MIRIAM Makeba is the subject of Monday’s Google doodle. Born Zenzile Miriam Makeba on March 4, 1932, Makeba was a singer and actress, probably most well-known for the song “Pata Pata”.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Miriam spent the first six months of her life in jail after her mother was sent to prison for selling illegal beer when she was just eighteen days old. Her father died when Miriam was six years old. Miriam started singing while she was very young, and was part of the choir of her primary school. Her professional career began in the 1950s when she was featured in the South African jazz group the Manhattan Brothers. She left the Manhattan Brothers to record with her all-woman group, The Skylarks, singing a mix of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa.

In 1956, she released the single “Pata Pata”, which was played on all the radio stations and made her known all over. The song is considered by many to be Makeba’s signature hit and the song has since been covered by many artists. Originally written and sung in the Xhosa language, the song’s title means “touch touch” in English. In the late 50s, Miriam Makeba travelled to Europe and US, and gained some popularity. However, when she tried to return to South Africa in 1960 for her mother’s funeral, she discovered that her South African passport had been cancelled. This forced her to kickstart her US career, releasing a couple of albums along way, Miriam Makeba and The World of Miriam Makeba.   –GN