The song „Makeba“ by Jain was released back in 2015. In June 2023, the song went viral on TikTok. TikTokers and fans of the song immediately caught the „ooh wee“.
Released by French singer-songwriter Jain, the „ooh wee TikTok song“ is not at all as superficial as the title suggests. It has a deeper meaning, being about South African activist and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba. It is a tribute to the remarkable woman who became known as „Mama Africa.“
The lyrics are in English, the only exception being the Italian words „ma che bella“, which can be translated as „but how beautiful“. Also, the last section of the song contains several complicated sounding words. However, upon close inspection, they are merely English words spelled backwards.
Makeba by Jain: Content, Lyrics
The song begins with:
Ooh wee, Makeba, Makeba, ma che bella.
Can I get an „Ooh wee“? Makeba
makes my body dance for you.
There is a clear reference to Miriam Makeba in the middle section:
Nobody can beat the Mama Africa
You follow the beat that she’s gonna give ya
Only her smile can all make it go
The sufferation of a thousand more
The last stanza is a repetition of the first, with each word sung or written backwards.
Who is Jain?
French singer Jain has Malagasy roots and grew up in Dubai and Congo. Her music is marked by many influences. Particularly strong is the influence of Miriam Makeba, whose songs she listened to as a child. Jain’s first album, „Zanaka,“ was released in 2015 and initially met with moderate success, but quite unexpectedly the song „Come“ became an Internet hit.
In 2016, it reached number one on the French singles chart. The song „Makeba“ was the second successful single hit from this album and was used by major brands (Lewis Jeans, Sosh Mobile) for commercials. The music video for Makeba is also masterful thanks to its surrealistic effects. They are strongly reminiscent of paintings by Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, who conjured up fascinating optical illusions on canvas. The video was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2016.
Who was Miriam Makeba?
South African singer and political activist Miriam Makeba was born in 1932 in a township near Johannesburg. She died in 2008. Her artistic breakthrough came in the 1960s in the United States, where she lived in exile. She had risen up against injustices in her homeland, but also rebelled against apartheid in the U.S. as well and became part of the civil rights movement. In doing so, she made enemies among the white, privileged population.
Makeba’s music was a mixture of traditional South African sounds, jazz, funk and pop. She received the nickname „Mama Africa“ because of her tireless social commitment. She pursued her musical career into old age and remained politically active. With her debut album, she immediately became the darling of music critics and landed her most successful single in 1967 with „Pata Pata.“ At the request of Nelson Mandela, with whom she was a close friend, Mirjam Makeba returned to South Africa in 1990, after the end of apartheid.