Google is celebrating the 81st birthday of Grammy-award winner Miriam Makeba or as she was fondly known as, Mama Africa by dedicating a doodle to the legendary singer. The doodle depicts traditional African art in the background and Miriam in her famous traditional attire singing.
The first artist to popularize African music in the US and around the world, Miriam Makeba was born on March 4 1932 at Johannesburg, South Africa and after a turbulent childhood started her singing career in the 1950s. She was first featured in a Jazz group called the Manhattan Brothers and from there went on to join an all-women group called The Skylarks. It is with this band that she recorded the single ‘Pata Pata’ which to date is her most famous song and made her a household name in her country.The song which means ‘touch touch’ in English has since then been covered by many artists around the world.
Besides being a singer, Miriam was also a civil rights activist and actively campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. Her campaigns against the government resulted in an exile from her own country which lasted nearly 30 years and only returned after Nelson Mandela emerged as the country’s new leader in the 1990s.
During her exile though her fame grew in the US and other European countries. In the US, she released quite a few music albums like The Many Voices of Miriam Makeba, Miriam Makeba, The World of Miriam Makeba and Pata Pata among others. Her fame grew with every album and five years after her exile, she became the first African woman to win a Grammy Award, which she shared with Belafonte for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. It was the first US-produced album to feature authentic Zulu and Swahili music, a milestone in the world music genre.
She continued her career after returning home too and on November 9 2008, after wrapping up a concert in Italy, she passed away. Makeba had suffered a heart attack after singing her hit song ‘Pata Pata’.