Since Harry Belafonte
and Miriam Makeba
had appeared together in concert frequently in the early '60s, customers spying an LP called Evening With Belafonte/Makeba
might reasonably have assumed that the record would contain a joint live performance by the two, and that might help explain why this album charted in the Top 100 despite its challenging material. To begin with, it is not a live album, but rather a studio recording. And it isn't so much a duo album, for the most part, as a joint album; Belafonte
perform together on only two tracks, "Train Song" and "Cannon." Otherwise, they split up the selections, each appearing on five. The real point of this album is to present a group of South African songs in more or less authentic fashion. They are sung mostly in either Xhosa or Zulu, with one song in Sotho and another in Swahili. Despite the English song titles (with the original titles following in parenthesis), there is only one moment on the album when the English language is spoken; that is when Makeba
explains the meaning of "Khawuleza" (the Xhosa title of "Hurry, Mama, Hurry!") as referring to situations in which children alert their mothers that the authorities are coming. Both Belafonte
are frequently accompanied by a choir for some wonderful effects. This is a powerful album of traditional South African music, and anyone buying it realizing that will be well satisfied. Just don't think the disc is what it appears to be from the title.