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Every Wednesday at 4pm the North 103.3 highlights global artists during Northland Afternoon

World Music Wednesday: Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba

The legendary "Mama Africa."

World Music Wednesday is a weekly segment on The North 103.3 FM. Every Wednesday at 4pm on Northland Afternoon, we will feature a brand-new release or a significantly important past work from our vast library of music from around the world.

Support for World Music Wednesday comes from Simply Ballroom in Duluth's Craft District.

Today's World Music Wednesday spotlights the music of the great and legendary South African and civil rights ambassador Miriam Makeba, often endearingly called "Mama Africa." Born Zenzile Miriam Makeba, March 4, 1932, in the Prospect Township, Johannesburg, Union of South Africa. She was influenced by the musical abilities of many of her family members, and also the record collection of her elder brother that included American jazz recordings by Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.

Makeba began her professional musical career with the Cuban Brothers, a South African all-male close harmony group, and later joined another South African all-male group, the Manhattan Brothers as the only woman in the group. With the Manhattan Brothers, Makeba recorded "Lovely Lies," an English adaptation of one of their recordings, This English version became the first South African record to chart on the United States Billboard Top 100.

In 1956 she joined a new all-woman group, the Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional South African melodies:

She later performed on stage in African jazz operas, and as her popularity increased, she began to travel outside of South Africa. Following some terrible events in South Africa, including the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, her passport was cancelled, and she was forced into an extended exile. Her music and her public life became increasingly outspoken against the apartheid system. She lived in the United States for a time, and in 1967 recorded what became one of her most well-known songs commercially, "Pata Pata."

 In 1968 she married Stokely Carmichael, whose involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party forced them into yet another exile, relocating from the U.S. to Guinea for the next fifteen years. She continued to perform, record, and sing in many countries over the next couple decades. In 1990, following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, she was allowed to return to South Africa for the first time in 30 years, and finally performed there again two years later.

Many of her recordings throughout her career won awards, including her album from 2000, Homeland, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the World Music Category.

Miriam Makeba passed away 15 years ago today, November 8th, 2008, at the age of 76.


Chris Harwood is The North 1033’s Production Director and (acting) Program Director, a morning/daytime host, and the host of Soul Village. He is also a musician, a music historian, an audio engineer, and an avid record collector.