Rated as the mother of African music, Miriam Makeba fondly known as Mama Africa Miriam was born on March 4, 1932 in Johannesburg, South Africa. She gain popularity in 1959 during a tour of the United States with South African group the Manhattan Brothers.
Makeba was the first African woman to address the United Nations (where she testified against apartheid in 1963). She was known for her strong voice against against racism especially during the apartheid in her home country South Africa. She ran afoul of the government in 1960 after she participated in Come Back, Africa, an anti-apartheid documentary, a year earlier.
Her subsequent exile, which lasted for nearly 30 years, did nothing to diminish her International renown though she would not return until after Nelson Mandela emerged from prison in 1990.
Five years after her exile, she would become the first woman of African heritage to have the honor of winning 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.
With a turbulent personal life contrasting the fame she had received as Mama Africa, she was divorced four times. Her first marriage was to trumpeter Hugh Masekela and her most controversial one was to civil rights activist/Black Panther Stokely Carmichael, which led to her moving to Guinea.
She was responsible for popularising African music in the United States. With iconic traditional flowing gowns and hairstyles, she would belt out music that was richly flavoured by her African roots and childhood Jazz influences.
In 2008, after a concert in the southern Italian town of Caserta, Makeba passed away.
Google Doodle celebrates her 81st birthday today.