In the 1960s she was the first artist from Africa to popularize African music in the U.S. and around the world. She is best known for the song “Pata Pata“, first recorded in 1957 and released in the U.S. in 1967. She recorded and toured with many popular artists, such as Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, and her former husband Hugh Masekela.
She actively campaigned against the South African system of apartheid. As a result, the South African government revoked her citizenship and right of return. After the end of apartheid she returned home. She died on 10 November 2008 after performing in a concert organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation local to the Region of Campania.