Monday, September 10, 2012

#51: Miriam Makeba - Miriam Makeba (1960)

If you can't listen to an album or a song that's not sung in English, then you may want to stop reading now. I understand the lack of appeal when there's a language barrier in the music but missing out on something like this is a shame. Makeba has a beautiful voice and provides music you wouldn't normally hear in the US. It's got a lot of gospel, African roots, choral influences, and maybe even a little jazz in it. It's exotic but still close to home.

The Click Song
As Makeba explains at the beginning of the track, in her native village they sing this when a young girl gets married. They speak by using words and words containing clicks. The bass is simple enough but provides a tropical feel while the percussion and big hit/claps provide enough variation to the rhythms. Harmonies are great melodies are good, and while I've never been exposed to music like this before today it's very interesting, very cool.

I really don't care to understand the words. This a capella performance is tremendous despite the lack of context. It starts as a call and answer but for the chorus everyone sings together. If choral music was more like this, I'd be more inclined to listen. Dynamics vary but it's each individuals performances that makes it work. When they all come together for the chorus it's overwhelming - but in the best way possible.

One More Dance
It's about a woman and a man. The woman's husband is sick, then dying, then dead, then the will needs to be read. The man constantly reminds her of these things but she constantly dismisses it with flimsy excuses. Excellent music and funny/entertaining lyrics - it's entertaining but fun.

All in all, I love it. I didn't go into it anticipating to hate it, but I was skeptical. It's much more entertaining than I ever thought it could be. I glanced at the track list and only saw one familiar track, 'House of the Rising Sun'. So, knowing that Makeba wouldn't sing in English for the overwhelming majority of the album - I figured I'd cling to this song. Quite the opposite, in fact I'd rank that track near the bottom (especially after just hearing Baez's rendition). Makeba is at her best when she's doing what's most natural for her, singing in her native tongue. Maybe it's because I'm on the beach, but this is perfect beach music.

Tomorrow's album: Billy Joel's The Stranger.

No comments:

Post a Comment