Mama Africa Still Radiates

Miriam Makeba – Reflections
Miriam Makeba

Reflections (Heads Up International HUCD3087, 2004)

Miriam Makeba is a global music legend who certainly doesn’t need the endorsement of a hack like me. But since I’m already here and this happens to be a very good album even by Makeba’s standards, what the hey. There are tunes here
that Makeba has recorded previously (“Pata Pata,” “Click Song”), a couple of Bossa Nova classics, the perennial Van Morrison gem “I Shall Sing,” reminders of Makeba’s South African roots like “Iyaguduza” and a whole lotta elegance and style.

Vocally, she’s sounding less chipper than she used to- understandable, given her long years as performer, activist, icon and indomitable spirit. Nonetheless, she can still sing in a variety of styles (and languages) and sound great. Even when she’s taking on a song that’s potentially overly familiar like “Mas Que Nada” (even if you don’t recognize the name, you know the tune, believe me) or something a lesser singer might turn to schmaltz (“Love Tastes Like Strawberries”), she’s got it going on.

The arrangements and tempos are varied throughout, giving the whole album equal measures of beauty and kick amid production that emphasizes the pan-African rhythms and doesn’t spit-polish the ballads too much. There’s a retrospective feel to the disc, and yet a here-and-now air as well. Contradictory? No. Such is the timeless quality of Miriam Makeba’s music. Along with the recent CD release of her 1966 gig at Bern’s Salonger in Stockholm, Reflectionsis a sweet reminder of one who continues to make music that matters.

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