South African Jazz Classic Armitage Road makes all these connections, and endures. The only surviving member of this special band is bass player Ernest Shololo Mothle who played with Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath throughout the 1980s. Ernest is back in South Africa. ElectricJive is thrilled to hear how happy Ernest was to get a copy of the musical Phiri that Tony McGregor downloaded from this site. Ernest had apparently not heard Phiri since he went into exile shortly after recording it in 1972. Thank you Ernest for all your great music!
Picture of Ernest Mothle by Tony McGregorTony tells a great story about Armitage Road and Ernest Mothle here.
Gwen Ansell describes another set of connections that Armitage Road makes: being “informed by both American and South African styles and influences. In short it straddles early hard bop and danceable South African jazz.”
In comments to the previous short-lasting posting of this recording on Matsuli, Siemon Allen pointed out the clear visual reference to the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. “What I like about the cover is that when juxtaposed with "Abbey Road" it becomes a critique of the social conditions in South Africa at that time without overtly mentioning Apartheid and running the risk of being banned. Certainly showing Cyril Magubane (who was struck with polio) crossing the road in his wheelchair amplifies the difference between the world of Armitage Road and that of Abbey Road."
This is what else the Matsuli post had to say: The group was put together by saxophonist Henry Sithole who started out playing jazz with Dalton Khanyile's Keynotes in 1964 before playing in Gibson Kente's musical Sikalo; thereafter with Almon's Jazz 8 and Mackay Davashe's Jazz Dazzlers. In 1969 Henry recruited Ernest Mothle on bass, Nelson Magwaza on drums, Cyril Magubane on guitar and his brother Stanley on tenor for the Heshoo Beshoo Group.
Heshoo Beshoo means moving forward with force. On so many levels this recording is a strong statement of self determination, creativity and freedom in the midst of the brutual subjugation of black South Africans by the Apartheid government. The LP had a limited release in South Africa as well as a subsequent release in France.
In 1971 Henry and Stanley were approached by guitarist Adolphus "Bunny" Luthuli to get a band together to compete in the Alco Best Band Competition at Jabulani Stadium in April 1971. Bunny had played with Henry in Almon's Jazz 8. This approach was the genesis of South Africa's greatest soul jazz band The Drive comprising the Sithole brothers Henry, Danny and Stanley, Bunny Luthuli, Mike Makhalemele, Lucky Mbatha, Nelson Magwaza and Anthony Saoli.
The Drive won the Alco competition and stayed together touring throughout Southern Africa. In 1972 they won best band at the PINA CULO festival in Umgababa in September 1972. The band unfortunately suffered a tragedy in May 1977 when Bunny Luthuli and Henry Sithole were killed outright in a car accident in the Tzaneen area of Nothern Transvaal.
Today Nelson Magwaza and Ernest Mothle are both musicians who command serious respect for their contribution to the rich tapestry of South African Jazz and popular music. The old slogan the struggle for jazz - jazz for the struggle rings true once more; only today this struggle is as much about memory as it is about change.
The Heshoo Beshoo Group - Armitage Road (1971, JLP 4021)
1. Armitage Road
2. Wait and See
5. Lazy Bones
Henry Sithole (alto sax), Stanley Sithole (tenor sax), Cyril Magubane (guitar), Nelson Magwaza (drums), Ernest Mothle (bass). Produced and engineered by John Norwell.