Monday, 22 December 2014

Love, Peace and Goodwill at the Office Party

Welcome to Electric Jive’s Durban Office Party mix-tape, featuring selections from an imagined 1970’s township 45rpm juke-box: anchored in soul, bumping into a little funk, dropping a little Shangaan roots, skirting with disco, and uncovering a gem - that blaxploitation classic “Shaft”, courtesy of “The Drive”, live at a seventies Soweto festival.

Every musician featured on this mix will have been part of the Johannesburg seventies township scene, shaping and being shaped by the multiple and intersecting musical influences available. Going on a count of recordings made, mbaqanga must surely qualify as the ”mainstream” at the time. However, there was also sufficient demand to justify the “black” labels making a mint from selling: soul, folk, reggae, country, psychedelia, rock, R&B, and traditional.

These jukebox selections showcase a small sample of the diversity of musical ‘sub-cultures’ that thrived within the same urban space and time.

The afro hair, clothing and sense of style evident in Ian Huntley’s photo (above) at Langa Stadium  in 1972, to me, oozes identity and confidence, but also a collective middle finger at the prescriptive and hostile apartheid system. Explorations in Black urban style and subculture were causing the system discomfort – black hippies, for example, must have really confused things for the average policeman.

Defiance does not always have to be hostile in its expression, witness the history of carnivals. Looking at the staggering number of recordings made in Johannesburg during the 70s we can see that the promotion of fun, love, peace and goodwill were also abundant.

So – in the spirit of love, peace and goodwill, herewith twenty five tracks from the juke-box.

We kick off with Black Funk, whose members have to be the same Pelican House Band that backed Dick Khoza in recording Chapita. West End Soul can only be the likes of Khaya Mahlangu and Ezra Ngcukana whose brass refrains sample Khoza’s Lilongwe, .. or, was that the other way around?

No matter what your ambivalence over the blaxploitation genre, you surely would be interested to hear The Drive giving Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” extraordinary African horns? It is about time we upped the ‘grateful’ volume towards David Marks for capturing this and many other important live performances in South Africa. He has recently donated his entire Hidden Years Music Archive Project to the University of Stellenbosch.

From here, the mix flows through soul,soul- bump, a little disco-soul, some northern-soul-type vocals exploring alienation in love, and in the city, a ballad honoring South African jazz greats, some uptempo roots music, and a dash of 1971 mbaqanga from Joseph Makwela.  Hopefully there is something for everyone this year-end! Thanks for dropping by at Electric Jive. 

Wishing you:

Love Peace and Goodwill 

Electric Jive Durban Office Party 2014

1. Black Funk: West End Soul. (1975) H. Lebona. 45rpm Black Music (BMB44).
2. The Drive: Shaft. Circa (1975). Recorded by Dave Marks at unidentified Soweto Festival.
3. Hardways: Mameshane Ijuba (undated). Dlamini. 45rpm Score (SCO 145).
4. Mavis and the Shasha Boys: Take A Walk (1972) Mavis Maseko, Rupert Bopape. 45rpm (SJM 101).
5. The Apaches: Apache Way. (1974). R. Mbele, D. Thekwane. 45rpm soul.soul (SSB 027).
6. The Soul Explosions: Groovy Night. (1977). Uncredited. Black Music (BMB2006).
7. The Soul Masters: Steam Up. (undated). H. Ways. 45rpm Star (STB 422).
8. The Big Time Boys: Super Bump. (undated) Smitta, Hardways. 45rpm Jet (Meritone) (JET345).
9. Mavis and the Shasha Boys: Give it Stick. (1972) R. Ngcaphalala. 45rpm (SJM .101).
10. Shumi: Gideon, Early & McKay. (1974). Holler/Arr: Masingi. 45rpm (BUA8803).
11. Walter Dhlamini: Lonely City (undated). Z. Ngoma, E. Mabaso. 45rpm Fire (RE104).
12. The Hurricanes: Rich Man’s Daughter. (1975) Jacob Macheli, Donald Mbowane. 45rpm (RPM7756).
13. Sam Evans: Social Whirl (1970) Sam Evans. 45rpm Parlophone (SPD3014).
14. The Tycoons: What is a Man? (1976) The Tycoons. 45rpm Black Music (BMB 63).
15. The Butterflies: Facial Appearance. (1978) arr. Joseph Makwela. 45rpm Ziya Duma (ZD1013).
16. Jeremiah and the Shamings: Undisemba Usondele. (1976). 45rpm (Ring261).
17. The Meritones: Soul Bump. (undated). Lerole, Masingi, Ntaba. 45rpm Lita Records (LA 46).
18. Irene And The Sweet Melodians: Mfana we disco. (1978). I. Mawela, R. Bopape. 45rpm Ziya Duma (ZD1019).
19. Samuel Mabunda: Vusiwana. (1979). S. Mabunda. 45rpm Fast Move (BFM163).
20. Samuel Mabunda: Vuhlevahleva. (1979). S. Mabunda. 45rpm Fast Move (BFM163).
21. Joseph Makwela Nabafana Bezishingishane: Shibetana. (1971) Joseph Makwela. 45rpm (SJM .65).
22. Dali’s Beauty Queens: U-Mama. (undated). Naftali Dali. 45rpm Ilizwe (WZ 1108).
23. The Creations: Midnight Lover (1976). Z. Ngoma, M. Dibango. 45rpm Gallo (PD 1270).
24. Soul Explosion: Soul Five. (undated) 45rpm Atlantic City (AYB1108).
25. The Drive: Love and Peace (1974). Off the album “Slow Drive To Soweto”.

Mix-tape Mediafire download here
Individual tracks download here

Monday, 15 December 2014

Tin Whistle Jive and the Roots of Kwela - Volume 3

We continue our survey series examining the history of the tin whistle in South Africa and the subsequent global popularity of kwela. Volume One and Two trace the early roots of this style and can be viewed here at Electric Jive along with an extensive discography at flatint. Volume Three covers primarily 1957 but also drifts into early 1958. This volume explores not only how the music captured the political and social shifts taking place in the country—the Treason Trial, the bus boycott, liquor bannings—but also the expansion of the stylistic form of the music through experimentation, some that included international collaborations with visiting American clarinetist, Tony Scott.

Volume 3 (1957-1958)
(Flat International / Electric Jive, FXEJ 17)

01) ALEXANDRA CASBAHS - Azikhwelwa - 1957
(Mabel Mafuya, Mary Thobei, Troubadour 78 rpm, AFC 429, mata 1835)

The spoken introduction or "sketch" common to many kwela tunes and most famously featured in Elias Lerole's Tom Hark was, by 1957, quite common. Troubadour however had taken the phenomenon to a new level. Topical issues of the day were reported upon, sang about, recorded and out in the public often within 24 hours of an event. The company had a pressing plant in the same building as their recording studio and this along with some key marketing skills by producer Cuthbert Matumba (for example he used a mobile-unit to test new recordings at railway stations and other public venues), made turnover rapid and the company unrivaled by its competitors. In many ways Troubadour operated like a news service or as Mary Thobei refers to it: “We had our own ‘Special Branch,’ a sort of bush telegraph, and as a result we knew in advance what would happen in our communities, be it social or political.” (Molefe) This is also most apparent at the beginning of some Troubadour records, which open with the announcement: “News in Record…” or “This is the Troubadour Daily News…” Often spoken in tsostitaal, a blend of Afrikaans and African languages, these sketches were often quite political, but because of their speed of production would get to the streets before sensors could block them.

Azikhwelwa (We will not ride), a tune by the Alexandra Casbahs, is attributed to Mabel Mafuya and Mary Thobei and operates as a form of news item alerting people to the bus boycott of 1957 in Alexandra. Thobei opens the tune saying: “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was on Monday morning, the 7th of January, 1957 when everybody was shouting Azikhwelwa…” The bus boycott had been implemented by residents of Alexandra against the Public Utility Transport Corporation (more commonly known as PUTCO) over a rate hike of 4 to 5 pence. During the boycott, residents chose other forms of transport to get to and from work, but most walked the 30km roundtrip journey. At its peak, 70,000 residents refused to ride the local buses and the action also spread to other townships including Newclaire and Mamelodi. The boycott lasted for at least three months and was only finally resolved on April 1st, 1957, when the 4 pence rate was restored. The protest drew the daily attention of the South African press and is generally recognized as one of the few successful political campaigns of the apartheid era.

02) FERNDALE HAPPY WHISTLERS - Brandys and Beers - 1957
(Motaung, Troubadour 78 rpm, AFC 438, mata 1845)

The sale of alcohol to Blacks in South Africa in the 1950s was highly regulated. In 1957 it was still illegal for non-white consumers to purchase commercial brandy and beer, but rather they were forced to acquire alcohol through state-run systems of beer-halls. Of course this strategy led to an extensive underground business of 'home-brewing' and the rise of the illegal sheebeen or 'speak-easy'. Cuthbert Mathuba's introduction on Brandy's and Beers mocks the regulation by confirming the consumption of illicit alcohol in Sophiatown. Like Azikwelwa before Matumba does this without regard of the censors: "Johannesburg is a big city. Of which everybody is admiring to see. Listen to the boys playing in a big party in Sophiatown. Everybody was happy drinking beers and brandys. Listen to the boys." By aligning the penny whistle music with the illicit party and the illegal activity, Matumba transforms the 'rebellious' street music into a form of protest music.

The sketch or introduction on many records was becoming a noteworthy component of kwela recordings and significantly was often reviewed along with the tune it accompanied, for example in Drum magazine. Sometimes it would even be mentioned in advertisements such as one for Trutone's Envee label:  “Meet a new flute player—Black Duke—who goes to town on—NV 3082—Dukes Blues, Skukuma Duke—The intro on this record will send you.” (Drum, March 1957)

The critique or review of the introduction implied that it had social value in addition to the music itself. Often these introductions were judged on their authenticity in catching a 'slice of life'; certainly humor played an important role but sometimes darker moments such as social strife or relationship problems were depicted, for example in Spokes Mashiyane's introduction to Odhla-Dhla below. Often these introductions influence the way we interpret the music.

03) BON ACCORD HITTERS - Pretoria Special - c1957
(Hit 78 rpm, HIT 38, NL 171)

04) BON ACCORD HITTERS - American Moguws - c1957
(Hit 78 rpm, HIT 38, NL 172)

Hit was another label issued by Troubadour and these two tracks both include interesting 'sketches'. The spoken introduction on American Moguws opens with Cuthbert Matumba role playing with Mabel Mafuya: "Sophie, I'm from America. Is there any good music around here?" to which she replies in a confident tsotsitaal something I am unable translate. But the tune implies interest in South African music from American visitors (I am not sure what the term "Moguws" refers to), something that would be affirmed later that year with the visit of Tony Scott.

05) BEN NKOSI - Lova - 1957
(Strike Vilakazi, Trutone 10" LP, TLP 1047. Original Quality 78 rpm, TJ 152, T 6677)

06) BEN NKOSI - Sponono Ndiye Bhai - 1957
(Ben Nkosi, arr., Trutone 10" LP, TLP 1047. Original Quality 78 rpm, TJ 152)

Ben Nkosi, Drum, April 1958
Issued on Trutone's compilation 10" LP Penny Whistle Jive, the liner notes describe Ben Nkosi as "the experimenter searching for 'New Sounds' and new heights of expression. [...] Ben, besides being an excellent guitar player has experimented with the recorder, the aristocratic cousin of the penny whistle - and clarinet. Experience on these instruments has strongly influenced his Penny Whistle technique." (TLP 1047)

Lova, I think, is a great example of someone pushing the limits of this instrument; something that Todd Matshikiza in Drum magazine issues of the time was encouraging. In a November 1956 review Matshikza quotes a colleague, Dale Quaker: "Shucks, once you hear one penny whistle, you’ve heard the rest. Like what Rezant said the other day, you go to a concert and after hearing the first number, you can go home ‘cause the rest will be the same’”. But by March 1957 Matshikiza was singing the praises of the instrument by comparing it to the string band: "I feel strongly now that the string band must try to be different from the past five years. They must put up the same struggle as the flutes are doing so gallantly. First, one man recorded the flute. Then a duet. Then a trio. Now there are six, seven and eight flutes with rhythm accompaniment available on record. Sometimes with a sax, piano and drums into the bargain." (Drum, March 1957)

Ben Nkosi, from Dube, along with Peter Macontela went on to lead one of Gallo's most successful kwela groups, the Solven Whistlers.

07) SPOKES MASHIYANE - Odlha-Dlha - 1957
(Spokes Mashiyane, Quality 78 rpm, TJ 149, T 6775)

As mentioned above, Spokes Mashiyane's Odlha-Dlha opens with a particularly interesting 'sketch' that illustrates the social strife within relationships. Here Spokes (I am assuming it is him speaking) questions his girlfriend: "Where were you this Sunday? I looked for you at your sister's in Entaga". She replies something about not being at Entaga Street, but rather at a friend's place on Goli Street. To which he replies: "You Lie. I saw you in Swartberg!" to which she responds with a comment I can't make out, and he ends it with "You think I'm blind!" followed by his whistle.

According to the liner notes of Tony Scott’s only South African LP, the track Odlha-Dlha was “the biggest African Hit of 1957”. The tune was recorded by a number of groups that year, but I'm assuming the notes are referring to Mashiyane's version on the Quality label that also attributes him as composer. The Alexandra Dead End Kids also made a recording of the tune (RCA 66) but interestingly that one is credited as "traditional". Tony Scott would record the track again with the Dead End Kids (RCA 99) in October.

08) TONY SCOTT with the ALEXANDRA DEAD END KIDS - Ou-Dhladhla - 1957
(trad., RCA LP "Tony Scott in South Africa", RCA 31104. Original RCA 78 rpm, RCA 99)

09) ALEXANDRA DEAD END KIDS - Ou-Dhladhla - 1957
(trad., RCA 78 rpm, RCA 66, 8HBB-11)

After touring Europe for eight months, American bebop clarinetist, Tony Scott was invited by the Witwatersrand University Jazz Appreciation Society to perform in South Africa. His visit lasted just ten days but in that time he performed tirelessly in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and recorded with a number of local artists for at least three record companies including Teal, Gallo and Trutone.

His arrival in South Africa was a big deal, not only because he was an American jazz celebrity, but because of the political stance he took, and is reflected in the title caption of the extensive Drum article: "SCOTT, RED HOT — Tony Scott, the great American jazzman, refused to play to Whites only in South Africa." The unattributed article goes on: "And yet, you know, it nearly didn't happen, this Scott visit. Back in America Scott's friend's told him "Don't go to South Africa. That is Jim Crow country that. You'll never meet the darkies. They won't let you play for them" But Scott got talking to Dave Katznelson, the South African who was arranging the tour, and told him: "If I can't play to everyone, I'm not coming. I must play for the Non-Whites. I insist." (Drum, October 1957)

And thus it came to be that Tony Scott became the first, white [American] to perform with and before multi-racial artists and audiences in South Africa. "He was no White musician playing second-fiddle concerts for the Non-Whites. He was in the country to play music. If you liked his music it didn't matter what your color was." He mixed with some of South Africa's leading jazzmen; in Johannesburg, he jammed with Kippie Moeketsi; while in Durban he performed with pianist, Lionel Pillay. The Durban event was fondly acknowledged with a "Thank You" postcard from Scott to club owner Pumpy Naidoo, and published in the November 1957 issue of Drum.

Tony Scott with Kippie Moeketsi, Drum, October 1957

Along with the live performances, Scott was also eager to collaborate with local musicians and made a number of recordings with penny whistle groups, most notably with Teal's Alexandra Dead End Kids and Gallo's Solven Whistlers. The article points out that he also recorded with Lemmy Special Mabaso's Alexandra Junior Bright Boys, though I have yet to find these recordings. At Trutone he made at least one track with the African Penny Whistle Serenaders.

10) TONY SCOTT with BENJAMIN MASINDI - Ben's Bounce - 1957
(Ben Masindi, RCA LP "Tony Scott in South Africa", RCA 31104)

11) TONY SCOTT with the ALEXANDRA DEAD END KIDS - Mangamanga - 1957
(S. Molepo, RCA LP "Tony Scott in South Africa", RCA 31104. Original RCA 78 rpm, RCA 98)

RCA Advert, Drum, October 1958.
Some have criticized Tony Scott's recordings with the South African penny whistle groups as being merely neocolonial insertions of American authority onto South African idiom. Perhaps criticisms similar to those pointed at Paul Simon 30 years later. But in many ways, as awkward as these tracks may sound, I do find these moments of seeking to collaborate, documenting a dynamic clumsiness that becomes symbolic of an honest attempt to collaborate across racial, national and generational differences.

Scott's recording session at the Teal studios are warmly described in the liner notes of his LP: "By this time the word had got round town that Tony Scott was playing with Penny Whistles and within half an hour most of the African population of the city seemed to have arrived at the studio. Disregarding protests from the recording and repertoire staff they invaded the studio (among them many photographers) and started joining in, singing and clapping. The tape machine was still running but it was impossible from the Control room to see what was going on or which microphone was which. If the result was, to say the least of it, unbalanced (and, let it be confessed, something of a shambles) it was felt to be sufficiently interesting to reproduce on the record [...]" (RCA 31,104)

And as Nathaniel Nakasa, describes in an extensive article on the penny whistle groups in Drum: "No wonder Tony Scott, the top Yankee clarinetist and the bosses of Tevlevision and the screen say, "Wow! These boys have talent in their fingers!" [...] With his famed black rod, Tony Scott dogged the footsteps of these lads, and loved every minute he was with them." (Nathaniel Nakasa, "Penny Whistle is Big Time Now", Drum, April 1958)

Shakes Molepo, Drum, 1958
Scott's collaborators on these sessions, the Dead End Kids, comprised of four youngsters from Alexandra township: Shakes Molepo, Benjamin Masindi, Joseph Mahlatsi, and Sophonia Namini. Mangamanga, issued on 78 rpm (RCA 98) and the first track on Scott's LP, was penned by the group's leader, Shakes Molepo who is described in Nakasa's article as: "This lad—he's five foot, no more—couldn't manage school and the whistle at the same time. One of them had to suffer, and it wasn't that silver pipe. [...] They made two discs with Tony Scott, the American jazzman, when he was here. The dough bought neat togs." [...] The Dead End Kids led by Shakes Molepo, are another bunch of boys who make the penny whistle tick. They are loud and always exciting entertainment for their audience. But they lack the showmanship that rocketed Lemmy Mabaso into fame." (Nathaniel Nakasa, "Penny Whistle is Big Time Now", Drum, April 1958)

12) ALEXANDRA DEAD END KIDS - Evaton - 1957
(W. Khokhone, RCA 78 rpm, RCA 66, 8HBB-12)

In an interesting self-concious moment, the banter between the Dead End Kids in the introductory sketch alludes to the recording coupling number—RCA 66—which suggests to me that catalogue numbers must have been prearranged before recordings rather than assigned, post-production, as one might assume.

Evaton is the flip side of Ou-dhladhla, featured earlier.

13) SOLVEN WHISTLERS with TONY SCOTT - Something New In Africa - 1957
(T. Mokonta, Gallotone LP "Something New in Africa", GALP 1015, ABC 16725)

14) SOLVEN WHISTLERS with TONY SCOTT - Solven's Hoch (SNFA) - 1957
(Mokonotela, Decca LP "Something New From Africa", LK 4292, ABC 16935)

Recorded for Gallo, these two tight collaborations with the Solven Whistlers mark the pinnacle of Tony Scott's collaborations with penny whistle groups. Something New In Africa was featured as the first track in an amazing compilation LP of the same name; and issued in 1958. Oddly the track does not credit Scott but he is later acknowledged on the UK, similarly titled, LP Something New From Africa (LK 4292), where the track Solven's Hoch is retitled as "...from..." with the spoken introduction from "" collaged on. As the introduction was only pasted on the tune intended for British audiences, and is already featured on their first track, I have edited out in the latter.

Oddly, the title track was seemingly only issued by Gallo on 78 rpm (GB 2770) a year after Scott's visit to South Africa, around August 1958, and as reflected in the exuberant five star review Bloke Modisane gave the disc in Drum: “This is a real gasser. There are things happening here, The wild frenzy is taken out of the quell. This is cool, with a modern alto and clarinet playing melodic lines over the harmony of a penny whistle ensemble. A big winner.” (Drum, September 1958)

African Pennywhistle Song - 1957
(Tony Scott, S. Molepo, Trutone LP "Kwela-Kwela", RMG 1129)

This track finds Tony Scott's recording with a third South African company, Trutone. At first I assumed he was performing with a number of unnamed Trutone penny whistlers, but later I realized the track is credited to Shakes Molepo of the Alexandra Dead end Kids and so I imagine that the Kids and Scott simply recorded for Trutone and adjusted their name accordingly. This track starts out in the most conventional manner reminding me of generic kwela tunes typically found on soundtracks, maybe for films by Jamie Uys and others. But the track eventually heats up and saves itself from exclusion.

16) SOLVEN WHISTLERS - Penny Whistler's Kwela - 1957
(Solven Whistlers, Gallotone LP, "Something New in Africa", GALP 1015, ABC 16725)

17) SOLVEN WHISTLERS - Hamba Kwela - 1957
(T. Mokonta, Gallotone LP, "Something New in Africa", GALP 1015, ABC 16725)

As mentioned earlier, Ben Nkosi along with Peter Macontela lead this very successful group. Without matrix numbers it is hard to date these recordings but I suspect them, along with those of the Basement Boys below, to be quite seminal. All four tracks are also featured on the Something New in Africa compilation LP. After listening to Tony's Scott's clarinet collaboration with the Solven Whistlers, I noticed the inclusion of the saxophone here. At first I thought it was a clarinet, or maybe even Scott on saxophone, but then I recalled that Nkosi also played clarinet, and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was a saxophone. To my knowledge these are the first kwela tunes to include the saxophone.

Sax jive, the stylistic precursor so mbaqanga, has its roots in kwela, and is generally often traced back to when Strike Vilikazi convinced Spokes Mashiyane to record three tunes with the saxophone around March 1958. But it seems to me that the four tunes featured here might predate that famous Mashiyane session. Without matrix numbers, it is hard to say! Certainly Todd Matshiza's Drum reviews of flute music refer to the occasional inclusion of sax and piano as early as March 1957 and kwela's historical obligation to majuba african jazz could not exclude the possibility of other wind instruments 'crashing'. Many young aspiring musicians who could not afford big instruments cut their teeth on the penny whistle and would often perform in groups of five or six often emulating the big band sound. So it is almost obvious that at some point these musicians would eventually upgrade to more sophisticated instruments or start incorporating them into their penny whistle arrangements.

Nevertheless, if these four tunes do follow those made with Tony Scott, then I wonder if the initial collaboration between flutes and clarinet, between American and South African, may have indirectly induced the clarinet to be substituted for the saxophone, an instruments that in turn would ultimately replace the flutes entirely and dominate South African music for the next twenty years. Mere speculation?

18) BASEMENT BOYS - Kwela Bafana - c1957
(A. Strike, Gallotone LP "Something New in Africa", GALP 1015, ABC 16725. Original Gallotone 78 rpm, GB 2728, ABC 16338)

19) BASEMENT BOYS - Upstairs Jump - c1957
(A. Strike, Gallotone LP "Something New in Africa", GALP 1015, ABC 16725. Original Gallotone 78 rpm, GB 2728)

It is my estimate that these two tunes by the Basement Boys were recorded around December 1957 roughly three months before Spokes Mashiyane would record Kwela Sax, Sweet Sax and Big Joe Special (TJ 500). Interestingly the spoken introduction literally documents the historic collaboration between flutes and saxes: "Where are you going, my Bras? We're going with those other guys who are playing saxophone... and we're going to play flutes. And I don't know what's going to happen. Kwela Bafana!"

The Basement Boys, as Lara Allen reveals, were formed in 1956 by none other than Albert Ralulimi along with Specks Rampura, Simon Majassi, and Sam Hlongwane. "The circumstances that led to Ralulimi’s graduation from street busker to recording artist typify those of many contemporaneous penny whistlers. Albert Ralulimi grew up in Sibasa in the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo Province), and spent much of his childhood herding cattle and playing the traditional ocarinas and reed flutes of his area. Aged eighteen, he moved to Johannesburg and worked his way from employment as a golf caddy to a telephone operator. In 1954 he became friends with Spokes Mashiyane and they spent many Sunday afternoons together at Zoo Lake where Ralulimi learnt ‘the finer points’ of penny whistling. [...] Busking in front of a Berea hotel one Saturday afternoon, the Basement Boys impressed Roy Evans of Gallo Record Company so much that he invited them to make a recording. Ralulimi recorded for Gallo until 1958 when he signed a contract with Trutone." (Allen p. 42)

20) MSAKAZO SWINGSTERS - Kiss Me Hard - c1958
(Hit 78 rpm, HIT 109, NL 308)

(AJBB, Gallotone LP "Something New in Africa", GALP 1015, ABC 16725)

Other than Spokes Mashiyane, Lemmy Special Mabaso was probably one of the most well known and successful kwela artists. He and his group the Alexandra Junior Bright Boys came to prominence after a dazzling performance at a memorial concert for comedian Victor Mkize and journalist Henry Nxumalo whereafter they soon signed a recording contract with Gallo. As Lara Allen points out Lemmy Mabaso's "most frequently commended attribute was his showmanship and charisma, largely manifesting in the extraordinary choreography integral to his performance style" Allen continues by quoting a journalist in World describing one of his performances: "Lemmy was in terrific form. He played his instrument with one hand while he pirouetted like a ballerina.’" [Peter] "Macontela elaborates: he holds the penny whistle ‘with one finger and jives around. He lies on his back, he kicks, and these [other penny whistlers] keep on backing him. That’s how Lemmy became popular in town.’” (Allen p. 43)

Interestingly Bloke Modisane in his Drum reviews of Mabaso was not as enthusiastic, at least at first. In an August 1958 review of the 78 rpm Mix Masala and Magwinya (GB 2752) he laments: “Lemmy Special is a fabulous little trouper, but he’s primarily a visual artist. For that reason he doesn’t come off on record. It lacks that extra something, that snap of a live performance. It’s a pity there are some lovely moments on this wax. But even without that all-essential dimension, his personality generates.” (Drum, August 1958) Whereas Nathaniel Nakasa in an April 1958 article raves: "If the man in the street had his way, Lemmie Mabaso, of Alexandra Township, would be declared the greatest flute player we've got. This lad, who says he's 12, is a showman with dazzling personality. When he blows his silver rod with his Alexandra Junior Bright Boys men and women go wild." (Nathaniel Nakasa, "Penny Whistle is Big Time Now", Drum, April 1958)

22) ALEXANDRA SHAMBER BOYS - Holom Toe - 1957
(Rupert Bopape, HMV 78 rpm, POP 496, 0AS 951)

A May 1957 Polliacks advertisement in Drum lists the original HMV version of Holom Toe as JP 2071 backed by Lil' American.  The group that also went by the name Black Mambazo is most famously known as Elias and his Zig Zag Jive Flutes. This UK 78 rpm was issued in the wake of their meteoric success with Tom Hark in 1958.

23) SOLVEN WHISTLERS - Golden City Kwela - c1957
(T. Mokonta, Gallotone LP "Something New in Africa", GALP 1015, ABC 16725)

24) HARRY MAKHAYA and FRANS PILANE - Nut Brown Girl - c1957
(Arlequin EP "Penny Whistle Kwela", 1009)

Spokes Mashiyane in front of Trutone House, Drum, April 1958. Photo: Peter Magubane.

25) SPOKES MASHIYANE and his RHYTHM - Umpinda - c1958
(Spokes Mashiyane, Quality 78 rpm, TJ 172, T 6930)

26) SPOKES MASHIYANE and FRANS PILANE - Boys of Joburg - c1957
(Spokes Mashiyane, Arlequin EP "Penny Whistle Kwela", 1009)

27) SPOKES MASHIYANE - Bennie's 2nd Avenue Twist - c1958
(Spokes Mashiyane, Quality LP "Sweet Sax, Sweet Flute", LTJ 201)

Volume 3 (1957-1958)
(Flat International / Electric Jive, FXEJ 17)


Monday, 8 December 2014

Hey Bra! (Bra Sello with Abafana Bentithuko)

Staying with the jive theme this December here we have another rare LP with a hot dose of
instrumental jive led by Bra Sello, a popular sax jive artist. He appeared alongside vocal artists
such as Mahlathini in a number of revue shows in mid seventies and cut a number of singles
on the CBS label. This compilation collects these sides together with other tunes from artists
on the CBS label. 

Bra Sello with Abafana Bentuthuko Vol 1 (CBS LAB4006, c1972)
01 16-0-16 :: Bra Sello
02 Tycoons No 8 :: Bra Sello
03 Mr Music :: The Big Four
04 Can't Be Still No 2 :: CBS Al Stars
05 15-0-15 :: Bra Sello
06 Thashi Thashi :: The Big Four
07 17-0-17 :: Bra Sello
08 Down Town :: Bra Sello
09 Mthembu Nonzimande :: Abafana Bentuthuko
10 Siyanyawuka Nzimande :: Bra Sello
11 Boom Straat :: The Big Four
12 Jive American Jive No 1 :: Bra Sello

ENJOY: MF download

Monday, 1 December 2014

Tetemuka Jive (1969)

Welcome to December on Electric Jive! In my humble opinion, there can be no better way to kick off the festive season than with a seriously large dose of the greatest South African sax jive. Tetemuka Jive, released on the Inkonkoni label in 1969, collects 12 of the best mbaqanga instrumentals (originally released as singles) of the last 12 months.

At the time of this album’s release, Mavuthela Music – Gallo Africa’s black music production facility headed by Rupert Bopape – had successfully solidified its position as the most dominant African record label in the industry. This success was initially generated by a number of popular recordings from a line-up of female singers, later to be known as the Mahotella Queens, together with groaner Mahlathini and the Makgona Tsohle Band. The triumvirate recorded a frankly astonishing amount of hit singles during the 1960s in addition to extensive tours across the country to fulfil demand – so it was inevitable that the formidable and shrewd Bopape sought to replicate the success by forming a number of junior bands to follow in their footsteps.

Tetemuka Jive spotlights a couple of the more successful instrumental combos that Bopape formed to capitalise on the success of Marks Mankwane and company – Abafana Bemvunge (Boys of the grapevine) and Abafana Bama Big Bag (Boys of big bags). On this album, both teams provide the instrumental accompaniment to some of Mavuthela’s great sax jivers including Sipho Bhengu, Jack Lerole and Lemmy Mabaso. There are also two other numbers provided by the premier house band, Makgona Tsohle, in conjunction with premier sax jiver West Nkosi. This LP was the first issued on the Inkonkoni label, then the latest in a long line of Mavuthela labels (Motella, Gumba Gumba, C.T.C. Star Record, Smanje Manje… and so on). Though the term has since been adapted for other uses by the younger generation, ‘inkonkoni’ was at the time the straightforward Zulu term for 'wildebeest'.

It’s rare to come across an album of this style and vintage and find that every single track is nothing less than amazing. But I must admit to having a few personal favourites. “Tetemuka” (“Cruise along”) echoes some of the other sax jive singles of the decade including “Jive Mojikisa” and “Ice Cream and Suckers”, but this one must have been successful enough to warrant its appearance here as the title track and a follow-up recording, “Tetemuka No. 2”, from Izingane Zomgqashiyo (available on Indoda Mahlathini, Motella LMO 110). Big Voice Jack’s four numbers on Tetemuka Jive make remarkable use of other musical styles including tango, ska and soul. Marks Mankwane’s jive-tastic “Marks Special” started a huge craze and, with West Nkosi on alto sax and the rest of the Makgona Tsohle Band backing them up, he proceeded to record as many follow-up singles as possible over the next couple of years. But Marks’ “Pheladi” (“daughter-in-law”) is my absolute favourite and one can quite clearly hear the infectious beat eventually stir the band members up into a musical tizzy.

A huge, huge thanks to Manzo Khulu for providing the translations here.

Readers please stay tuned to Electric Jive this month for your usual end-of-year mixture of musical treats. I hope this one starts the party with an absolute bang! Enjoy!

produced by Rupert Bopape
Inkonkoni LNKO 2000
Sax Jive

Monday, 24 November 2014

Soul Jive Special - 20 groovy hits from 1970s South Africa

Today, I jump on board the soul train and follow Chris with a similar selection of goodies. But rather than the disco-led sound of the later 1970s, I have gone back a few years prior to focus on the unique musical meld produced at the height of the soul era. Soul Jive Special features 20 fantastically groovy hits from The Sailors, The Planets, The S.A. Supremes, The Big Six, The Ribbons and a bevvy of other stars, all released between 1969 and 1976.

It was only natural that urban Africans should look towards their African-American counterparts for influence on fashion and music. Although SA was blessed with its own vibrant and rich musical scene, it was inevitable that artists such as Percy Sledge, The Temptations, Willie Mitchell, Booker T and the MGs and many other similar artists would gain huge followings there. The ‘sound of young America’ was eventually replicated through the formation of black soul outfits and even in the repertoires of popular mbaqanga bands.

We begin this compilation with a rather left-field soul recording from Amagugu, the last of a long line of mbaqanga girl groups to attain hugely lasting popularity in South Africa. The group was led vocally by Sannah Mnguni – originally lead singer of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje – and musically by lead guitarist Hansford Mthembu, an all-round musical mastermind who successfully experimented with both traditional African and western influences. On “Sanibonani” and “Izinsimbi Zomshado”, both Hansford’s virtuosity and the influence of the late 1960s American soul comes through marvellously. Hansford later reworked “Sanibonani” into a few instrumentals such as “Tomorrow’s Wedding” and “For Ever” (both available on Electric Jive).

From girl groups to something positively psych. “Tirimela” is a 1973 soul vocal from The Sailors. This was one of two hugely successful hits – the other was “Meja” – for this shortlived Tsonga soul band that recorded for Mavuthela during the early 1970s. The melody of “Tirimela” is more or less the same that appears on the equally delightful “Akulalwa eSoweto”, a hit from the same year for Irene Mawela and the Mgababa Queens. But while Irene’s sweet vocals give that particular song its underlying atmosphere of joy, “Tirimela” goes in a completely different and rather ominous direction. It is a brilliant track not to be missed.

‘Bops’ was the nickname of Rupert Bopape, director of the Mavuthela powerhouse that consistently pumped out the most successful African music during the 1960s, the 1970s and well into the 1980s – but Bopape only wrote lyrics, so why ‘Bops and Son’ is the artist credited with performing the fabulous instrumental “Chicken Soul” is anyone’s guess. But this particular number – one of my absolute favourites – has just the right ingredients: flute, electric piano, guitar, bass, drums and tambourine all combine to create a musical atmosphere that comes across as both dense and airy at the same time.

Three of the soul ballads in Soul Jive Special are provided by a group named The S.A. Supremes, a large boast but not one entirely misplaced. The S.A. Supremes – Star Mabaso (lead vocal), Ntsiki Gwabeni, Teddy Nkutha and Thembi Nteo – were formed in 1970 by producer David Thekwane at Teal Records. They were backed by The Movers and made a number of successful recordings and performances, until Thekwane’s harsh treatment sent the ladies on their way to EMI in 1973. Now under the direction of Martin Mdelwa Mhlanga, The S.A. Supremes re-recorded some of the hits they had created in conjunction with The Movers – such as “Okungapheli” – but also started to cover a large number of American hits. Check out the sublime cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song”.

The popular mbaqanga girl groups of the day were not strangers to soul and often dispensed with jive to perform some delightfully upbeat grooves. Under a different pseudonym, the famous Mahotella Queens sing “Way Down Gear”, in which a young girl states that she intends to give up all her vices for her man – complete with oh-so-relevant shouts of ‘sock it to me!’. Izintombi Zomoya, on the other hand, simply sing about the delights of blatant dancing to the organ-led beat in “Mojiko Wa Soul”. Another of the big female groups, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, follows up with “Nomali”, a ballad about a failed relationship – “Nomali, will you please come back to me… you’ll wash away all my troubles”, sing the ladies ardently.

Another of my favourite instrumentals is “Soul Mabone” as performed by The Planets – which, if one listens carefully, is actually a cover of “Six Mabone” by The Movers (without a credit to the original composer). But I love the driving beat of this reinterpretation, which substitutes the vocalists on the Movers version with an alto saxophonist. And do not miss out on Abafana Bamagoduka’s florid organ-led “Go Easy”, a wonderful cover of Paul Simon’s 1972 hit “Mother And Child Reunion”.

Many thanks to Laurent Dalmasso for providing Electric Jive with copies of tracks 9 and 13 - much appreciated, Laurent!

All you have to do now is to download, play and enjoy... it’s groovy, man!


10) T.Y. NO. 4 – SAMMYBOY NEZIMPISI (1976)
14) HEY GIRL – THE BIG SIX (1976)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Disco Soul Jive - Some More

In anticipation of year-end feel-good times, a selection of singles to warm you up. This offering continues the great groove set by Siemon and Nick in their very popular DiscoSoulJive and Disco Soul postings.

As a bonus, a different-style epilogue  of four tracks that Kabasa released as singles from their 1980 debut album "Kabasa". More on Kabasa's debut album at FlatInternational here. You can find Kabasa's second album here.

Looking at the EJ schedule two days ago I realised (a little belatedly) that my traditional Durban Office Party mix would have to be quickly brewed and appear in this post, or else the next slot for it might only be January. So, following a  rummage in my crates for singles I had not yet listened to, a pleasant evening was spent listening to and digitising. The result is a selection of tracks that stood out for me  - mixed and separated.

South Africa's blend of big-band disco-soul-jive produced some real crackers between 1975 and 1980 - tight vocals, banks of horns, funky key-boards, all held together by catchy, energetic and rubbery base-lines and rhythm guitars.

While The Movers played a strong genre-defining role for the South African scene, there was no shortage of very competent bands - some of them put together and given a name for a recording session only. The pool of musos came from mbaqanga, soul, rock and jazz to take the disco craze and make it their own.
The core of musicians were very often not credited as they would jump across labels and producers, being paid a cash fee per recording.

I had never heard of "The Suns of Thunder" before, and I am still not yet sure if they are the same band as the "Sons of Thunder" also featured. I was thrilled to find a really strong single by "The Sakie Special Band". Among these is a second mention for the Movie Movies  who recorded in Durban. There was even 'Shangaan Disco' with the Matanato Brothers and Gaza Queens' giving "Sporo Jive" its own twist.

All said and done - thanks for stopping by at Electric Jive this year. Despite a slow-down in post frequency, we continue to build on an archive of out-of-print and otherwise "lost" sounds.

Happy holidays!

Disco Soul Jive Some More

1. The Sakie Special Band:  Let Yourself - Atlantic ATS815 (1979)

2. The Suns of Thunder: Soweto Sporo -  Flash HS748 (1979)
3. The Movers: Onthekele Beer-  Disco Music Beat DMB 942 (1981)
4. The Sakie Special Band: Groovy Cats - Atlantic ATS815 (1979)
5. Lynette and The Soul Brothers: Groovy Time - Score SCO 160 (undated)
6. The Meritones: Soul Bump -  Lita Records LA 46 (undated)
7. Lynette and The Soul Brothers: Come On Baby - Score SCO 160 (undated)
8. Sons Of Thunder: Uzozizwela - Fire RE126 (1978)
9. Brand New Soul: Bumsie-Boogie -  Dice Dic 636 (undated)
10. Walter and The Beggers: Disco Jive - Disco Soul DCO 15 (1978)
11. Movie Movies: Inkosi Kala - C&G Records CAB504 (1980)

12. Walter and The Beggers: Sweet Miriam - Disco Soul DCO 15 (1978)
13. Movie Movies: Sene Lisiwe -  C&G Records CAB504 (1980)
14. Matanato Brothers & Gaza Queens: Sporo Jive - Motella MO 732 (1981)
15. Kabasa: Kabasa - Atlantic ATS 830 (1980)
16. Kabasa:  Burning Splinters - Atlantic ATS 830 (1980)
17. Kabasa:  Happy Together - Atlantic ATS 837 (1980)
18. Kabasa:  Uzozibona - Atlantic ATS 837 (1980)

Mixed-tape version download here
Separated tracks version download here

Monday, 10 November 2014

More Moyake mined from the Huntley Archive (1965)

Left to right: Peter Jackson Jjnr (drums), Nikele Moyake (tenor), Tete Mbambisa (obscured on Piano), Dennis Mpale (trumpet) Duku Makasi (tenor). Salt River Town Hall, Cape Town, 1965. (pic Ian Bruce Huntley)
One more contribution to the small handful of recordings of Blue Notes saxophonist Nikele Moyake in the year or so between his return home from Europe and his death. While this recording is also very much about Bucs Chonco (piano), Dennis Mpale (trumpet), Psych Big T Ntsele (bass), Peter Jackson Jnr (drums), Robert Sithole (flute), the more senior Moyake leads from the front, soloing often.

Tape 44 of Ian Bruce Huntley's archive slipped between the cracks in my first round of digitising and tagging close on sixty hours of music in the audio archive. Thanks Rose for picking this up.
Nikele Moyake (pic Ian Bruce Huntley)

First, an apology to regular  Huntley Archive on Electric Jive visitors for not yet being able to tweak those fixes and track title updates that you so kindly pointed out. I will get there.

This recording is probably the clearest made by Ian at the Ambassador's School of Dance in Woodstock, a venue with challenging acoustics in which to play and record with a few static microphones.

The five tracks spanning forty five minutes showcase an integration of Moyake's significant European experiences with an evolving jazz scene in Cape Town.

Besides the unusual choice of Jimmy Web's  "By the Time I get to Phoenix",  we have not been able to name the other four tracks. All help and suggestions are most welcome.

If you have not yet explored the Huntley Archive on Electric Jive, do yourself a favour and click on the image of the book cover in the right-hand column of this blog. Close on 58 hours of recordings are available for you to download and listen to. You can also download a free copy of the book. Hard copies of the book are still available, and you can order it from this site as well.

If you are interested in other posts in which Nikele Moyake features, have a look here and here and here.
Mediafire download of the recording here