MIRIAM MAKEBA-PATA PATA. 

Miriam Makeba-Pata Pata.

Label: Strut Records. 

Zenzile Miriam Makeba was born on the ‘4th’ of March 1932, in the Prospect Township, of Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa. The future singer, songwriter, civil rights activist and actress Miriam Makeba, was born to to Swazi and Xhosa parents. Sadly, Miriam Makeba’s father died when she was still a child, and as the eldest child had no option but to seek employment. This was expected of her.

At the age of seventeen, it’s thought that Miriam Makeba married for the first time. The marriage didn’t last long,  and it’s alleged, was abusive. A year later in 1950,  Miriam Makeba gave birth to her first and only child, and also survived breast cancer. 

During the fifties, Miriam Makeba whose talent for singing was spotted at an early age, began singing professionally. This  included with the Cuban Brothers, The Manhattan Brothers and The Skylarks, a girl group who sang jazz, popular music from the West and traditional African melodies which proved popular. However, soon Miriam Makeba’s career was about to change direction.

In 1959, the twenty-seven year old singer was cast in the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa. While she made only a short appearance in the film, this was enough for to lift her profile internationally. It wasn’t long before Miriam Makeba was singing in  New York, Venice  and London, where she met the man who would become her  mentor, Harry Belafonte.

The American singer started off mentoring Miriam Makeba, and Harry Belafonte went on to perform alongside her. However, in 1960, Miriam Makeba embarked upon a recording career that spanned five decades.

Miriam Makeba released her eponymous debut album in 1960 to plaudits and praise. The same year, Miriam Makeba’s mother died and when she tried to return home, was prevented from entering South Africa. This was because she had appeared in the f support of the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa.

In 1962, the thirty year old singer released The Many Voices Of Miriam Makeba, with The World Of Miriam Makeba following in 1963. It reached eighty-six in the US Billboard 200. The followup  The Voice Of Africa was released in 1964, but stalled at 122 in the US Billboard 200. Things got worse when 1965s Makeba Sings! failed to chart. However, a collaboration with her mentor Harry Belafonte fared better, when An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba reached eighty-five in the US Billboard 200 in 1965. The same year, The Magic Of Makeba failed to chart, and Miriam Makeba left RCA Victor.

Miriam Makeba released her Mercury debut The Magnificent Miriam Makeba released in 1966, but it also failed to chart. So did her ninth album All About Miriam, which was released in 1966. After this, Miriam Makeba left Mercury and signed to Reprise Records, which The Chairman Of The Board, Frank Sinatra founded in 1960.

Now signed to Reprise Records, Miriam Makeba released Pata Pata in 1967, which featured eleven songs that included everything from African music, jazz and soul. Pata Pata was hailed as one of Miriam Makeba’s finest albums and reached seventy-four in the US Billboard 200. This was Miriam Makeba’s most successful album which enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and fifty-two years later, is regarded as a genre classic. 

The  best known song on the album was the title-track  Pata Pata, which featured some new English lyrics, Just like the rest of the album, it was produced by Jerry Ragovoy who gave Pata Pata a makeover and the track was took on an airier, upbeat fusion of R&B and Afro-pop. Pata Pata was a game-changer, and reached number twelve in the  Billboard 100. While Pata Pata is Miriam Makeba best known song on the album,  many others are of a similar quality.

This includes the traditional Xhosa classic Click Song Number One ‘Qongqothwane) and a stunning and atmospheric versions of West Wind. It was joined Tilahun Gessesse’s Yetentu Tizaleny which Miriam Makeba first heard and  was taught during atrip to Addis to perform for Haile Selassie at the Organisation Of African Unity. These tracks are just a few of the highlights of what was a career-defining album for Miriam Makeba, who combined elements of jazz, Afro-pop, soul and world music on Pata Pata. It showcased the considerable talents of  Miriam Makeba who nowadays, many music critics regard as the greatest female vocalist in the history of African music.

Pata Pata which was remastered and has been rereleased by Strut Records is a welcome reissue of a genre classic, from legendary singer and songwriter  Miriam Makeba who was also an actress and civil rights activist and United Nations goodwill ambassador who enjoyed a five decade recording career. However, Pata Pata was the album that transformed Miriam Makeba’s career and was undoubtably her finest and best known album.

Miriam Makeba-Pata Pata.

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