"Pata Pata" is an Afro-pop dance song popularized internationally by South African singer Miriam Makeba. "Pata Pata" is credited to Makeba and Jerry Ragovoy. Her most popular recording of "Pata Pata" was recorded and released in the United States in 1967.
The song's title "Pata Pata" (or "Phatha Phatha") means "touch touch" in the Xhosa language, in which the song was originally written and sung. "Phatha Phatha" was also the name of a style of dance that was popular in the shebeens of Johannesburg's Townships in the mid-1950s. The dancer crouched before his partner and patted her body to the rhythm of the music as he rose up and she spun around, making hip circles.
Makeba's "Pata Pata" was not the only song inspired by the "Phatha Phatha" dance. Her "Pata Pata" melody was based on an instrumental "Phatha Phatha" by Shumi Ntutu and Isaac Nkosi, which was in turn based on "Noma Kumnyama" by Alson Mkhize.
The first eight bar melodic phrase in "Pata Pata" would come directly from "Noma Kumnyama" (Zulu: "Even If It's Dark") by the Dundee Wandering Singers, a mbube group led by Alson Novemu Mkhize.
It was recorded in 1941 for Eric Gallo's Singer Gramophone Company and was initially released as Singer GE 883.
(o) Dundee Wandering Singers (1941) (as "Noma Kumnyama")
Recorded in 1941: matrix 1741
Released on Gallotone Singer GE.883
Personally I don't hear the direct resemblance of the version here above with Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata", but I do hear the resemblance with an instrumental titled "Phatha Phatha", recorded in May 1959 by a musical group called the Brown Cool Six.
In early 1959, a Xhosa musician from Orlando East-Soweto named Shumi Ntutu was leading a small jazz ensemble, the Swingbusters, made up of local players. Ntutu could competently play several instruments but was best known as an alto saxophonist, and he was also beginning to try his hand as a composer. The Swingbuster's repertoire included several original songs that the band auditioned to record at EMI. One of these, a song called "White Horse”, combined the melody of "Noma Kumnyama" with an additional eight-bar phrase written by Ntutu. At that time, although Rupert Bopape headed up EMI's African division, most decisions regarding African jazz material were handled by Isaac "Zacks" Nkosi, who was himself a noted reed player, composer and band leader. He told Ntutu that his band wasn't good enough to record but he thought "White Horse” had some potential. He asked Ntutu to come back later by himself to join a group of EMI's studio regulars, known as the Magic Circle, to record the song. The result was an instrumental title called "Phatha Phatha” as performed by the Brown Cool Six, a line-up nominally led by trumpeter Gray Mbau, and released on Columbia YE 248. The record was first advertised in the July 1959 issue of Zonk magazine, which would have actually been out on the newsstands late in the previous month. This suggests the record was released sometime in May or June.
(c) Brown Cool Six (1959) (as "Phatha Phatha")
Recorded May 1959 in Johannesburg
Matrix CEA 5329
Released on a 78 RPM disc (Columbia YE 248)
Also released on the next album:
As indicated on the label of YE 248, Ntutu and Nkosi ended up "splitting” the composer credit for the song. Ntutu's surname was incorrectly rendered as "Nthuthu”. Nkosi may have in fact been responsible for the recorded arrangement, but he was also known to use his powerful position at EMI to force composers to "share” their title credits and revenue. The new title, "Phatha Phatha” - which was apparently Nkosi's idea - was undoubtedly an attempt to cash in on a dance craze then sweeping the townships (phatha phatha means "touch touch” in both Zulu and Xhosa). In addition, Nkosi probably hoped to capitalize on the success of Dorothy Masuka's "Ei Yow”, a hugely popular vocal hit about phatha phatha which had been released by Troubadour Records, a fierce competitor to EMI in the African market.
Dorothy Masuka's "Ei Yow" phata phata had been recorded in April 1959 and may in fact have started the South-african "Phatha Phatha" dance craze.
I think, besides Brown Cool Six' "Phatha Phatha", Miriam Makeba's "Pata Pata" is also indebted to Dorothy Masuka's "Ei Yow".
(c) Dorothy Masuka (1960) (as "Ei-Yow")
Zulu lyrics by Ngubane
Recorded April 1959 in Johannesburg
Released on Troubadour AFC 576
Listen here: Dorothy Masuka - Ei-Yow YouTube
Or here (at 2 min and 20 sec in the YT below)
In the middle of the Phatha Phatha dance craze and in the wake of the Brown Cool Six' success of their recording of "Phatha Phatha", a stream of Phatha Phatha recordings were dropped on the record market.
(c) The Black Mambazo (1959) (as "Some More-Phatha Phatha")
Recorded June 1959 in Johannesburg
Matrix CEA 5369
Released on Columbia YE 250
Also released on the same album as the Brown Cool Six recording above
(c) Spokes Mashiyane and his Golden Saxophone (1959) (as "Phatha Phatha")
Matrix ABC 17656
Recorded July 1959 in Johannesburg
Released on the Gallotone sublabel New Sound GB 2950
SEE ALSO: Spokes Mashiyane - Discography
Also released in 1960 on the next album:
A few months after the release of Brown Cool Six' "Phatha Phatha", in mid-July of 1959, Sam Alcock, an African talent scout working for Gallo Record Company and its 50 per cent owned subsidiary, Gramophone Record Company (GRC), recruited a freelance guitarist and composer named Reggie Msomi to work on a recording session with Miriam Makeba and her vocal group, the Skylarks. There was, as Alcock explained it to Msomi, a fair degree of urgency about the job because Makeba was planning to leave South Africa for Italy where a film in which she had appeared, "Come Back Africa", was being premiered, and it was uncertain when she would be returning. Makeba had attained local "star" status as an actress and vocalist, thanks largely to her role in the sensationally successful musical, "King Kong". Gallo, being anxious to get as many new recordings "in the can" as possible before her departure, was busy scheduling sessions, with Gallo's Musical Director, Dan Hill producing. GRC also released Skylarks recordings as by the Sunbeams on their own Tropik label, and since Alcock was the producer on most of GRC's African sessions, he had a particular interest in squeezing in a last Sunbeams session before Makeba left the country. What he needed, and quickly, was new material for the group to record. As Msomi recalls, "It was a hell of a rush.. .there were no songs at all" (Interview, Msomi 2004). The recording session took place with the four regular members of the Skylarks/ Sunbeams - Miriam Makeba, Mary Robotapi, Abigail Kubeka and Mummygirl Nketle - supplemented by an additional vocalist, Ruth Nkonyeni. The instrumentalists were Reggie Msomi on electric lead guitar, Stanford Tsiu on rhythm guitar, Johannes "Chooks" Tshukudu on string bass and Louis Molubi on drums, all of whom had previously backed the group on prior sessions.
The last song recorded on the session, was called "Phatha Phatha". There is little doubt that the commercial inspiration for this song came from Ntutu's "Phatha Phatha" hit on the Columbia-label, and that someone, either Msomi himself or, perhaps a member of GRC's sales team, had reckoned that covering the popular instrumental with a similar vocal version might be an excellent sales ploy. In fact, re-cycling an instrumental melody as a vocal item, or vice-versa, was a fairly common practice at the time, although in most cases the two versions usually came out of the same studio. Msomi's "Phatha Phatha", like the instrumental version, used "Noma Kumnyama" as the principle melody - a melody that he was well aware had not been written by Ntutu. Msomi was familiar with the original Dundee Wandering Singers recording from having heard it played on the radio several times in about 1954, after he first arrived in Johannesburg from Natal. The original song was also familiar to him because he had seen it performed live by the Dundee Wanderers, an mbube group based in Meadowlands and led by Elijah Msibi. The secondary melody Msomi used in his "Phatha Phatha" was his own composition and differed completely from Ntutu's.
In addition, Msomi wrote lyrics in Zulu as follows:
Saguquka Sathi Bheka Sathi Yi Phatha Phatha
(the above sung to the melody of "Noma Kumnyama" in call-and-response fashion by the lead and backing vocalists)
Hiyo Mama Hiyo Mama Hiyo Into Entsha
(the above sung in call-and-response fashion to Msomi's new melody)
Rwasuka Amaphepha Novo Into Entsha
(the above sung in call-and-response fashion to the melody of "Noma Kumnyama")
In order to properly translate these lyrics into English, it is necessary to keep in mind that they in fact refer to a specific past event that Msomi had experienced prior to writing them. Msomi relates the origin of his lyrics as follows, "I was traveling with a friend on a 'first stop' train from Johannesburg Park Station to Umzimhlophe station. Inside the train, I played my guitar to sing and dance, demonstrating the new phatha phatha dance. We were telling the people how to dance phatha phatha. Thus:
We Turned Around and Said Look! And We Said Phatha Phatha
It Was Mama, It Was Mama Something New
Papers Were Flying For Something New
There was also an interesting substitution at the end of the first line. Msomi originally used the word, bhekhe, meaning a body movement where dancers momentarily go down on their haunches. The vocalists found this to be too difficult to sing - or perhaps it was a "deep” Zulu word that was somewhat unfamiliar to residents of Johannesburg's townships - so they substituted bheka, meaning "look”. The session proved to be a generally unsatisfactory experience for Msomi. He remembers the proceedings were so rushed that there was not enough time to rehearse properly, and in the studio, Alcock seemed principally concerned with getting the musicians in and out as quickly as possible. Msomi was especially displeased with the recording of "Phatha Phatha”. The vocals lacked punch and he didn't like the substitution of bheka for bhekhe, the beginning of the song sounded somewhat tentative and the ending was sloppy, but "there was no time” (for another take). Interestingly, when Abigail Kubeka and Mary Rabotapi were asked in 2004 to listen to the four recordings - the first time they had heard them in over forty years - they had little memory of any hurried circumstances or lack of rehearsal and seemed unwilling to concede to any defects in performance. Both, however, confirmed that "Phatha Phatha” was Reggie's song. No Deeds of Assignment were ever signed for any of the four songs from the session, nor did any composer details appear on the labels of the two records when they were released ("Phatha Phatha” b/w "Gijimani” on Tropik DC 781, and "Ndilele Ndingalele” b/w "Walila Lomtwana” on Tropik DC 785).
(c) Sunbeams (1959) (as "Phatha Phatha")
Recorded July 15, 1959 in Johannesburg
Matrix ABC 17728
Released on Tropik DC 781
Looking for a soundfile of the version here above !!
Shortly after the Sunbeams "Phatha Phatha" on Tropik DC 781 was released, EMI/Columbia contacted GRC with a complaint that "their" song, "Phatha Phatha" had been infringed by the Sunbeams. It is now not entirely certain who it was that represented EMI in the matter - Msomi thinks it was Zacks Nkosi but Albert Ralulimi, who heard the story at the time from Gallo's African talent scout, Walter Nhlapo, remembered that several EMI employees arrived at Gallo's offices to press their claim. In any event, they were soon sent packing: Phil Goldblatt, a Gallo veteran who maintained a library of every record ever released by the company, pulled out a copy of the Dundee Wandering Singers' "Noma Kumnyama" and quickly settled any arguments about the origin of the contested song's principle melody.
Within a week Billy the Kid and his Zombies also recorded their variation on "Phatha Phatha".
(c) Billy the Kid and his Zombies (1959) (as "Zombie Phatha Phatha")
Recorded July 1959 in Johannesburg
Matrix ABC 17747
Released on Zonk TV.134
During her last two sessions at Gallo, on August 12th and 14th, 1959, before she would leave for Europe and then the USA, Miriam Makeba recorded another version of "Phatha Phatha".
This version was titled "Miriam and Spokes’ Phatha Phatha", with lyrics written by Miriam Makeba.
The group for these sessions included Makeba, Abigail Kubeka, Mummy Girl Nketle, Mary Rabotapi (vocals), Reggie Msomi (guitar), Johannes 'Chooks' Tshukudu (bass) and Louis Molubi (drums).
(c) Spokes Mashiyane, Miriam Makeba and The Skylarks (1959)
(as "Miriam and Spokes’ Phatha Phatha")
Recorded August 14, 1959 in Johannesburg
Matrix ABC 17804
Released on Gallotone New Sound GB 2957
Also released on the next album
(c) The Killingstone Stars (1962) (as "Phatha-Phatha Rock")
Recorded in Johannesburg
Matrix CEA 5451
Released on Columbia YE 292
In 1967 Miriam Makeba was teamed with an experienced pop/R&B producer named Jerry Ragovoy to record her first Reprise studio album. Makeba decided to record a new version of "Phatha Phatha" with some additional spoken English lyrics, probably written by Ragovoy, to help bring the song into context for an international audience.
The resulting album (Reprise RS 6274) was called Pata Pata and, in an astute move on the part of the record company, the title track was also released as a single (on Reprise 0606).
In further consideration of Makeba's claim to the authorship of "Pata Pata" - one which she reiterated in her 2004 autobiography, The Miriam Makeba Story, stating that she "had written 'Pata Pata', this little Xhosa song in 1956" (Makeba 2004:102) - it is interesting to note the lyrical differences between the Sunbeams recording and Makeba's version on Reprise. In the latter, the original line Sathi Yi Phatha Phatha has been changed to Nantsi Yi Phatha Phatha. Nantsi is a Xhosa word meaning "this is'’, so in effect the tense has been changed from past to present, i.e. to "This is Phatha Phatha‘\ Furthermore, the Makeba version has been simplified, with only three lines, as follows:
Saguquta Sathi Bheka
Nantsi Yi Phatha Phatha
Hiyo Mama Hiyo Mama
Nantsi Yi Phatha Phahta
(c) Miriam Makeba (1967) (as "Pata Pata")
In 1980 Afro rockband Osibisa recorded a cover-version of "Pata Pata", with additional English lyrics by Teddy Osei.
(c) Osibisa (1980) (as "(I Feel) Pata Pata")
Released on the album Mystic energy
In the year 2000 Miriam Makeba recorded yet another version of "Pata Pata"
More versions here: