Miriam Makeba, South African singer, dies


Makeba Mirriam

Sunday, 9 November 2008

South African singer Miriam Makeba dies at the age of 76 after a 30 minute performance for Roberto Saviano in the Italian town of Caserta. Nicknamed 'Mama Africa' or the 'Empress of African Song', Makeba's music transcended South African borders and entered the global stage. Makeba built her reputation in the music industry in the 1950s singing for the Cuban Brothers and the Manhattan Brothers and the Skylarks. In 1959 Makeba starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa which placed the apartheid government under the international spotlight. As consequence she was subjected to harassment by the apartheid government. Her passport was revoked and withdrawn while she was outside the country leading to her stay in exile in London. When her mother died in 1960 she could not return to her funeral because her passport had been revoked.

In 1963 Makeba testified before the United Nations (UN) of how the apartheid government had stripped her of her citizenship. After speaking out against apartheid in the United Nations her music was banned by the state broadcasters in South Africa. Makeba lived in numerous countries such as the United States of America, France, Guinea and Belgium. Makeba toured various parts of the world in the 1970s and 1980s and continued to speak out against apartheid in various forums. At the end of apartheid she returned to South Africa and continued with her singing career. In 2005, Makeba announced her retirement from the mainstream music industry but she continued to make appearances and to do smaller performances. Makeba died on 9 November 2008 while performing in a concert organized for Roberto Saviano, an Italian writer threatened with death by the Mafia after he exposed their underground dealings.


  1. Alan Cowell,( 2008), 'Miriam Makeba, 76, Singer and Activist, Dies' from the New York Times, 10 November [online], Available at www.nytimes.com, [Accessed 26 October 2010]

  2. Celean Jacobson, (2008), 'South African singer Miriam Makeba dies' from the UK Independent, 10 November [online], Available at  www.independent.co.uk, [Accessed 26 October 2010]

  3. Anon, (2008), 'South African icon Miriam Makeba dies' from the BBC, 10 November [online], Available at www.bbc.co.uk/news  [Accessed 26 October 2010]

  4. Anon, 'Miriam Makeba dies in Italy' from the Mail and Guardian, 10 November [online], Available at www.mg.co.za [Accessed 26 October 2010]

Last updated : 24-Oct-2011

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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