allows Miriam Makeba the luxury finally to attain some inner peace and look back on a life well lived, although not easily lived. Makeba, now 72 years old, has been performing since the early 1950’s.... and carving out her own paths as she defied convention even as she followed her own sense of right in the face of widespread rejection of such ethics. Leaving the early singing group, The Manhattan Brothers, in 1958, Makeba saw early success.... and controversy.... at a young age. Even though she had sung for President Kennedy, her speech condemning Apartheid before the United Nations in 1963 led to her ban from that country. Marrying Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael during the social upheavals of the late 1960’s, Makeba became controversial in the United States as well, and she and Carmichael moved to Guinea. Disappearing from public attention for years, Makeba finally regained notice when Paul Simon included her in his Graceland
tour, along with fellow Heads Up recording group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. In 1990, after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Makeba returned to South Africa after 30 years. Now she lives there, and her presence there, bringing her life full circle, is cause for pride in her native country. Makeba has recorded the CD, Reflections,
that summarizes through song the journey of social protest and the search for justice that she has led.
"Pata Pata" recalls her early popularity, as she became known to the wider public, as well as with American singers like Harry Belafonte, who teamed with her later on An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba.
With a casual call-and-response structure that fit in with the popularity of calypso at the time, "Pata Pata" belied the intensity beneath Makeba’s surface. Despite the firmness of her principles, her music always beckoned with unthreatening invitation as she investigated numerous genres throughout her career. "Mas Que Nada," usually associated with Sergio Mendes, comes across with a more beseeching quality as Makeba uses the long tones of the melody to inveigle, to allure. Makeba uses the same device, the lengthening of a single tone over several measures as the chords change beneath it, on "Iyaguduza," once again responding to the chorus of female singers with her own statement. Then there’s "I Shall Sing," which Van Morrison wrote when Makeba lived in exile in Guinea and which conforms to her immersion in music as a pure form of communication for rousing the spirit of her listeners. Hugh Masakela’s "African Convention" presents the still-unrealized ideal of a unified African people drawing upon their common heritage for future strength and cultural advancement.
Because of her sporadic presence before the listening public throughout her singing career, Miriam Makeba perhaps has not received the attention that her life, one dedicated to principle and art, has deserved. With a matter-of-fact nature, Makeba has let her music chronicle the progress of her journey, and Reflections
includes many of the significant songs associated with her career to outline the breadth of her accomplishments and the rightness of her beliefs.