World & Latin

Mirror, Miriam

07 APR 10 JOHN C. BRUENING

In the half-century between her earliest recordings in the early 1950s and her death in November 2008, Miriam Makeba became one of the most powerful and iconic voices of South African music. Reflections, released on Heads Up in 2004, is a retrospective album wherein "Mama Afrika" revisits several of her earlier hits with new arrangements.

Her ascendance within the collective psyche of her native country took place in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- three decades in exile resulting from her outspoken views about apartheid.

Reflections includes early songs she originally recorded as a member of the Manhattan Brothers and The Skylarks, as well as trademark hits she enjoyed as a solo artist. Front to back, this set follows Makeba's trajectory from mainstream pop star status in her own country to transcendent voice of freedom and civil rights on the world stage.

The set opens with the exuberant "Iyaguduza," followed immediately by a churning and upbeat rendition of "Pata Pata," the song that became her signature tune after she first recorded it in 1956. Other highlights include a sultry take on the Brazilian classic "Mas Que Nada" and a minimalist version on her 1966 hit "Click Song." Her reading of Van Morrison's "I Shall Sing" is a mainstream pop tune delivered via an exotic African filter. Also in the mix are two songs penned by her former husband, Hugh Masekela, the rhythmic "African Convention" and the jazzy closer "Where Are You Going?"

While Reflections may be a look backward, it also captures the voice and spirit of an artistic and activist who inspired the generations that followed -- not just in her native South Africa, but around the world.