When Miriam married the Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, her shows were canceled in the USA, as the FBI was after him. She picked up her bags with her husband and went to Guinea, where president Sekou Toure allowed them in. She even had a Guinean passport and was a United Nations ambassador for Guinea!


True African Beauty

She was finally allowed to return to South Africa after Nelson Mandela got out of jail. He actually asked her to come back… So 30 years later, this great woman of power return to her country after losing her mother, and only daughter Bongi Makeba. I have attached this beautiful documentary. Please watch and celebrate a strong African Woman… a legend, a woman who loved her people so much that she sang about it, and spoke about it at the United Nations. In later years, she has also been an FAO ambassador (to fight hunger), United Nations Goodwill ambassador, and opened a girls’ school in South Africa for orphans, girls who have been raped, etc…

"In a way, even though Miriam Makeba lost her only child, she was a mother to all of us, and fought for all South African, and African children. Thank you Beautiful Mama Africa. God loves you! We have to continue your legacy of strong African women, and legends!"

Visit African Heritage, a great website for more on
African Art, Culture, Economy, People, Science and more




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