Monday, 24 August 2015

Roots Crossover


Another reposting from the archives this week. This time from 1982. I first heard it on cassette in 1983 and had been searching high and low for it for some time. Its an uneasy crossover that combines lots of 4x4 drumming, Zulu vocals and plenty of keyboard. I love some of the tracks and thinking back it was a nice contrast to the work of artists like Juluka, Via Afrika, Hotline and others that were attempting different combinations of western and indigenous styles. 

From the sleeve notes:
"Music crosses all boundaries and is understood. The culmination of two years in a working together atmosphere which epitomises music team. A concept album that is pure Africa The crossover influence of two totally diverse styles...that of Tom Mkhize and Glynn Storm" 

Glynn Storm was best known for this work with SA rock group Backtrax whilst Tom Mkize had many gold records as artists and producer with groups such as The Daffodils and Abangani. 

African Image - Roots Izimpande (SPINL 3313, 1982)
Tracks:
1. Ibhanoyi (Fly Machine)
2. Ikhalaphi (War Cry)
3. The Way I Feel
4. Isoka Liyatatzela (Uneasy Playboy)
5. Utshwala Bumnandi (African Beer)
6. From the Roots
Sibusiso Mbatha (lead vocals), Abangani (backing vocals), Denny Lalouette (bass), Jethro Butow (guitar), Kendall Kay (drums, percussion), Glynn Storm (keyboards). Arranged and produced by Tom Mkhize and Glynn Storm.

ENJOY

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Malombo - 1984 Live from the Old Main Hall, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa


Gabriel 'Mabi' Thobejane and Philip Tabane, Market Café 1976 (Photo: David Marks)

Today another repost from the old matsuli blog:
Philip Tabane is the founder of the group Malombo, a Venda word for spirit. Today he is known as Dr Malombo and whilst the group has been through many iterations over the past 45 years they are still performing and astounding audiences worldwide. 

My introduction to Malombo was at University in 1982 when a friend passed on a dubbed cassette copy of The Indigenous Afro-Jazz Sounds of Philip Tabane and his Malombo Jazzman. Later I saw him play at the Rainbow Jazz Club in Durban and at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. In 1984 I worked in a team to put on a series of concerts by Malombo under the auspices of the United Democratic Front - a non-racial coalition of about 400 civic, church, students', workers' and other organisations. We organised three concerts including one at the University's Old Main Hall from where the live recording being shared today comes from. 


Guitar scorcerer Philip Tabane at the Old Main Hall, University of Natal Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 1984 (Photo: Natal Witness) 

I find it difficult to express the power and beauty that comes from his performances. So I will leave it to a sleeve note writer to paint a picture: "Malombo's music is a blend of the sophisticated and the primeval, of electric and traditional instrumentation, of tone poems about the natural world and its close link to human communities. Malombo has strong roots in traditional African music but they draw from such a broad spectrum of influences as to render categorizations difficult. If you can imagine an African Chuck Berry who plays six flutes at one time awhile humming and singing, you're beginning to visualise the persona of Philip Tabane - leader of the group." (from the sleeve notes to the Kaya self-titled release)

For a long time I've lamented the fact that the Malombo back catalogue has fallen into disarray. Currently only five from a total of 13 releases are commercially in print. And of these five there is one obscure release - SIlent Beauty - not even credited to Phiip Tabane or Malombo. Recently Francis Gooding compiled an anthology of featuring the Julian Bahula branch stream of Malombo. You can find that here.

A (near) comprehensive discography is available at FlatInternational

The recording being shared was taped directed from the mixing desk but unfortunately has been through a few generations of dubbing before being digitised. I hope you enjoy it!
MEDIAFIRE

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Alpheus Ramavhea - Ndo Shavha Tshikolo (1982)

Alpheus Ramavhea ranks alongside Eric Mukhese and the Takalani Band, Irene Mawela, Daniel Luambo, Colbert Mukwevho and Adziambei Band as one of the most influential Venda artists of all time. Today we share Ramavhea's 1982 album, Ndo Shavha Tshikolo, released on the Igagasi label and produced by Mavuthela guitarist Marks Mankwane.

By the late 1970s, Irene Mawela had become highly revered by Venda listeners and artists alike as the first artist to record mbaqanga songs in her mother tongue. (Record companies generally discouraged artists from recording songs in 'unsellable' languages, so the bulk of Irene's compositions were written in Zulu and Sotho for Gallo to release on 45rpm singles. Irene would then translate most of these into Venda for airplay on the then-Radio Venda, a unique move making her the first 'pop star' of the station when all other music broadcast was labelled 'traditional'.) Alpheus Ramavhea signed a recording contract with Gallo/Mavuthela in about 1979 and was immediately joined by Irene in the studio, who provided backing vocals and offered suggestions on how to make his sound more distinctive over potential competitors.

With the help of both Irene and guitarist and producer Marks Mankwane, Ramavhea's laidback vocals, groaning moans and acoustic picking were infused with the trademark mbaqanga sound. Ndo Shavha Tshikolo is Alpheus Ramavhea at his best, featuring twelve foot-stomping tracks. The vocal patterns here are just excellent and the backup is crisp. Particular highlights include "Vhuhadzi" (that is Irene doing the solo halfway through the song), "Muhadzinga", "Tshililo" and "Lufuno". Simply great music!

Enjoy!

ALPHEUS RAMAVHEA
NDO SHAVHA TSHIKOLO
produced by Marks Mankwane
engineered by Keith Forsyth
Igagasi IAL 3029
1982
Venda Vocal

MF

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

S'modern Girls - Unina Kavusi (1980)

We share another album of crisp and clean 1980s female mbaqanga today, this time from Izintombi Zesimanjemanje under their alternate pseudonym, S’modern Girls. 1980’s Unina Kavusi features 10 strong Zulu vocal numbers with powerful harmonies, sunny guitar, pounding bass and glorious organ.

Izintombi Zesimanjemanje (usually corrupted as ‘Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje’ on their record sleeves thanks to careless designers) established itself as a serious competitor in the local music scene early on and had been a relatively dominant force for just over five years when the original line-up, fronted by Sannah Mnguni, quit and went over to form Amagugu Esimanjemanje at EMI. Isibaya Esikhulu producer Hamilton Nzimande quickly reformed the group. His partner Jane Dlamini – the only Zesimanjemanje vocalist who stayed on at Isibaya – was soon joined by Lindiwe Mthembu (from Izintombi Zephepha), Nobesuthu Shawe (from the Mahotella Queens) and Ruth Mafuxwana. From 1972 to 1976 the quartet produced some brilliant high-quality vocal jive LPs (although naturally the 45s came first, then the albums), some of which were Nomali (1974), A Man and a Woman (1974), Isitha Sami Nguwe (1976), Bomakoti Bakajeno (1976) and Usithathaphi Isibindi (1976).

In 1977, the Zesimanjemanje maidens were joined by Hilda Tloubatla, who had recently left Gallo-Mavuthela after more than 12 years as the famous lead singer of the Mahotella Queens. It was at this same time that Nzimande began developing the famous Soul Brothers, then virtually unknown but soon to become Isibaya Esikhulu’s (and ultimately one of South Africa’s) biggest selling artists. As the era of girl group mbaqanga began to come to an end, Nzimande reinvigorated Zesimanjemanje’s backup to resemble that of the Soul Brothers, with a horn section, synth, organ, disco beat and just one guitar. The changes were a step into the future but the material remained very strong, notable albums including Ho Buoa Morena (1977), Ujabulisa Abantu (1978), Ha Le Dikela (1979), Umuntu Othulile (1979), Makoti Wakena (1980) and today’s share, Unina Kavusi (1980). In a bid to maintain the group’s popularity, Nzimande arranged for the ladies to record some of their own compositions using the same musical arrangements from the most popular Soul Brothers singles.

Most of the vocals on Unina Kavusi are split pretty evenly between the Zesimanjemanje maidens and a male soul chorus (not actually the Soul Brothers on this LP, although they do sing on Ujabulisa Abantu). The trademark mbaqanga rhythms are definitely imbued with that Soul Brothers magic and the result is happy, sunny and delightful. Every number is brilliant but particular standouts include “Ukuhlakanipha Akukho”, “Utshwala”, “Thathakahle” and “Mawumthanda”.

The female vocalists on this LP are: Jane Dlamini, Julia Mangqu, Lindiwe Mthembu, Nobesuthu Shawe and Hilda Tloubatla.

Enjoy!


S’MODERN GIRLS
UNINA KAVUSI
produced by Hamilton Nzimande
Umjondolo LJD 30
1980
Zulu Vocal

Friday, 31 July 2015

Zulu violin dance from the mountains

A Friday tribute dedicated to all my friends from the 1980s who were also excited by the Shifty Records release of the Noise Khanyile and Joburg City Stars number Grooving Jive Number One. That infectious violin-led 12-inch track received many a spin at many a party.

The track shared today traces one root of "Zulu Violin Dance" back to Durban Harbour circa 1960. A simple, pure and equally infectious violin and guitar duet composed by one V. Gumede for the "Point Docks String Combo". The title "Ezintabeni" can be translated as "to the mountains" or "from the mountains".

This track along with a number of others will be made available via Electric Jive in due course. For now:

Check out this link here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Heartbreaker: The G. Kente Voices (1977)

OK, so there is an appetite for Gibson Kente's music, thanks for the comments and feedback. Here is another Gibson Kente production, recorded 29th August 1977, ten weeks after "Can You Take It". The eight-piece band remains intact, while the vocal ensemble is reduced to eight female voices, led again by Olive Masinga. Produced by Ray Nkwe on the Jazz Appreciation Society (JAS) Pride label.

A notable addition among the voices is that of a young Mandisa Dlanga who went on to make a name for herself in the theatre world, as a session singer, and has since 1986 been the longest serving band member in Johnny Clegg's regular line-up. Mandisa Dlanga is still performing live, and has recent recordings with the Soweto Gospel Choir, and also on Vusi Mahlasela's 2011 "Say Africa". You can check out and purchase CDs on which Ms Dlanga is featured here.

Kente (1932 – 2004) is remembered as the father of South Africa’s Black Theatre. In the 1950s he was a talent scout for the Gallo music company. Inspired by King Kong, he founded a theater business in the early 1960s His first play was Manana, the Jazz Prophet (1963). The second, Sikalo  is featured earlier on Electric Jive here. I have made a note to digitise and share Kente's 1973 offering "How Long" sometime in the future, stay tuned.

Kente is credited with training more than 400 artists and producing 30 plays and three television dramas before his death from Aids in 2004.

Download link here

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Can You Take It (1977)

 The 'father of township drama' Gibson Kente was not only remarkably prolific, he could assemble some seriously talented musicians to present his many offerings. This 1977 recording was produced by the inimitable Ray Nkwe through the "Jazz Appreciation Society" - in the days when such societies released recordings.
Olive Masinga and cast
 Let's start with a 13-piece vocal ensemble led by Mahotella Queens stalwart Olive Masinga, accompanied by an eight-piece brass-heavy band comprised of the likes of Dennis Mpale and the guitar wizardry of Themba Mokoena.

In his liner notes, Aggrey Klaaste highlights the music: "Long before I saw TAKE IT I heard a rendition of "JIKI JIKI", I was driven almost to tears by the deep nostalgia andand unmistakable Township bounce. I know some Black Americans are driven to such emotional transport by the Blues or spiritual songs. What makes the impact greater is the universality of their effect. You don't have to be a Black American to be stirred by their spirituals, or by the Blues. In a like manner you don't have to be moved by a song like JIKI JIKI. The effect is more emotional if you are part of the township environment and this is what Mr Kente exploits. Some men are blessed with the gift of churning out songs that live in memory for years. If Gibson Kente does not stand among such Black men in our history, the History will have gravely wronged him. The effect his songs have is more, much more than sentimental, they live. That's the trouble with them."
Recorded in Johannesburg on 6th June 1977.
Click on the photo below to see the artists' details and track listing.

Link here