Miriam Makeba

Program: 
Africa-O-Ye!
Air date: 
Thu, 10/24/2013 - 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Short Description: 
Music of Miriam Makeba: Late 1950s - early 1970s / host: Andy Hosch
Born in 1932, Miriam Makeba's professional career began around 1953, when she was featured with the South African vocal group The Manhattan Brothers, whose sound emulated Afro-American groups like the Mills Brothers and Ink Spots. In 1956, Makeba formed her own group, The Skylarks. Their sound blended elements of jazz and gospel with traditional South African melodies. Though already a star in Southern Africa, Makeba remained largely unknown to the rest of the world until her arrival in NYC in late 1959, where wiithin in few weeks she had appeared on nationwide television, recorded her first U.S. LP and prepared to go on tour with Harry Belafonte. Quickly, Makeba was becoming the first artist from Africa to achieve popular success in the wider world. During her first year in America, Makeba was hesitant to comment publicly about the brutal racist repression back home in South Africa, but that changed after the Sharpeville massacre, in which 69 people were killed by the police. Makeba spoke out, and had her passport revoked by the South African consulate. Following an address to the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid, the South African government "banned" her --and Makeba spent the next 30 years living in exile. Throughout the early 1960s, she continued to enjoy success in the United States, and in 1964, Makeba married the South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela --though the marriage than lasted just two years. The following year, she received a Grammy award for her collaboration with Belafonte. As political turmoil in America increased, Makeba's politics grew more radical, and her 1968 marriage to Stokely Carmichael (SNCC, Black Panther Party) stirred up a great deal of controversy. Makeba's records deals and U.S. tours were cancelled, and with Carmichael under FBI scrutiny, the couple fled the country, relocating in Conakry, Guinea where they were welcomed by the socialist government of Sekou Touré. During her first decade in Guinea, Makeba recorded many successful 45s for the Sylliphone label, in a number of different African languages. She and Carmichael divorced in 1978, and for a number of years there was a lull in both her performance and recording activity. Makeba's career was revitalized in 1987 when Paul Simon invited her to take part in his Graceland tour. And following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990 and the subsequent collapse of the apartheid regime, Makeba at last returned home, triumphantly to South Africa, where she remained quite active, continuing to perform until her death in 2008.

 

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