Time to get up and dance with a collection of Mahlathini’s early 70s singles, published on the Soweto label. Simon Nkabinde owned his “Mahlathini” moniker with vigour and joy, celebrating all that embodied the challenges of rural men negotiating their migrant relationship with South African big-city culture. Simply put, ‘Mahlathini’ refers to someone who has recently emerged from the bushes.
The improvisation and instrumental solos in Mbaqanga music – says Gwen Ansell in her excellent “Soweto Blues” – have their roots in the 50s African jazz idiom. By the 1970’s mbaqanga’s musical resonance had, much like its migrant worker listenership, changed from “home cooking to fast food”.
Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens were a cut above the churn-them-out production-line of three-chord mbaqanga hooks – a joy to watch live. Nkabinde wowed southern Africa for more than three decades with his energetic playing and groaner singing. Sadly, he died a poor man – a terrible testament to exploitative contractual arrangements where it was a norm for artists to be paid a once-off recording fee only.
Looking at Matsuli’s site, it seems that quite a few of the original 45s that comprise this 1974 collection are still available for sale.
Have a great weekend!