Xtrail:Mama Africa

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Miriam Makeba; singer, activist, ambassador, first African to win a Grammy. She used her songs to project the struggles of her people and fight against apartheid. On what would have been her 78th birthday, we remember the late South African icon, who paved the way for many young African stars of today, by following her path to stardom.

1932: Zenzile Miriam Makeba is born, March 4, to Caswell, a schoolteacher, and Christina, a domestic worker. Miriam, as a child, sang at the Kilmerton Training Institute in Pretoria, which she attended for eight years.

1945: Enters for a musical talent show in a missionary school and wins.

1949: Marries high school sweetheart, James "Gooli" Kubay

1950: Begins her singing career professionally, as a member of the Cuban Brothers band.

1952: Gives birth to daughter, Bongi, and leaves Kubay who has been physically abusing her.

1954: Leaves the Cuban Brothers for the Manhattan Brothers jazz group.

1956: Records her signature song, "Pata Pata,"

1958: Joins all female vocal group, the Skylarks, and tours with the musical, African Jazz and Variety. Also records self-titled, debut solo album.

1959: Appears in the jazz opera, King Kong, with trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Later features in anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa by independent filmmaker, Lionel Rogosin. During this period, marries South African ballad performer, Sonny Pillay, but divorces him same year. Travels to the United States under the mentorship of American singer Harry Belafonte, who is also her chief sponsor.

1960: South Africa bans her from returning to her birth country for her mother's funeral, claiming she's a dangerous revolutionary.

1963: South African citizenship and right to return to her country is revoked after she testifies against apartheid before the United Nations, and then releases third solo album, The World of Miriam Makeba

1964: Releases the Voice of Africa album and marries Masekela.

1965: Releases collaboration album, An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba with Belafonte.

1966: Becomes first African to win a Grammy for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba that features the plight of blacks in South Africa. Divorces Masekela.

1968: Marries Black Panther, Stokely Carmichael, a relationship that quickly tarnishes her public image as he is the leader of the movement for emancipation of black people, and many of her contracts and concerts are cancelled in the USA. As a result, relocates to Guinea with her husband. She would later serve as Guinean Ambassador to the United Nations

1974: One of the African and Afro-American entertainers at the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle' match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire.

1975: Records acclaimed album, A Promise, her 15th.

1978: Separates from Carmichael and continues to perform primarily in Africa, South America and Europe, promoting freedom, unity and social change.

1985: Loses her only daughter, Bongi, after Bongi has a stillbirth.

1986: Wins the Dag Hammarskjold Peace Prize.

1987: Participates in Paul Simon's Graceland project and also publishes her autobiography Makeba: My Story.

1988: The ban on her music is lifted by the South-African government and she releases tribal collection album Sangoma.

1989: Releases another album of both traditional and standard compositions, Welela.

1990: Nelson Mandela persuades her to return to South Africa, which she does after 31 years in exile.

1991: Makes guest appearance on an episode of The Cosby Show: "Olivia Comes Out of the Closet". Releases Eyes on Tomorrow, a commercial blend of jazz, blues, and pop

1992: Plays the role of "Angelina" the title character's mother in the film Sarafina, about Soweto youth uprisings.

1997: Makes a special guest appearance for the Harry Belafonte Tribute at Madison Square Garden. Establishes the Makeba Rehabilitation Centre for Girls in Midrand, South Africa, to help abused children.

1998: Carmichael dies and Makeba marries her fifth husband, Belgian Airline employee, Bageot Bah.

1999: Nominated as Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

2000: Produces the album Homeland by Cedric Samson and Michael Levinsohn, which receives a Grammy nomination in the "Best World Music" category.

2001: Awarded the Gold Otto Hahn Peace Medal by the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin, "for outstanding services to peace and international understanding."

2002: Takes part in the documentary Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, where she and others recall the days of apartheid. Also wins the Polar Music Prize along with Sofia Gubaidulina.

2004: Voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans and releases the Reflection album.

2005: Starts a worldwide farewell tour, holding concerts in countries she had visited during her working life.

2008: Dies November 10 of a heart attack, after collapsing on stage at a concert in southern Italy.


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