Poptartology: Pata Pata fever

2013-07-02 15:05

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There’s a fresh wave of Pata Pata touching the planet and making my feet tap as if they had a will of their own.

Before you read any further, listen to this. It’s Miriam Makeba’s most famous song, Pata Pata – but on speed.

It was reworked by Cape Town-based, Congolese rapper Alec Lomami.


Pardon My French was brought to my attention a while back by AfriPOP! (@afripopmag), an online publication of such adorable proportions that they should come in an edible version. Read their interview with Lomami here.

These fine young poptarts have premiered a new video by “British-Nigerian ‘drama soul’ debutante” Temi DollFace. It’s called Pata Pata and while it sounds nothing like the Makeba song, it’s a clear reference to her influence.

“Azonto dance moves, pidgin informercial and 50s pin-up style references make for one of the most original African music videos I have seen,” writes editor Phiona Okumu. Watch it and smile.


There’ve been dozens of versions of Pata Pata over the years, but now new school African artists are reinventing her ethos.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. There was a time when Makeba was removed from the public eye. Her passport was revoked in 1960 after she went into exile in America.

Then her image was banned. Even a simple postcard of Mama Africa by resistance artist Sue Williamson incited the ire of the apartheid censors, who prohibited it and threatened the artist.

The banned postcard of Miriam Makeba. Picture: Sue Williamson

The Grammy Award-winning singer and civil rights activist first released Pata Pata (which means “touch touch”) in 1957 while she still lived in South Africa. It was written by fellow diva Dorothy Masuka.

In 1963 Makeba was removed as a citizen of the republic and told she may never return home.

Instead she became the first global voice of African pop, spurred by gigs with Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon and Hugh Masekela.

Pata Pata grew global wings when she released it in America in 1967 and it climbed to number 12 on the Billboard charts.

And of course she did return home with the advent of democracy, a hero, until her death in 2008. It was only then that the first comprehensive autobiography was published.

But the legend continues to grow. To this day she’s having the last word – and spreading the African pop spirit around the world.

Miriam Makeba, performing live in 2008

If you want to see the real thing, though, here’s a early 70s TV recording of her singing her signature tune.


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