South African diva Miriam Makeba is well known throughout the world as Mama Africa and the Empress of African Song. She is African music's first and foremost world star. She is a pioneer who played her early songs and blended different styles long before anyone even began to talk about world music. Her record production is spread across many companies all over the world - so far and wide that it's difficult to get a panoramic view of it. But no collection of African music should be without one or more of Miriam Makeba's recordings.
Miriam was born in Johannesburg. As a young girl of thirteen, she entered a talent show at a missionary school and walked off with the first prize. She was often invited to sing at weddings, and her popularity grew in leaps and bounds as more and more people became dazzled by her talent. In 1952 she was chosen to sing for The Manhattan Brothers and toured South Africa with them. As early as 1956, she wrote and released the song Pata Pata.
She received invitations to visit Europe and America, where she came to the attention of Harry Belafonte and Steve Allen and was capitulated to stardom. 1959 saw her becoming the first South African to win a Grammy award for the album “An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Miriam Makeba.”
Miriam became an exile in 1960 when South Africa banned her from returning to her birth country - she was deemed to be too dangerous and revolutionary - this was after she had appeared in an anti-apartheid documentary, entitled Come Back Africa, and this upset the then white apartheid government of South Africa. Miriam only returned to South Africa thirty years later.