Miriam Makeba by Miriam Makeba (1960)
I couldn’t spend a month ‘in’ South Africa without listening to some South African music, and this album by Miriam Makeba (who to this point I only knew for ‘Pata Pata’) features in the 1001 albums list, which describes it thus: “traditional Xhosa wedding songs swing into airy African jazz moods, melilifluous Indonesian lullabies and infectious Calypso romps”. A link to Makeba’s amazing “Click Song” is provided at the end of of this post.
The album was recorded in exile in New York in 1960, when she was 28; in the same year she was prevented by the South African country from returning to that country for her mother’s funeral.
Nicknamed ‘Mama Africa’, Makeba was one of the first African musicians to receive global acclaim. She returned to South Africa after the end of apartheid, and died during a performance in 2008.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Shaka Zulu (1987)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo came to prominence as the gospel choir featured on Paul Simon’s bestselling 1986 album Graceland. Not a big fan of listening to Paul Simon or gospel choir, but these people have got staying power and appeal well beyond my Spotify speaker. Shaka Zulu won a Grammy following its release, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo won a fifth Grammy in 2018 for Shaka Zulu Revisited: 30th Anniversary Celebration.
Various Artists: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (1985)
Finally, this South African pop compilation comes in at no 497 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, which describes it as full of “‘badass joy [that] needed no translation”. It apparently influenced Graceland (that album again), and features the late Mahlathini, the deep-voiced “Lion of Soweto”.