Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa The Musical from African Music Publishers Documents The Long, Hard Struggle of An African Musical Legend Against Apartheid

Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa The Musical
African Music Publishers AMP AGCD 2609 (2016)

The liner notes for this recording are by Fred Onovwerosuoke, whose website is www.fredomusic.com.  They begin with a Synopsis.


MIRIAM MAKEBA - MAMA AFRICA (the musical) tells the story, life and times of Miriam Makeba.  This original musical centers on the life, struggle and legacy of South African talent and phenomenal singer, Miriam Makeba. She lived the majority of her life, exiled from South Africa for more than 30 years.  She left South Africa in the late 1950's and was forbidden to return until 1992.  During her years in exile she devoted her life and art to the South African ideal and cause, for freedom, justice and equality.  She passed away in 2008.

This musical explores her activism in helping to bring down apartheid (and impact on the global civil rights movement), her fame & international success owing to her magical voice and her endurance in overcoming betrayal, failed marriages and the death of her only daughter, Bongi, while in exile.  Set in Africa, the USA and Belgium MIRIAM MAKEBA - MAMA AFRICA (the musical) is an inspirational, universal story that will appeal to a multi-generational audience worldwide.

Sequence of Tracks

Act 1 of the Musical opens with a Zulu/Xhosa chant inviting the audience to hear the story of a remarkable legend, Miriam Makeba.  It is quickly followed by the call & response song, Emabhacheni and the dance tune, Kikirikiki. Ntutu's Song welcomes the birth of a new child, Miriam!  Hapo Zamani is a satire on the antics of Apartheid police, while Khawyleza is one of those 'code songs' to alert mothers/neighbors about police raids.  At the birth of a child, joys or strife, the seer/healer, Sangoma, always is sought for advice and divination.  Hence the traditional songs, Baxabene Oxam, Uhadi and Bamtwana Bokugula.  The Click Song which Miriam sang for US President John Kennedy.  Malaika is the endearing KiSwahili love song that Miriam Makeba made popular, used in the Musical to celebrate Zenzi's marriage to police constable James Kubay.  Then followed the dance songs, Saduva and Ibhabalazi.  Sabumoya reflects on difficult times for Miriam and family after prison.  Freedom Song is mesh of two protest songs echoing the pains of similarly oppressed peoples.  As were the protest songs, Sobashy and Abazali and Beware Verwoed, against erstwhile Apartheid prime minister, especially suring the Sharpville Massacre.  Nguma Kurila in the Musical was used in the scene of Bongi's (Makeba's daughter) arrival in the United States and of tales from her homeland of South Africa.  Thambo Uyigwe, Uwam Uyajabula and Nongqongqo are from scenes where Miriam uses her found fame to passionately appeal to world leaders to respond to untold atrocities, the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, etc., in South Africa.  The lovely track, Amabonvani, follows.  Act 2 opens with a rousing Zulu chant, a series of songs & chants not included on the CD, followed by the set of emotive reminiscences - Iyaguduza, reflecting on matrimonial pains, African Sunset and Suliram. The Musical closes with Pata Pata, Miriam Makeba's rousing signature tune!  

For a listener without knowledge of African languages and dialects, the recording can sound more festive than its subject matter truly is.  The sober message of the liner notes brought this reviewer's mind back to the anti-apartheid campaigns of Amnesty International, as a volunteer member of a local chapter of the group for several years beginning in the late Seventies.  Presentations by former prisoners of South Africa's apartheid regime provided priceless context to the stream of documents about oppression of the majority of the country's people.  Each listener will bring a unique perspective to this musical account of the life and music of Miriam Makeba, but the story is one which deserves to be widely disseminated.

Comment by email:
Blessings to you, Bill. And much gratitude for your tireless service. Have a great New Year!  Fredo  [Fred Onovwerosuoke]

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