There’s a captivating and enduring charisma heard on Reflections
, the first release in four years from legendary South African musical treasure and Grammy Award winner Miriam Makeba. This brilliantly updated and retrospective album highlights new arrangements that capture "Mama Africa’s" remarkable vocal power and artistry.Reflections
features 13 classic tracks - including early songs Makeba recorded as a member of the Manhattan Brothers and The Skylarks, through to her trademark hits, Pata Pata
and The Click Song
Born in 1932 in Johannesburg, Makeba first came to the public’s attention as a featured vocalist with the Manhattan Brothers. She soon left to record with her all-woman group, the Skylarks, while touring southern Africa with Alf Herberts’ African Jazz and Variety
In 1963, after testifying about apartheid before the United Nations, the South African government revoked Makeba’s citizenship. She remained in the United States and married Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, but they eventually fled to Guinea on the West African coast.
Makeba returned to world prominence in 187 when she performed with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour. In 1990, she finally returned to her homeland as a free South African.
The album opens with a summary version of Iyaguduza
, which features exceptional horn arrangements and a delightful, everything’s-all-right rhythm. That is followed by Pata Pata
, song that played a particularly large role in making Makeba a household name.
Makeba has always enjoyed singing in other languages. Comme Une Symphonie D’Amour
, which she first sang in the early 1980s, is a showcase for her extraordinary vocal range. Mas Que Nada
and Xica da Silva
are bossa nova classics from the pen of Brazilian songwriter Jorge Ben. The former, performed at a slower tempo than usual interpretations, is still very engaging.
Other highlights include an enchanting arrangement of her hit, The Click Song
, and the Pan African-inspired African Convention
, written by Hugh Masekela (with whom Makeba was briefly married) and Stanley Todd. The latter track has an upbeat American blues rhythm that’s certain to get many feet onto the dance floor.I’m in Love With Spring
is a swinging, lushly orchestrated composition from Bill Salter, Makeba’s Grammy-winning bass player in the 1960s. It features the soothing, romantic lead of guest vocalist Nelson Lumumba Lee and the charming, folksy alternate lead by Makeba. Love Tastes Like Strawberries
is a pensive ballad from the same era. I Shall Sing
, another delightful melody, was written when the exiled singer lived in Guinea. The melancholy, yet funky ode Quit It
, with its anti-drug message, was composed in the ’70s by her late daughter, Bongi Makeba, and Calphus Semenya, while Ring Bell
is a charming pop anthem from her landmark, 1967 Pata Pata
concludes with Where Are You Going?
, a moody jazz opus written by Masekela.
Miriam Makeba’s Reflections
, released in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid, is the latest installment in the Heads Up Africa series - a critically acclaimed collection that spotlights some of Southern Africa’s finest vocalists and instrumentalists. Also available as part of the series are Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Wenyukela
, Africa Straight Ahead
, Andy Narell’s two-disc set, Live in South Africa
, Smooth Africa
and Smooth Africa II: Exploring the Soul