VARIOUS ARTISTS / “Pata Pata Mixtape”
Although often attributed to Miriam Makeba, and sometimes even erroneously credited to Miriam Makeba and Jerry Ragovoy, “Pata Pata”was actually written by legendary Zimbabwe-born (1935), South African-educated, vocalist Dorothy Masuka. “Pata Pata” was first recorded in 1956 or 1957 in South Africa. In an interview Ms. Masuka recalls, “During the struggle in 1954 I penned the song Pata Pata, and then Miriam went to America in 1958 that’s when she did Pata Pata.” In 1967 “Pata Pata” became a hit in the U.S. for Miriam Makeba due in part to Makeba’s association with Harry Belafonte, who was a major recording artist at the time. Makeba’s 1967 album was entitled Pata Pata, and that is the source of Jerry Ragovoy receiving co-writing credit when the song was released on Reprise records. I was surprised to find so many covers of the song, and even more surprised that only one well known U.S. artist had cut a version. Although not the first (second, or for that matter third) person I would have guessed, as you listen to his energetic improvisation, we hear innovative guitarist Wes Montgomery bring a jazz interpretation to the dance song. An interesting counterpoint to Montgomery’s up-tempo vigor is South African Johnathan Butler who slows the song to provide a beautiful ballad textured guitar treatment. Daude from Brazil and a diverse crop of African musicians all take the song on, twirling it with their own flavors. Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango actually has two distinctly different versions, both of which I enjoy. The island of Cuba also gives us two versions: one with Prez Pardo big band screaming and shouting in a traditional Cuban fifties type arrangement complete with a cheesy organ, and the second is vocalist Lucrecia, whom we recently featured. Lucrecia is also exuberant. I was not able to track down the original from the fifties but Dorothy Masuka recorded the song in 1991 when she was in her mid-fifties. Her voice was still strong and enchanting. Although the arrangement was an update from the fifties version, one can easily hear that the Makeba version has additional elements that Masuka’s does not feature. Among the differences are the catchy piano hook. This is probably the rationale for composing credits given to Makeba, or to Makeba and Regovoy. I wish I could tell you more about a number of the versions but a healthy number of these tracks are downloads, which means I do not have recording information (e.g. place, date, and personnel). Rather than fake the funk or make a fool of myself by trying to guess, I’ll just give it to you the way that I got it. Despite such a variety of versions from a spectrum of artists, Miriam once again proves she is definitive when it comes to singing “Pata Pata.” Moreover, Makeba offers us not one, or two, but instead drops three beautiful versions. The familiar 1967 version kicks off the Mixtape. About a third of the way through (track #6), Mama Africa (aka Miriam Makeba) offers a skipping, joyful version that accents the purity of her voice. The Mixtape concludes with a sensuous, penny-whistle flavored version that features Makeba sexy, full-throated low notes. What range and color Makeba had. She could make her voice do anything, while implying everything. In the Xhosa language “pata” means touch. It is hard to resist the enticing touch of this sensual dance song. —Kalamu ya Salaam Pata Pata Mixtape Playlist 01 Pata Pata - Miriam Makeba 02 Pata Pata - Dorothy Masuka 03 Painting The Town Red - Joe Thompson 04 Wakafrika - Manu Dibango 05 The Best of African Jazz Pioneers – African Jazz Pioneers 06 Welela - Miriam Makeba 07 Negropolitaines - Manu Dibango 08 African Sensations - The New Age Orchestra & Voices 09 Surrender - Jonathan Butler 10 African Jazz Standards – unidentified band 11 Daúde #2 - Daúde 12 Fanfare Africaine: Mummy I Go For Town Vol 1 - Toups Bebey & Le Spirit Pan-African Brass Company 13 My Roberta - Perez Prado 14 Mira Las Luces - Lucrecia 15 Wes Montgomery: Greatest Hits - Wes Montgomery 16 Move It Up - El General 17 Retrorespeck remixed, remastered, & re-energized - Marcia Griffiths 18 Afrika!! Spirit – unidentified band 19 Reflections - Miriam Makeba
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