Pata Pata Time

by wjw on June 19, 2021

Here’s Miriam Makeba with her biggest hit, “Pata Pata,” as performed on the Ed Sullivan show in 1967 (she’d been singing the song for at least ten years before this). From the quality of the video I suspect it was recorded off someone’s television.

Pata pata was the name of a dance popular in Johannesburg’s shebeens in the 1950s, where one partner would rotate in place while the other crouched and patted her down in the style of a cop patting down a suspect. (I’m guessing the inhabitants of South Africa’s townships knew what being patted down by a cop was like.)

The song hit #12 in the States, and was covered by everyone from the Supremes to Pink Martini. But Makeba’s version has the clicks of the Xhosa language, while I suspect the others do not.

“Pata Pata” was the last song Miriam Makeba ever sang. After a lifetime of exile and fighting injustice, she sang at a concert in Italy rallying the population against the Camorra, collapsed after finishing the song, and died later that night. Requiescat in pace et in amore.

John Wilson June 25, 2021 at 1:58 pm

I may have watched this when it aired. It rings bells. But I was very young at the time.

Thanks for bringing this back, including the parts I didn’t know until now – the inspiration for the song, and the untimely death of Miriam Makeba.

Juanma Barranquero June 27, 2021 at 9:05 pm

Wonderful song, wonderful singer.

I’m also very partial to “Qongqothwane” (“The Click Song”):

Shash July 12, 2021 at 8:42 pm

Thank you for sharing that clip. It caused me to do something I’ve been wanting to do since I first heard Jain’s “Makeba” song. Read about a wonderful person with a gift she shared with all who would listen.

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