Angelique Kidjo’s Updated ‘Pata Pata’ Shares Hope During Pandemic

The literal translation of ‘Pata Pata’ is “touch touch,” so instead the amended lyrics deliver a powerful message about staying safe.

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Angélique Kidjo Pata Pata
Image courtesy of UNICEF

Beninese singer-songwriter and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo has re-recorded the enduring and much-loved Afro-pop favourite ‘Pata Pata.’ She has revived the song, most closely associated with South African figurehead Miriam Makeba, to share information and hope during the coronavirus pandemic.

Makeba, often known as “Mama Africa,” recorded ‘Pata Pata’ in 1967. Credited to the singer and influential soul producer-writer Jerry Ragovoy, it rose to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 7 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and became an international anthem. It went on to attract countless cover versions including those by the Hep Stars, the Fantastics, Percy Faith and his Orchestra and Manu Dibango featuring Kaïssa Doumbé.

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Kidjo’s new version of what was once described as “the world’s most defiantly joyful song” has stayed true to the original chords but made some fresh, and necessary, amendments to the lyrics. The literal translation of ‘Pata Pata’ is “touch touch,” so instead the new interpretation delivers a powerful message about staying safe.

“Stay at home and wait it out”

Lyrics include “It’s a time to sit it out! This is no-pata-pata…stay at home and wait it out. We need to keep our hands clean, so no-pata pata. Don’t touch your face, keep distance please.”

UNICEF has announced that the new version of the song will be free to use. The public is being encouraged to submit videos of themselves dancing to ‘Pata Pata’ by tagging @1unicefafrica on TikTok or @unicefafrica on Instagram with #nopatapata and #healthyathome. The best dance clips are to be included in a music video released in mid-May. The song is also available here on Soundcloud.

“‘Pata Pata’ gave me hope”

Kidjo once performed on stage with Makeba, and ‘Pata Pata’ has further resonance for her via her connection to Dibango, who died from coronavirus on 24 March. “Manu inspired me. Miriam inspired me. And ‘Pata Pata’ gave me hope,” says Angelique. “We all know what needs to be done, but we also know how much communities are suffering.

“’Pata Pata’ has always been there for people at a time of struggle,” she goes on. “I hope it helps once more. And I hope from our confined spaces we can dance once more.”

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