The Famous Artiste Who Brought African Music to the World and Her “Jamaica Connection”

Miriam Makeba was a South African singer and civil rights activist.

In the 1960s, she was the first artiste from Africa to popularize African music around the world.

In 1956, Miriam Makeba produced “Pata Pata.” The song is covered by Jamaican Millicent Todd, better known as Patsy.

She recorded it for Sonia Pottinger in 1967 as “Pata Pata Rocksteady.” Patsy also recorded “The Retreat Song,” or Jikele Maweni, another Miriam Makeba song that is sung in the Xhosa language.


In 1959, Makeba’s singing appearance in the documentary film Come Back, Africa attracted the interest of Jamaican singer Harry Belafonte.

The film tells the story of Zachariah, a black South-African man living under the rule of the nation’s oppressive apartheid government. Belafonte took her under his wings.

He assisted her in leaving England and mentored her through a successful career in the USA.

Makeba actually performed in Jamaica in 1965, 1967 and 1973 during her exile. In 1967 she performed with The Paragons, The Jamaicans, and Byron Lee & the Dragonaires.

She also performed at a charity ball at the Myrtle Bank Hotel, invited by Edward and Mitzy Seaga and Byron Lee.

She returned in 1973 and met with P.J. Patterson who was the Minister of Industry and Tourism. Patterson paid tribute to Makeba for her struggle for the recognition and dignity of her South African people and the excellence of her art.

It was at this time that the Jamaican government also revoked the order prohibiting Stokely Carmichael from entering Jamaica, an order that was made in 1967.

As for Makeba, she once said: “People have accused me of being a racist, but I am just a person for justice and humanity. People say I sing politics, but what I sing is not politics, it is the truth. I’m going to go on singing, telling the truth.” BLESS!

"Miriam Makeba (1969)" by Rob Mieremet / Anefo - Nationaal Archief. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Miriam Makeba (1969)” by Rob Mieremet / Anefo – Nationaal Archief. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

By Neo Makeba

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