As part of the month-long Ubuntu: Music and Arts of South Africa celebration in New York, one of Africa’s greatest contemporary voices, Angelique Kidjo, is paying tribute to one of her greatest influences, Miriam Makeba. Angelique calls Makeba “the first and biggest pan-African artist ever.” The event, Mama Africa: A Tribute to Miriam Makeba, takes place Nov. 5 at Carnegie Hall. And Afropop has a pair of free tickets that you could win! Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Mama Africa” for your chance. Read more from our conversation with Angelique about the concert here.
For an older generation of listeners, Makeba was a legendary figure, but while many younger listeners recognize her classic songs, they might not know her name. To add to the celebration of Makeba’s legacy and provide an introduction for those that need a primer, we’ve put together a list of some of her most crucial tracks.
1. “Pata Pata”
Makeba’s first and universal hit song. As Angelique said to us, “If you play ‘Pata Pata’ to anyone, they know it. Every time I play that song on stage, I say, ‘If you don’t know this song, you’re not living on planet Earth.’ And as soon as I start singing, they say, ‘Oh, this one.’ And they all stand up. But when you say Miriam Makeba, it’s like, ‘Who?’”
2. “The Click Song”
“The Click Song” is Makeba’s version of a traditional wedding song called “Qongqothwane,” sung in her native village in Johannesburg.
“Malaika” is a Swahili song that became a worldwide hit in 1965 when Makeba covered the song with Harry Belafonte on An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba.
4. “Liwa Wechi”
Though a lesser-known Makeba track, “Liwa Wechi” is a fantastic example of the emotional depth of her voice. She interprets a stunning song in Lingala by one of Congo’s greatest composers, bandleader Franco Luambo Makiadi of TPOK Jazz, a lament for a deceased friend.
5. “A Luta Continua”
“The struggle continues” in Portuguese, “A Luta Continua” was an anthem of the FRELIMO liberation movement during the Mozambican war of independence. The song had strong significance for Makeba, a lifelong activist against apartheid, who witnessed the victory against colonization in South Africa’s neighboring Mozambique in 1975.
As a bonus, here is a clip of Makeba speaking movingly against apartheid in front of the United Nations in 1963:
For a chance to win a pair of tickets to see Mama Africa: A Tribute to Miriam Makeba, email us at email@example.com with the subject “Mama Africa” and your name.