Miriam Makeba Homeland (Putumayo)
Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., July 28, 2000
Homeland (Putumayo)While Marilyn Monroe prepared to sing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to JFK, Miriam Makeba was simultaneously wooing the Commander in Chief and Madison Square Garden's 20,000 with her supremely soulful voice. That was 1962, two years after she was banned from her South African homeland for her vocal stand against apartheid. Forty years later and Mama Africa -- as the first African Grammy-winner is rightfully dubbed -- remains vital and engaged, just last week selling out Central Park's massive Summerstage. Homeland, the first studio album in six years from the nearly 70-years-young musical ambassador, begins with "Masakhane," a harmony vocal tour de force delightfully couched in a rolling South African backbeat. More than an invitation to dance, the lyrics call out for unity in a post-apartheid world. The rest of Homeland contains mostly mid-tempo, vocal-driven melodic numbers like the deeply felt title track, the divine women power tribute "Amaliya," and the stripped-down pulchritude of "Liwawechi." All told, it's easy to see how Homeland would please both musical connoisseurs as well as those unfortunate folks who think Zulu is a restaurant name. In the sphere of South African influence, it's not inaccurate to place Miriam Makeba in the same category as Nelson Mandela. And with Homeland, Mama Africa scores another international hit.