Happy Birthday Mama Africa

Dateline March 4, 1932 – Zenzile Miriam Makeba is born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She would go on to become one of the great voices in World music. While her music will live on forever, it’s quite possible that a more lasting legacy will be her loud voice in the struggle for Civil Rights back in her homeland — from which she had been barred from ever returning — and the rest of the world. 

Miriam Makeba’s influence is such that Google has honoured Mama Africa with a one of its famous doodles today.

There are so many Miriam Makeba songs one could play, but Pata Pata, her first ‘hit,’ for which she won a Grammy, is still the one that seems to sum up her entire career. The joyful presentation, along with her unrestrained shout of joy at the 2 minute mark, perfectly encapsulates her entire career.


For politics, there was no stronger song in her repertoire than “Soweto Blues” written for her by her former-husband Hugh Masekela, a Civil Rights activist in his own right. This clip also describes her joy at being able to return to her homeland after so many years of forced exile.

Let’s all remember how Miriam Makeba fought for the Civil Rights of all of us, whether you are Black, White, African, European, Jewish, Muslim, or ‘Merkin.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.