I was introduced to the music of Miriam Makeba as a child growing up in Washington, DC. I remember my mama placing an album on the turntable and telling me to listen. A woman’s melodic voice was explaining that the alveolar “clicks” she was aspirating were in fact her native language, not some random sound or “noise.” The song came to be known as The Click Song among those who did not speak Xhosa, “because they could not say Qongqothwane.”
In August 1991, I had the great fortune of seeing her perform in concert with another musical legend, Dizzy Gillespie and backed by a big band at New York’s World Financial Center in the finale performance of the free Summer concert series. It was their first time performing together and it was absolutely remarkable. It is particularly poignant to think of it today as Dizzy is no longer with us, the Financial Center as we knew it was destroyed in the September 11 terror attacks and now Ms. Makeba, singer and activist to the end has passed away at age 76. Rest well, Mama Afrika.
The “Click” Song performed in 1979