The definitive version of a scandalously overlooked gem of the late Sixties. Meaning “touch touch” in the Xhosa language, Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata was spearheaded by the Billboard success of its title track as a single in late 1967, and came about through the patronage of legendary singer and activist Harry Belafonte.
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Xhosa is often seen as aggressive language because of the prevalence of click consonants. The word 'Xhosa' can be traced to the Khoisan language where it means "angry man". This perception is something that South African singer Miriam Makeba rails against, previously saying "it isn't a noise, it is my language". There's lots of lazy assumptions that this album is victim to, the Wikipedia entry is laughable, labelling it in impossibly broad terms as "World music, African music". Despite all this nonsense, it remains the sound of the Xhosa language joyfully expressed. Originally released in 1967, it's a gorgeous, sprawling amalgamation of bossa nova, jazz, and jive.
'Jo'inkomo' is a wistful track that's got a propulsive strummed rhythm and expressive vocals. Makeba's vocals are obviously the stand-out element of the whole album. Her voice has an amazing tonal range, often going from a warm murmur to a hoarse wail. 'Ha Po Zamani' has some amazing moments where her voice breaks with the emotion she's conveying. 'West Wind' is a highlight, going from a fairly staid verse section into an operatic chorus that shifts from major to minor, it's the album's crowning moment. Wow. If 'Pata Pata' does anything, it shows what a beautiful language Xhosa is.
'Pata Pata' defies lazy categorisations and archaic stereotypes to deliver an album that's wide-ranging and wholly immersive.
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