TIME, The Weekly News Magazine , February 1, 1960:
Singer Miriam Makeba, a Xosa tribeswoman (full name: Zensi Miriam Makeba Ogwashu ogu vama yi keti Ie nenxgoma sittu xa saku aga ba ukutsha sithathe izitsha sizi khalu sivuke ngomso sizi chole ezo zinge knayo zinga bikho nfalo singamalamu singa mangamla nagithi1), is probably too shy to realize it, but her return to Africa would leave a noticeable gap in the U. S. entertainment world, which she entered a mere six weeks ago ....
At Manhattan's Blue Angel, a smoky, low-ceilinged saloon-for-sophiticates, she is delighting the customers with the songs and styles she learned as a child. In her high, sweet, reedy voice, the knowing can hear many echoes—of Ella Fitzgerald, whose records she bought as a child, of Harry Belafonte, who helped her get started in the U. S.—but she sings like no one else.
CLICK OF CORKS. The close-cropped, woolly head and the sleek white Fifth Avenue gown come from different worlds, but the combination has charm and grace of its own. In a ballad, she maintains the clean, classic phrasing of a church singer, she can be roguish in a West Indian ditty about a naughty flea, and she can make a ... lament of A Warrior's Retreat Song ... When Makeba sings or talks in her native Xosa dialect, its expressive staccato clicks sound like the popping of champagne corks. Whatever mood she assumes, Miriam Makeba maintains a simple and primitive stoicism that sets her sharply apart from the emotional, often artificial style of American Negro singers.
THE SHOW WENT ON. As remarkable as anything about Makeba is the fact that, however arresting her talent, she managed to sing her way out of the anonymity of South African Negro life. Helping her mother in various servants' jobs around Johannesburg, Miriam sang in school, at weddings and funerals. If she could get close to a radio, she tuned in the native songs played on Johannesburg radio stations. "Anyone who sings, makes music," says she, "as long as it's good to my ear.
At 17, she began singing at benefits—some nights for Negroes, some nights for whites . Soon she joined a travelling group called The Black Manhattan Brothers (eleven men and Miriam), and for three years she barnstormed all aver Rhodesia, the Belgian Congo and South Africa. "The bus often broke down," Miriam remembers, "and after the first five months I was crying all the time. But they kept telling me the show must go on. We always managed to get there on time." Miriam finally left the group to join a touring musical variety show, then got the female lead in a Negro jazz opera called King Kong (based on a true story of a prizefighter who killed his mistress). In 1958 restless singer Makeba applied for a passport, and after a year's wait she was on her way to London. From there she moved on to Manhattan's downtown Village Vanguard, then uptown to the Angel.
Copyright TIME, Inc.
Recorded for GALLO
Recorded at Webster Hall, New York City.
Recording Engineer: Bob Simpson.
The critics and public have already expressed themselves about the talent of Miriam Makeba with phrases like "a new high-voltage electric charge"2 ... "the appearance of a new star"3 . . . "sings like no one else"4. National notices and feature articles in Time, Look, The New York Times, Newsweek and many others sprang from only three engagements—her first after arriving from South Africa.
Now is the moment for another debut—her first record album. I was present during these recording sessions, and it was a remarkable experience. The sparks were there in Miss Makeba's artistry and her strangely powerful songs—in themselves a startling blend of the highly sophisticated and the primitive. The combination of Makeba, the music and the musicians erupted into a kind of musical spontaneous combustion, rarely encountered in a studio. This album which resulted presents a "Makeba-in-depth" which may never be fully realized in quite the same way on TV or the night club stage.
There is little I can add to the acclaim already written by others about this great artist. Knowing her and working with her5 count as one of my greatest artistic privileges. Like you, I shall be playing and replaying these exciting performances by one of today's strongest musical personalities.
THE RETREAT SONG (Jikele Maweni)
A Xosa warrior's song of defeat; literally a call to "take to the cliffs." A happy song melodically, it is ironically almost humorous in treatment.
An Indonesian lullaby.
THE CLICK SONG
A festive Xosa song sung at weddings.
An unaccompanied Swasi lament. The text tells of a betrayal by a friend.
A lullaby-lament. The woman discovers she has been deserted by her husband. She tries to comfort her child who is crying with hunger.
At sunset a man longs for his wife and begs her to come back to him.
A familiar Zulu song about a lion hunt. Various other versions known under the title "Wimoweh" and "Whim Away."
THE NAUGHTY LITTLE FLEA
A calypso-oriented song which is self·explanatory.
WHERE DOES IT LEAD?
"Where does it lead,
This strange young love of mine?"
A Xosa love song.
HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN
"There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun."
Xosa song about a child who has been away misbehaving. She comes home and says it wasn't her fault; she was misled by a friend.
ONE MORE DANCE
An improbable Austrian tune with words which make their own satiric comment on the battle of the sexes.
All three voices are Miss Makeba. Perhaps the first multiple recording in Zulu. The story is a lighthearted account of a ne'er-do-well husband who hides until his wife leaves for work, then searches the house for drinking money.
1. Simply a series of native first namels e.g. Jane, Mary, Ellen, etc.
2. New York World Telegram
5. Miriam Makeba appeared with Harry Belafonte on his Camerie Hall Benefit Concert, May 2nd, 1960.
Makeba's debut album was recorded in the United States with great assistance from Harry Belafonte. William Morris negotiated a contract for her with RCA records, who made the original recordings. However she was still under contract to Gallo Records in South Africa who, according to Makeba (in her biography) claimed that they still "owned" her—angering both her and Belafonte especially since Gallo never paid her royalties. Gallo wanted a sum of $75 000 to release Makeba from her contract with them, while Belafonte's lawyers were able to re-negotiate a payment of $45 000. Subsequently Makeba never saw a single cent from the sale of this record which did sell very well. (Makeba, My Story, p. 96)
Interestingly the US releases of this album on RCA Victor (LPM 2267 and LSP 2267) do not mention the Gallo connection at all. However all other worldwide issues, mostly on the London label of Decca Records do acknowledge: "Recorded for Gallo (Africa) Ltd." etc...
The London 'plum' label may be the first UK issue, though there is also a 'black' label pressing printed by James Upton, Ltd. Other versions with the catalogue number HA 2332 include various Israeli issues and a Nigerian copy. The Israeli issue comes in both 10" and 12" sizes.
South African issues of this record were issued with the catalogue number ZA 6037 and SZA 6037 on the London label and featured slightly different liner notes. There is also a Kenyan issue on the Afican Beat label printed in Bulawayo (Rhodesia) with this same catalogue number. It is possible (but unknown) that the first South African pressing may be on Gallo's Continental label, as the Kenyan pressing alludes to Continental ZA 6037.
Other issues of this recording on the RCA Victor label include Canadian, West Indian (Trinidad) and New Zealand copies.
While other issues on the London label include French and Dutch copies.
The album, a classic of Makeba's, has also been re-issued over the years by a number of other record companies, including a 1980, US version on the Peters International label and others on the French, Disques Esperence label (distributed by Sonodisc.) Many of these issues including some of the earlier ones have different cover images.