Who is Miriam Makeba? Biography, Marriage, Death, Funeral and Daughter

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Miriam Makeba, also known as Mama Africa, was a renowned South African musician, song composer, actress, and civil rights activist. She was into Jazz and Afro Pop amongst others and was a strong advocate against apartheid in South Africa.

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba Biography

Miriam Makeba was born on 4th November 1932 in a Black Town called “Prospect,” close to Johannesburg. She was born into the family of a Swazi mother, Christiana Makeba, a domestic worker, and a Xhosa father, Caswell Makeba, a teacher by profession who later died when she was barely six years old.

Makeba had a lot of difficulties growing up after her father’s demise as the family had to move about for greener pastures constantly. She later did some domestic work and even worked as a nanny. Miriam sometimes stayed with her grandmother since her mother couldn’t stay close to her and her siblings due to her bulky work.

She attended Kilnerton Training Institute in Pretoria, an all-black methodist primary school. She participated in this school for eight years, acquiring her primary education.


Makeba started her professional music career with the Cuban Brothers, a South African all-male group where she sang covers of famous American songs. She later joined a Jazz group at 21 known as “Manhattan Brothers,” where she recorded her first hit music, “Laku Tshori llanga,” in 1953.

In 1956 she joined another group, “The Skylarks,” an all-female group that sang blends of South African Melodies and Jazz. There she sang with Rhodesian-born Dorothy Masuka and Dolly Rathebe, whose music she followed while starting her music career.

Gallotore Records released her solo in 1956, which made the Billboard Top 100 in the U.S. Makeba experienced massive success by becoming the cover of drum magazine in 1957 and featured in a film “Come Back, Africa” in 1959. Her role in this movie brought her vast recognition on the international stage while traveling to perform in London and New York.

She later moved to New York in 1959, where she enjoyed a successful music career with American singer “Harry Belafonte” as her mentor and guide. In 1965 she won a Grammy Award with Belafonte for their album titled “An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba.”


Real NameMiriam Makeba
Date of Birth4th November 1932
Date of DeathNovember 2008
Place of BirthSouth Africa
Marital StatusMarried
Nationality/NationalitiesSouth African

What is Miriam Makeba’s most famous song?

Her most famous song is Pata Pata.

What language did Miriam Makeba speak?


How many times did Miriam Makeba get married?

She got married five times.

What happened to Miriam Makeba’s daughter?

Her daughter’s name was Bongi Makeba and she died after a traumatic miscarriage. It was said that Bongi believed that she had inherited a spiritual madness from her mother.

Mariam Makeba Marriage

Miriam Makeba has been in three marriages, with the first being the only one where she had a child, a daughter called Bongi Makeba. Makeba was first married in 1949 to James Kubay, a policeman in training who later left her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1964 While working with ” Harry Belafonte,” she got married to Trumpeter and fellow Belafonte prodigy Hugh Masekela which only lasted two years. She was last married to American Black Activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968.

Death and Funeral

She died in November 2008 after a concert against organized crime in Castel Volturno, Italy. The legendary artiste was cremated and her ashes were scattered at the sea.

Lethabo Ndlovu

Lethabo Ndlovu is a KwaZulu-Natal-born writer. He is the Editor-in-Chief at Nerdville. Ndlovu is happily married to Sarah Ndlovu with children and they both live in Johannesburg South Africa. His interests include football, writing, and trying to make himself better by reading.

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