Saturday, October 12, 2013

Keep Me In Mind

Years of being a vinyl record addict have taught me a lot of hard lessons: Always put the white inner-sleeve away facing up so that the record doesn't simply drop to the floor when you get the album out next time. You'll never listen to a record set, even a double album is pushing it. Truly great records look like they were put together by a 1940s yearbook committee.  Maybe most importantly, the price of a record doesn't reflect on its quality.

Which brings me to the artist spotlighted in this article, because i'm about to do you a huge favor. I would conservatively estimate that 65% of the used record bins in the world, from high-end boutiques to Goodwills & garage sales, contain at least one Miriam Makeba album. I'm not really sure why this is. I don't know if the Columbia House record club simply mailed one to every household in America, or if the introduction of fluoride into our municipal water supplies sparked a national craze for world music. For whatever reason, there are a ton of Miriam Makeba albums out in the world, and the chances are that somebody would be willing to sell one to you for $1. Take them up on that offer.
Miriam Makeba was a singer from Johannesburg, South Africa, so beloved that she was nicknamed "Mama Africa." Her renown stems from both her powerful voice and her political activism, particularly as one of the resounding spokespeople against apartheid. She is credited with introducing African music to the worldwide stage when she performed in 1959 for 60 million viewers on the Steve Allen Show.
Armed with beauty, forthrightness, and stunning music, Miriam Makeba became a citizen of the world. Through a strong friendship with Harry Belafonte, she was signed with RCA Records in the United States and released her first solo album, Miriam Makeba, in 1960 featuring Belafonte's backing band. Her 2nd album, The World of Miriam Makeba, released in 1963 built on it's success and charted as high as number 86 on the Billboard Top 200.
Though she would say that she didn't sing political songs, that she simply sang the truth, Makeba was exiled from South Africa, and threatened with arrest should she return. This led Miriam Makeba to testify to the United Nations about the realities of apartheid, the government-codified racial segregation in South Africa, on three separate occassions in 1963, 1975, and 1976.

In 1964, Miriam Makeba was married to another of my favorite musicians, Hugh Masekela, whom she had first met in 1958 while performing in a South African musical of King Kong. Their marriage only lasted 2 years, but their influence on each other is readily apparent in all of their music.
Miriam Makeba led a long and storied career until her death in 2008. She left a legacy of amazing recordings, 28 albums, spanning 48 years. She toured endlessly, fighting through serious illnesses her whole life, passing away from a heart attack following a benefit concert in Italy. She remained an outspoken political advocate of the oppressed and marginalized. She was an unshakeable voice for freedom, love and harmony.
This article was once again written by good friend and World Music aficionado, Andrew Burger.  Aside from being a total dude when I ask for some help writing articles, Andrew also founded The Harmony Society record label and keeps his own blog, Stupid Scientifical, where you can keep up with all of his regular record-buying exploits.  Find him on Twitter, and when you get the chance, stop into 720 Music, which he co-owns and operates in Pittsburgh, Pa.  Also, if you haven't read it already, check out his excellent article on Marcos Valle from (what feels like) way back in July.

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