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SALUTE: Pata, Pata! A Quick Tribute To Miriam Makeba

Pata, Pata is the name of a dance we do down Johannesburg way! Everybody starts to move, as soon as Pata, Pata starts to play! Woo!!

Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 November 2008), nicknamed Mama Africa, was a Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil rights activist.

I first got hip to Miriam through a Nigerian friend of mine a few years ago. She played 'Pata, Pata' for me, and I was hooked! The groovy rhythms and Miriam's energetic vocals sold me!

Further research made me fall in love with Miriam. Not only was she a brilliant musician, she was also a proud Civil Rights activist.

Makeba campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. The South African government responded by revoking her passport in 1960 and her citizenship and right of return in 1963. As the apartheid system crumbled she returned home for the first time in 1990.

Miriam was married to Trinidad-born civil rights activist, Black Panther, and Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael in 1968. Their marriage caused controversy in the U.S., and her record deals and tours were cancelled. Miriam and Stokely moved to Guinea where they lived for the next 15 years.

Miriam was good friends with my all-time favourite artist Nina Simone, so I knew she must be pretty damn awesome if they kept each other company.

Miriam went on to record some amazing music, and tour with the likes of Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon!

Later, as Apartheid crumbled, Miriam returned to her home in S. Africa in 1990 for the first time since she left in the 60's!

I remember exactly where I was in 2008 when news of Makeba's death spread. I was sitting in the waiting room of the doctors office. The news was on. I heard her name mentioned, looked up, and sure enough they were reporting that 'Mama Africa' had suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 76.

Though her death left a hole in the hearts of many, her music filled that void beautifully.

Miriam Makeba will forever be remembered as 'Mama Africa.' An undaunted figure of pride, love, and dedication to ones roots.

You are missed dearly, Mama Africa!


I still firmly believe that if ever a biopic of Miriam happens, Kerry Washington MUST play her! ;-)