Miriam Makeba – “Mama Africa”
“Listen – Miriam Makeba – Pata Pata – MP3″
I wasn’t expecting to do a midweek post*, but I heard the news of yet another important passing (no less that the ninth reported here in the last few months), and could not let it go by without taking note.
The group of musical émigrés that came to the US from South Africa in the 1960s, including Hugh Masekela, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semanya, and Jonas Gwangwa has always held a fascination for me. They all made some mark on the musical scene of the 60s, some to great financial success (Masekela’s 1968 hit recording of the Philemon Hou song ‘Grazing In the Grass’). One of the most prominent members of that group, Miriam Makeba died this week at the age of 76.
Makeba, who was married for a time to Masekela** (they were both aided with their move to the US by their friend Harry Belafonte), and became known as ‘Mama Africa’ , had a long career that began before she came to the US, and continued for decades afterward. She was an outspoken opponent of apartheid, and campaigned
Her biggest hit, 1967s ‘Pata Pata’ (covered countless times***) is also a personal favorite of mine. It is a singularly joyful record with an infectious rhythm and a lyric, which – although written (I think) in Makeba’s native Xhosa – draws the listener in and compels you to sing along (or at least try).
While I was tearing through my record boxes tonight trying to find this single – an infuriating task since I’d had it in my hands, and my dj box several times in the last few months – I was shocked to notice for the first time that the tune was co-written by none other than the great Jerry Ragavoy!
That said, pull down the ones and zeros and let the spirit of the music take you over, and remember the great Miriam Makeba.
Check out this great clip of Makeba performing ‘Pata Pata’ on Brazilian TV, with none other than Sivuca on guitar!
*I have a joint Funky16Corners/Iron Leg post ready to go, but I’ll hold it until Thursday
**After divorcing Masekela, she later married Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture)
***By Osibisa, Senor Soul, Tito Puente, Afro Blues Quintet +1 and Ray Bryant among others