She is known to millions all over the world as "Mama Africa". Miriam Makeba remains the most important female vocalist to emerge out of South Africa. Hailed as The Empress Of African Song, Makeba helped bring African music to a global audience.
Makeba, was born in Johannesburg on 4 March 1932 and is a leading symbol in the struggle against apartheid. Her singing career started in the 1950s as she mixed jazz with traditional South African songs.
She came to international attention in 1959 during a tour of the United States with South African group the Manhattan Brothers. She was forced into exile soon after when her passport was revoked after starring in an anti-apartheid documentary and did not return to her native country until after Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990.
She is the first black African woman to win a Grammy Award, which she shared with Harry Belafonte in 1965.
Miriam Makeba is not only a singer with a remarkable voice. She is also a humanitarian who fearlessly speaks her mind and has never let even personal traumatic events get in her way of fighting for the rights of the oppressed.
UPDATE: Miriam Makeba died in the early hours of the morning in Castel Volturno, near Caserta, Italy, on 10 November 2008, of a heart attack, shortly after taking part in a concert organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation.