Miriam Makeba - Miriam Makeba (1960)
Aside from being able to write amusingly snarky comments about artists I don't like, finding wonderful stuff like this is probably what makes this 1001-step exercise in music appreciation so rewarding. Miriam Makeba was a South African Xhosa singer who was brought to the States by Harry Belafonte, who "discovered" her during one of his many trips to Africa. After listening to her first American album (which Belafonte produced), I can see why he was so smitten.
One impressive aspect of Makeba's voice is that it sounds as comfortable and natural belting out standards like "House of the Rising Sun" as it does clicking and popping through the astonishing "Click Song". And her take on the classic South African pop hit "Mbube" - also known as "Wimaweh", also known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" - is so jubilant, so vital and throbbing with life, it leaves me struggling for the proper words to describe it.
As good as the music is, in this case, there is an even more incredible personal story behind that music. Makeba, who died in 2008 after a concert in Italy, was known as "Mama Africa" and "The Voice of Africa" for her tireless work against the Apartheid regime, which led to her 30-year exile from the homeland she so dearly loved. Oh, and did I mention she was incredibly beautiful? Thankfully for those of us too lazy to do all the research ourselves, there's a movie coming out about her life.
So far, 26 albums deep, this is my favorite new discovery, and it's going to take something pretty impressive to dislodge it from its perch.
I heard it before? No.
Do I like it? Yes. It's wonderful.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Mbube", "The Retreat Song", "The Click Song", "The Naughty Little Flea", "Nomeva"