If there was ever a ritual dance for Camp Shoshana it would have to be Miriam Makeba's Pata-Pata. Oh sure you can argue that Hava Nagila, Mayim and perhaps The Hokey Pokey have deeper and more sustaining roots (well, maybe not The Hokey Pokey). If you feel this way then I suggest that you read the guestbook(s). The Pata-Pata is what the vox populi is calling for! I did some research on the web and found out that Pata-Pata is actually a rather sensual song. Pata-Pata loosely translated from Miriam Makeba's native Xhosa tribal 'click' language means 'touch-touch' (you could look this up!) Basically, we were dancing a game of 'Milton Bradley's Twister' without having to use our right hand blue or left hand red! Who knew? Listen to Miriam Makeba's Pata-Pata here using: Windows Media .asf format (great for Windows users), Quicktime .mov format (great for MAC users), or RealMedia .rm format (great for users with RealPlayer installed). Ira Presser was kind enough to share this recording with us. These days we use a digital file instead of a 45 RPM vinyl disk.
Miriam Makeba - Artist Profile South Africa's legendary musical sensation and Grammy Award winner Miriam Makeba has something to sing about. "Mama Africa" as she is known to millions around the world is the original world music diva and the first African recording artist to be awarded a Grammy (for the recording An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba). She is also the first to have a Top Ten worldwide hit with her original version of "Pata Pata" in 1967. (Ed. Note: No Pata-Pata pre-'67? Pity-Pity)
Miriam Makeba was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1932. Her mother was a sangoma, a mystical traditional healer of the Xhosa tribe. She was raised under the reign of apartheid and spent six months of her first year of life in a jail with her mother. Yet Makeba has used life's struggles as an inspiration, to continue seeking change. "Given a choice, I would have certainly selected to be what I am: one of the oppressed instead of one of the oppressors," wrote Makeba in her 1988 autobiography Makeba - My Story.
Miriam began her musical career in the 1950's as a singer for the jazz vocal group, The Manhattan Brothers the South African equivalent of the Ink Spots. She then formed her own group, the Skylarks, singing a mix of jazz and traditional folk music, and toured her homeland with the African Jazz & Variety Show (which also included a young Hugh Masekela).
1959 was a landmark year for Miriam. First, she took South Africa by storm as the lead in the national stage production of a black jazz opera called King Kong; she then went on to receive international attention for her role in the documentary Come Back Africa. The film was a huge success and led to club bookings across America and an appearance on the top U.S. talk show, The Steve Allen Show. The award-winning film was accepted at the Venice Film Festival in Italy, and Miriam was invited to attend. This trip to Europe turned out to be her first exposure to the non-apartheid world. "What I see makes my eyes grow wide," she wrote of her experience, "there are women - white women - who are cutting hay and carrying it on their backs, and white men with handkerchiefs wrapped around their foreheads to keep the sweat from their eyes are digging ditches. At home you never see whites working like this. Such jobs are reserved for blacks. This is really something to see."
From Venice, Miriam went to London where she was toasted by celebrities and other singers like Cleo Laine. The BBC invited her to perform on a popular TV program, and in the audience was her biggest fan, Harry Belafonte, or Big Brother as she would come to call him. When she arrived in NYC, Belafonte sent a car to pick her up. He then brought in the best wardrobe designer and top arrangers for her appearance in Los Angeles on The Steve Allen Show, and her NYC debut at the Village Vanguard.
On the opening night of her four-week run at the Vanguard. Miriam recalls peeking outside, "and Big Brother has sitting with him and his wife: Sidney Poitier, Duke Ellington, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone and Miles Davis." She became the toast of the town, was signed to William Morris and RCA Records, and was visited by celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor (who saw her show three times) Cicily Tyson and Bing Crosby. According to a Newsweek article at the time, "She sings with the smoky tones and delicate phrasing of Ella Fitzgerald and when the occasion demands she summons up the brassy showmanship of Ethel Merman and the intimate warmth of Frank Sinatra." Time Magazine called her, "the most exciting new singing talent to appear in many years." All in all, quite a year.
In 1960, Miriam was banned from returning to the country of her birth; she was forced to spend the next 30 years as a "citizen of the world."She recalls arriving at the South African Consulate for a visa to South Africa upon learning of her mother's death," Here I am once again nothing but a native black without rights. The darling of the American newsmagazines and music industry, the girl who charmed the New York sophisticates and started a fashion trend with her hair [the Afro] and her clothes, here she is just a kaffir [laborer] who doesn't know her place. The man at the desk takes my passport. He does not speak to me, but to himself when he says 'Miriam Makeba' as if he were expecting this moment. He takes a rubber stamp and slams it down on my passport. Then he walks away. I pick up my passport. It is stamped INVALID. They have done it: They have exiled me. I am not permitted to go home, not now, and maybe not ever; my family, my home. Everything that has gone into the making of myself, gone!"
During this time, Miriam preferred to think of herself as a singer and not as a political figure. However, the world had its own vision of this remarkable woman. She toured for the next year with Belafonte. Before each concert, Belafonte held a press conference to talk about Civil Rights. She would become best known for her role as an anti-apartheid spokesperson during the thirty years she lived in exile. Her fearless humanitarianism would earn her many international awards, including the 1986 Dag Hammerskjold Peace Prize. By 1962, she was one of America's top stars, and was invited to perform two songs at President John F. Kennedy's Birthday Celebration at Madison Square Garden, the same night as Marilyn Monroe's famous birthday song salute. "Little me, from Africa, singing for the President of the United States. At Madison Square Garden there are stars all over the place. Twenty thousand people are in the audience. With my trio of male singers behind me, I stand back from the mike and sing one of my most popular songs, Wimoweh. Some pop singers here in the US have remade Wimoweh using new English lyrics instead of the original Xhosa. The song is called, The Lion Sleeps Tonight - the audience gives me a warm ovation. When I go offstage I see Marilyn Monroe standing in the wings. I move up close to her. My eyes grow very big, and I think 'Oh wow! Look at her!' She is fussing with a tight gown the color of champagne." At the President's artist reception later that night, Kennedy said, I just wanted you to know Miss Makeba, how very glad and how proud I am to have an African artist participate in my birthday celebration.' He introduces me to Mrs. Kennedy whose voice is very soft like mine when I am not singing."
In 1964, and again in 1975, Makeba addressed the United Nations' General Assembly on the horrors of apartheid. According to the New York Times, Makeba "sat alone at a long conference table facing 11 delegates and talked quietly of police brutality and mass arrests. While she recalled the racial violence-she did not mention that two uncles were among the fatalities." This remarkable woman has been feted by world leaders including three audiences with the Pope, and performances for presidential leaders John F. Kennedy, Francois Mitterand, Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, and Hail Selassie among others.
In 1990, the release of Nelson Mandela heralded a new day in South Africa. When he spoke to the people in the Xhosa language saying, "Amandla! Amandla! i-Afrika, mayibuye!" ("Power! Power! Africa, it is ours!") It ended apartheid and Miriam's exile. She returned home at last, and launched a jubilant reunion tour in 1991, followed by nearly a decade of non-stop touring to fans around the world.
Ms. Makeba's numerous performance highlights include: performing as a featured artist on Paul Simon's 1987 Graceland Worldwide Tour (along with Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo); touring the world's stages with Dizzy Gillespie, former husband Hugh Masekela, and the Three Diva Tour (with Odetta and Nina Simone); appearing in the feature film "Sarafina" (as the title character's mother); and headlining on the Pope's Christmas in the Vatican worldwide broadcast. In 1988, Makeba's autobiography, Makeba, My Story, was a worldwide success. In 1995 she was featured in a Vogue Magazine story highlighted by a photo session with Ms. Makeba, Iman and David Bowie.
Miriam Makeba continues to be in demand around the world. Just last year, Ms. Makeba sold out both London's Royal Festival Hall and Paris' Olympia Theatre, and in 1997 she was a special guest at the Harry Belafonte Tribute in New York City. She has also appeared in numerous national magazines.
Today, Miriam Makeba continues to touch the lives of millions around the world (Ed. Note: and a few hundred from Camp Shoshana) and remains active in world issues through her work with human rights, women's rights, and anti-drug campaigns. Her exceptional personal and artistic profile is part of the history of this century, all adding to the dramatic elements of an extraordinary life. Miriam Makeba is a living legend and a survivor whose time has returned.