Nov 10, 2008

Angel Passing

Like most folks my age, my first exposure to Miriam Makeba, who died a few days ago, was through Paul Simon's Graceland tour in the mid-1980s. I was impressed (though for a while I was more into the music of her tourmate and ex-husband, Hugh Masekela). Then one day I found an amazing record in a used-LP bin (shown above) and found one of my favorite songs, ever. It's called "Mbombela (Train Song)," it's in Xhosa, and it puts into words and music the reaction of folks seeing a train for the first time. It's breathtaking, from that unidentifiable pair of chiming guitar chords (trust me, I've tried to identify them--that second one is some kind of alien polytonal thing) to the slowly gathering chug-chug percussion, the snaky accordion, and of course the voices--Belafonte's dusky baritone and Makeba's keening wail.

This more well-known classic, "My Angel (Malaika)," is a lovely benediction, as well.

A voice to cherish.

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