Sunday 9 May 2010

Can’t stop myself: Makeba sings for Toyota

Is the impact of your political praise song lessened if you also sing songs to sell cars? That might have been an interesting question to ask both Franco (Azda) and Miriam Makeba (Toyota). Using existing songs to sell a product is one thing. Being paid to make songs to praise a product or person is a little different.

Sean over at “Africa is a Country” points to the recent ‘trivialisation’ of Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata being used to sell Hondas. He also digs up a challengingly good old NY Times article on this trend of artists licensing songs to advertising agencies.

For many from South Africa I would guess that Pata Pata has its own speical associations already ingrained in our imaginations. Once the advertising jingle invades the association, our own memories can become disturbed; forever changed. A bit like Satchmo’s “What a Wonderful World” in “Good Morning Viet Nam”.

But what is happening with artists when they compose or perform songs specially created to sell a product to make someone else a profit? Praising political heroes is one thing, but selling cars is another. Either times are bad, or the sales punt does nothing to your conscience? In Makeba’s case, I want to believe that 1980 was a tough year for her? When Siemon Allen, collector of everything Makeba, shared this with me on a recent visit I knew it somehow had to make its way onto ElectricJive. An historical curiosity – in French and English.
RS Link
MF Link


  1. It's foolish to think that true artists are non-for-profit at the core. If I was well-known enough to get offers from multinational companies and needed some extra cash I would definitely consider coming up with a catchy tune for Ikea or Whirlpool. There are thousands of jingles we know precisely because companies pay more to have a catchier song. That however doesn't discount the fact that ultimately these companies do not contribute to the pure realm of art and in fact suck talent away. In a related quote:

    "The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little."


  2. Makeba had tough times in exile through the 80's,she had to cash somehow,if she was able to live only from her art, she wouldn't be obliged to do commercials.
    Artists are human beings with very human needs and human weaknesses and I can understand and sympathize ,though I despise their manipulation and exploitation from either politicians or blood sucking companies for praise songs or silly commercials.I 've come, after 30 years "in business", to judge an artist JUST for his/her work.For the vast majority of her fans Makeba's work remains immortal and can't be diminished from a mere advertisement.
    and here's my wish,fortherecord
    I would love to listen sometime her unfortunate daughter's only record:
    Bongi Makeba-Blow On Wind.
    thank you.

  3. Thanks for the comments - interesting and complex personal issue this. Nauma,we'll look out for the Bongi Makeba

  4. You will find that here:
    plus many more classic Makeba here:

  5. First, thanks for this great share! Regardless of the musical quality, it's great to be able to hear this.

    Linked here from my Makeba discography.

    Seems like i come here to late and everything i'd like to say has already been expressed very ably.

    Just one more thought on pop music and commercials: my first exposure to the wonderful music of Sam Cooke happened through a Levis commercial in the 1980s that used Cooke's "Wonderful World". This started a life long love for Cooke's music, so what?

    Let me add that the Bongi album is marvellous and the vinyl rip you'll find at AvaxHome is simply perfect.

    If you want to hear the four sides Bongi and her husband recorded for Syliphone in the 1970s, check my post of "Miriam Makeba & Bongi" here:

    And thanks to matt for the hint to my place!

  6. "my first exposure to the wonderful music of Sam Cooke happened through a Levis commercial in the 1980s.."

    I was introduced to some of my favorite current artists by Adult Swim bumps!

  7. thank you very much Matt and porco,your offers are celebrated properly,and thanks once more FTR
    for this meeting.btw judging from the Toyotas on the picture the advertisement must be earlier than 1980.1977-78?

  8. Many thanks for this Makeba music.
    This must date from around 80, as the Corolla on the cover was only introduced in 79 []
    And the Starlet only got its square headlights in 80 (IIRC).

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  10. I agree that if I were a well-enough known artist that got an offer from a big company, I'd probably go for it. Why not take the extra cash. But there's no doubt that we can find humor in some of this. Makeba's Toyota song is so goofy, especially coming from an artist whose music has been politically-driven most of her career (and mostly during the time of this commercial's release) and has had a huge influence on South African culture for this reason.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  11. An other famous Toyota ambassador...

  12. Captain Mango - would be great if you can share this with us. Chris

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  14. At your command !


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