I have no idea when I first heard Miriam Makeba – but I know I was quite young. Her nickname was “Mama Africa” and I remember being hooked on African music at a fairly young age – quite possibly as a result of Paul Simon’s Graceland which arrived at the right time for me; music our whole family could love, my folks already fans of Simon & Garfunkel and Paul Simon’s solo albums.
But I don’t know many of Makeba’s albums – and I had never heard this. I have been playing Pata Pata regularly in DJ sets recently – but that’s a song from six or seven years after this self-titled debut album.
Great to finally hear this – to hear the seeds of her sound and also this album, due to the instrumentation, reminds me of when I first heard Maya Angelou’s one and only album. They’re different records, Maya made a calypso record, Miriam’s is an earthy soul-jazz arriving from Africa, the source of it all – but there’s something in the instrumentation, a proud voice out in front; Angelou’s is backed only by conga and guitar, Makeba’s is in front of a lone guitarist and the Belafonte Folk Singers – there’s another link (even if a bit tenuous) in that Harry Belafonte’s runaway success with the calypso genre was the reason Angelou was taken in to record a few sides.
Anyway, another pleasing result here, another reason why this challenge has already been worth it. Eight from eight…the golden run must end, but no time soon by the looks, and sounds…