Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Elite Swingsters groove the "Funky Mama"
Band leader and main composer Peter Mokonotela remains recognised as among the best saxophonists that South Africa has produced. He died of a stroke in May 2005.
here for more on Dolly Rathebe.
“The Elites were first brought together in 1958 as a once-off combination of session musicians hired by Teal Record Company to record four songs for release as 78rpm singles on their RCA label. A Teal executive, Herbert Friedman, decided to issue the records using the name ’Elite Swingsters'. Rather unexpectedly, one of the four recordings, a tune called ‘Phalafafa' which had been composed for the session by the company’s African producer/talent scout, Lebenya Matlotlo, became an enormous hit. The musicians then decided to form a permanent band to capitalize on the success of ‘Phalafala' and adopted the Elite Swingsters moniker by way of advertisement.
“For the next ten or so years, the Elites were one of the most popular attractions in African music. Dubbed ‘The Magnificent Seven' by their township admirers, the band maintained an active performing profile that was centred around Johannesburg, the Vaal Triangle and down into the Orange Free State to Bloemfontein. The Elites also regularly toured Natal and the Eastern Cape under the auspices of the ‘Batfairs' sponsored by United Tobacco Company.
“The regular core of the Elite Swingsters' classic lineup consisted of the leader and string bass player, Johannes '‘Hooks'’Tshukudu, drummer Louis Molubi, Rex Ntuli on guitar, Jordan Bangazi on trumpet and Paul Rametsi on tenor sax. The two man alto saxophone section changed around more frequently and at various times used the following players: Jury Mpehlo, Chris Songxaka, Tami Madi, Shumi, Peter Mokonotela, Albert Ralulimi and Mike Selelo. Other musicians who sometimes formed part of the lineup were Elijah Nkwanyane and Johnny Selelo on trumpet, Blyth Mbitjana on trombone, Chris Columbus on baritone, and Dolly Rathebe on vocals." Excerpt from music.org.za.
As mbaqanga took hold and the original Elite Swingsters got older, injured, and tired of touring full-time they took on day jobs but kept playing gigs on the weekends, and still produced some hits in the 70s.
In the 1990s the Swingsters were reconstituted, including with original members Dolly Rathebe, Paul Ntleru (bass) Daniel Ngema (piano/sax/accordion) and Philip Mbele (keyboards) and delivered two successful CD’s – Woza and A Call for Peace. These and some other Elite’s recordings can still be found at Kalahari and elsewhere.
Produced and arranged by Chris Du Toit – Afrikaans master guitarist who you will hear more of on Electric Jive sometime soon. Du Toit composed two songs on this album: ‘Elite Ska’ and ‘Easy’.
We are looking for the two earlier known LP’s by the Swingsters: TEAL TL 1037 – “Happy Africa”; and R.C.A. 31-718 – “The Elite Swingsters Go Jazz”. Anyone?