Wednesday, 14 December 2011

78 Revolutions Per Minute — Majuba Jazz from Mra to Bra — Volume 2/3 (1957-1967)

I posted Volume One of this survey here at Electric Jive earlier this week. I was planning to post the remaining two volumes next month, but in the spirit of the holiday season thought it might be good to complete the picture. If you are arriving here first, the introductory text in Volume One will give you more information on the whole compilation.

Majuba, msakazo, or what is more commonly referred to as African Jazz is a quintessentially South African sound. Originally it was a big band sound that took American swing and indigenised it with elements of marabi. From its hey-day in the 1950s it was created by and produced some of the key figures of South African Jazz. By 1958 majuba jazz had split: one avenue taking a 'highbrow' approach with the influences of bop to become the sound of the Jazz Epistles and The Blue Notes; while another, some would say, 'lowbrow' approach took the music in the direction of sax jive. By 1964 sax jive had become mbaqanga.

Volume 1: Swing to Majuba (1953 – 1956)
Volume 2: Majuba to Sax Jive (1957-1961)
Volume 3: Sax Jive to Mbaqanga (1962 – 1967)

VOLUME 2: MAJUBA TO SAX JIVE (1957 – 1961)

(flatinternational / Electric Jive, FXEJ 5)

1) TOPHITTERS - Kereke - 1957
(Reggie Msomi, Gallotone Jive Jive, GB 2712, ABC 16300)

An excellent kwela/vocal jive composed by Reggie Msomi opens this compilation. In many ways, the popularity of kwela led to an assimilation of aspects of that style with majuba jazz. Towards the late 1950s, the big band sound became faster and incorporated elements such as rhythmic or vamping guitars. Some like Drum music critic Bloke Modisane in his review of a 1958 recording by the Sharpetown Swingsters, commented that they “are probably the best there is. Wish they could remember that occasionally people sit down to listen… or pretend to.” In many ways the popularity of this faster style of playing also marked the beginning of the end of majuba jazz which quite rapidly began to transform first into sax jive and then mbaqanga.

(H. Bessie, Columbia, YE 192)
(trad. arr. H. Bessie, Columbia, YE 192)

Ian Jeffrey’s great account in his dissertation on this band gave me substantial insight into the general context of the history of majuba jazz. It is Jeffrey’s continued use of the term “majuba” in describing this music that lead me to research its root.

The Sharpetown Swingsters
Led by Joseph Molifi, the Sharpetown Swingsters formed in Sharpeville in January of 1953. The group at that time included Molifi on trombone, Joseph Moshoeshoe on trumpet, Hans Bessie on alto, Steven ‘Booitsie’ Lepere (brother to Jacob Lepere) on bass, Ishamel Molifi on tenor, Isaac Makgale on alto and David Masuko on drums. In 1954 Simon ‘Paps’ Mokhome joined the band on second trumpet, while Iphrahaim Zwane replaced Ishmael Molifi on tenor. In 1955 they were "spotted" by Rupert Bopape who signed them to a five-year contract with EMI to record under the Columbia label. Their first recording V Blues and Sharpetown Special (YE 127) “made them famous” though Jeffrey’s goes on to say that the group received £11 per side with an additional £5 to Steven Lepere for composition. The practice according to Jeffrey’s was the standard for all bands at the time.

Jeffrey’s goes on to say that by 1955 the band was well-known playing gigs all over the country and were also being featured on Gideon Nxumalo’s radio show This is Bantu Jazz. By November 1956, they had caught the eye of music critic Gideon Jay who reviewed their recent releases in Zonk magazine. Polliacks advertised the group in 1957 alongside Zacks and His Sextet as one of the best bands of the year. Maebe and Jikele Bessie, the two tracks featured here, were issued in December of that year and by January 1958 had reached the number two position of Polliacks Ladder of Hits. Ellison Themba’s African Swingsters were at number one. These two tracks were also featured on the EMI EP Africa Music and Life of Today Vol. 1 (SEYJ 102)

Their October 1958 release Archie's Jump received a favorable review from Drum’s Bloke Modisane, but Jeffrey’s also points out that Modisane’s tone also implied that "jive" (the term he used) was loosing its popularity. In January 1959 the Swingsters “peaked” with their release Iza Levay and Amajeri which went to the top of the Polliacks charts and also became their best-selling disc. They made two more discs with EMI and then in 1960, their contract was not renewed. According to Jeffreys, record companies began rejecting African jazz in favor of more “rural” sounding mbaqanga. Moreover the “African” programme on SABC was replaced by language specific Bantu Radio that looked to use “traditional” music as a way to culturally separate different language groups. It is also not insignificant that events like Sharpeville occurred in March 1960. Though never recording commercially again, the band continued to acquire new members and play together at various occasions well into the 1980s. (Jeffrey)

4) YANKEE SWINGSTERS3rd Avenue Jump – c1957
(Piliso, RCA, RCA 87, 8HBB 110)
5) YANKEE SWINGSTERSTshayani – c1957
(Piliso, RCA, RCA 87, 8HBB 111)

It is not clear whether Ntemi Piliso or his brother Shadrack or both perform on these tracks but in the liner notes of the CD reissue Bra Ntemi, Rob Allingham mentions that the Ntemi’s Alexandra All Stars did record briefly for Teal Records using names like the Country Jazz Band. The RCA label was an imprint of Teal Records in South Africa and I am assuming this record could be from those sessions. (Allingham)

6) SKIP PHALANE AND HIS BIG NINEKwela Bangazi – 1957
(J. Bangazi, Gallotone Jive, GB 2725, ABC 16356)
7) SKIP PHALANE AND HIS BIG NINEVuk’uzenzele – 1957
(Skip Phalane, Gallotone Jive, GB 2725, ABC 16355)

'Skip' Phalane from Coplan
Sylvester ‘Skip’ Phalane performed in the variety show Zonk! that entertained Allied soldiers during the second world war. In the late 1940s, Phalane also starred in the film of the same name that was made by Lietenant Ike Brooks, who claimed to have trained the “African ‘raw talent' from scratch.” David Coplan’s account of the Zonk experience during the war is quite extensive and a recommended read. According to Rasmussen, Phalane also performed later with the Jazz Maniacs and the Harlem Swingsters, playing tenor-sax. It is likely that his Big Nine also featured, future Elite Swingsters, Johnny or Jordan Bangazi as he is credited with the tune “Kwela Bangazi.” By 1962, Rasmussen revealed in an interview with Cups Nkanuka, that Phalane (Nkanuka’s idol while growing up) had stopped performing. (Rasmussen, Coplan)

8) ELIJAH'S RHYTHM KINGSBops Special - c1957
(Rupert Bopape, HMV, JP 2075, OAS 981)
9) ELIJAH'S RHYTHM KINGSElijah Special - c1957
(Elijah Nkwanyana, HMV, JP 2075, OAS 982)

EMI’s stable under Rupert Bopape was hard to beat in the 1950s and included some of the best musicians and band-leaders. Major names like Ellison Temba of the African Swingsters, Zacks Nkosi of the City Jazz Nine, Gray Mbau of the Brown Cool Six and Elijah Nkwanyana of Elijah’s Rhythm Kings would record together and often rotate band names depending on who was leading. These guys were also the core of Bopape’s Magic Circle Band, a kind of “super-group." that featured the best musicians from various bands.

Trumpeter and band-leader, Elijah Nkwanyana was born in 1931. Gwen Ansell retells a humorous story of how Nkwanyana, at age fifteen, and his older cousin (by one year), Banzi Bangani (who used to practise together in the early 1940s) got an early gig when their teacher failed to appear for a performance. They took over and out-played the teacher much to his chagrin. Ngwanyana also performed with Bangani in the group the Johannesburg All Stars which included Sydney Nthalo on piano, Willie Malan on drums, and General Duze on guitar. (Ansell, Rasmussen)

Nkwanyana from Rasmussen
Bangani in an interview with Rasmussen also retold how he and Ngwanayana recruited a vocal group led by Siba Mokgosi and became the African Ink Spots. Their association with the group led them to perform on the 1949 film Jim Comes to Joburg the first feature film with an “all-African” cast. Bangani and Ngwanyana also taught a young Hugh Masekela aspects of the trumpet. Bangani remembers “we cooked him, because, many times I listen to Hugh, he has got part of Elijah, he has got part of me in his playing.” (Rasmussen)

In the 1950s he fronted the Elijah Rhythm Kings and in 1957 Zonk magazine designated him composer of the year with a number of tunes including those featured here: Bops Special and Elijah Special. At the 1962 Castle Lager Jazz Festival he performed with Tete Mbambisa’s Jazz Giants with Dudu Pukwana, Martin Mgijima, Early Mabuza, and Nick Moyake. (Rasmussen)

Sadly, Elijah Nkwanyana died all too early at the age of 38 on December 31st, 1969. But his legacy lives on. David Coplan suggests that it was a late 1950s tune by Nkwanayana that Abdullah Ibrahim combined with other elements to create the iconic Mannenburg. Others have claimed that it was Zacks Nkosi’s tune Jackpot that was sampled, but if you listen closely to details within Bops Special you can almost hear elements of the future Mannenburg. (Ansell, Rasmussen, Coplan)

(Zacks Nkosi, HMV, JP 2091, OAS 1035)
11) ZACKS AND HIS SEXTETRock, Rock Jazz - c1957
(Zacks Nkosi, HMV, JP 2091, OAS 1036)

Zacks Nkosi from Huskisson
'Bra' Zacks Nkosi, a legend of early African jazz and mbaqanga, was born in Alexandra township, Johannesburg in 1925. He received his first saxophone at the age of 15 and soon was performing with the Havana Group. After working with the Blue Diamond Jazz Band, Nkosi was invited to audition at the Bantu Men's Social Centre (BMSC) for Solomon 'Zuluboy' Cele's Jazz Maniacs, the premium jazz band of the 1930s and 40s. He joined the Maniacs in 1940 and soon became their leading saxophonist. According to Huskisson, after Cele's death in 1944, Nkosi became the Maniacs leader, though this account is contradicted by Bergmeier who maintained that Wilson Silgee assumed leadership of the group. Silgee would go on to form his own group, King Force Silgee's Jazz Forces, and Nkosi also performed with this group. In the early 1950s Nkosi along with Ellison Temba and Elijah Nkwanyana performed with the African Swingsters. It is with them that Nkosi recorded his first composition Swazi Stomp in 1953. (Listen at SAMAP) In 1956 Nkosi formed two groups, Zacks and His Sextet and the City Jazz Nine, to concentrate primarily on commercial recordings. Some of their most notable tracks between 1956 and 1964 are featured on his first LP: Our Kind of Jazz which was issued by EMI in 1964. (Huskisson, Bergmeier)

Both tracks featured in this compilation are from the original 78 rpms but they can also be found on the LP. The track BMSC refers to the Bantu Men’s Social Centre an important meeting place and performance venue on Eloff Street in Johannesburg that was built in 1924 with funds from the liberal white community. View some of Nkosi’s albums at flatinternational. (Coplan, Huskisson)

12) THE GLOBE TROTTERSDrums of Africa – 1957
(Victor Ndazilwana, Columbia, YE 180, CEA 5099)
13) THE GLOBE TROTTERSVuyisile – 1957
(Douglas Xaba, Columbia, YE 184, CEA 5139)

As mentioned earlier in the Volume One post, Victor Ndlazilwana began his career singing with the male quartette, the Woody Woodpeckers, in 1951. The recordings on that compilation were issued on the Philips label, though I am under the impression that the Woodpeckers normally recorded for EMI and it’s various labels: Columbia and HMV. At that time record companies would sign artists but record them under a range of different names. The “stable” system as it was known, gave competitors and the audience the impression that the company had far more recording artists than it did. It also allowed the company to control the relative success of any one group. It is not clear to me whether the Globe Trotters are the Woody Woodpeckers under another name but certainly the composing credits here go to regulars in the EMI stable: Ndazilwana, Rupert Bopape and Douglas Xaba. Drums of Africa as well as two other tracks by the Globe Trotters were featured on the 1950s compilation LP Africa - Music and Life Today (33JSX 9), also issued in the US as Music of the African Zulus.

Sponono from Playbill
Multi-instrumentalist and actor, Douglas Xaba, composer of the track Vuyisile, was born in Natal in 1934. Son of a retired missionary, his first acting role was in The Respectful Prostitute in Durban. He joined the Lex Mona’s Tympany Slickers after moving to Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. By that time he was already quite politically active. In 1964 Xaba came to the US as part of Alan Paton’s play Sponono which opened at the Cort Theatre in New York on April 2nd. Directed by Krishna Shah, the play included musical arrangements by Gideon Nxumalo and the cast featured amongst others Philemon Hou as Ha’ Penny, Xaba as an imbongi or praise singer, Caiphus Semenya as one of the reformatory Boys and Margaret Mcingana (Singana) as a member of the choir. According to Miriam Makeba, in her biography, the performance on Broadway was picketed. In her words “people thought Sponono was just some white play with Uncle Tom black people in it. They boycotted it. They did a mock funeral parade and carried a coffin symbolizing that Sponono had died.” But Makeba goes on to say that the performers that came were genuine actors and musicians. The show was a “flop” and the cast returned to South Africa, but some of the artists remained including Semenya and Xaba. Makeba assisted them in finding scholarships to study music and an apartment in New York. In many ways their arrival in New York gave Makeba and Hugh Masekela a vital community away from home. Interestingly, Makeba got married to Masekela during the opening month of Sponono in April 1964. (Playbill, Ansell, Makeba)

Douglas Xaba is possibly most well known for his tune Emavungwini popularized by Miriam Makeba on her 1968 album Makeba!, but first featured on Hugh Masekela’s 1965 album Grrr which interestingly also included his version of Dudu Pukwana’s dedication to Christopher Columbus — Mra. (Listen to Makeba’s version here at Electric Jive) Another version of Emavungwini can be found on an album by Cedric Brooks and the Devine Light. Here the track is credited to none other than Ndikho Douglas Xaba… as in Ndikho Xaba and the Natives, authors of the super rare and highly collectable, spiritual jazz LP issued on the Trilyte label in 1969.

I wonder if Xaba’s song Vuyisile featured here may in some oblique way refer to Vuyisile Mini, the anti-apartheid activist that was hung in 1964. Without a translation of the lyric it is hard to say and so I can only speculate. Mini who was born in Port Elizabeth became active as a trade-unionist in the Eastern Cape in the 1950s. Both Xaba and Mini were politically active in the region but they were also musically active and so it is not hard to believe that their paths might have crossed at some point. Mini sang in the P.E. Male Voice Choir and had a distinctive, commanding bass voice and composed many famous freedom songs including Ndodemnyama or "Beware Verwoerd". In 1956, a year before the Vuyisile recording by Xaba was issued, Mini became one of the 156 accused in the famous “treason trial” which included Nelson Mandela. Xaba’s bass delivery here in Vuyisile seems very reminiscent of Mini’s to me. Anyways, just speculation…. (Makeba, Ansell)

14) SPOKES MASHIYANEBig Joe Special – 1958
(Mashiyane, Rave, R 42, matrix 7608)
15) SPOKES MASHIYANEKwela Sax – 1958
(Mashiyane, Rave, R 42, matrix 7479)

Spokes Mashiyane, is credited as having popularized kwela or pennywhistle jive with his recordings Ace Blues and Kwela Spokes in 1954. In the four years that followed he would remain one of the most famous and prolific proponents of this musical style. Big Joe Special recorded in 1958, marks the first time that Mashiyane played on saxophone. According to Allingham, Mashiyane was persuaded to take up the instrument by Strike Vilakazi, the producer for Trutone’s black division from 1952 - 1970. As with his earlier Ace Blues, Big Joe Special was a sales phenomenon. The record became the trendsetting hit of that year and would inspire a whole new style of music. Sax jive—latter called mbaqanga—would dominate South African urban music for the next twenty years. In many ways this track marks the beginning of the eventual decline of the majuba jazz era. Younger consumers were looking for faster, heavier sounds and mbaqanga would soon satisfy those desires. Mashiyane, after his successes with Trutone Records and their Quality and Rave labels, was lured away by Gallo Records in 1958. At Gallo he became the first black musician to receive royalties from his recordings. View Mashiyane’s albums at flatinternational. (Allingham)

16) AFRICAN SWINGSTERSShay’ utshane – 1959
(Ellison Themba, HMV, JP 2134)

Ellison Themba
For someone as significant as tenor-man Ellison ‘Bra T’ Themba, it was amazing to find almost no mention of him in most of the major texts about this subject. As said earlier, Themba, was a key part of EMI’s stable, recording some of the most classic tunes of the 1950s with Zack Nkosi, Elijah Nkwanyana and others. There he was also a key component of Bopape’s Magic Circle Band. Themba, led the African Swingsters an early big band that unfortunately is not represented in Volume One of this compilation. According to Rob Allingham both Nkosi on alto sax, and Elijah Nkwanyanya on trumpet were part of the African Swingsters. (Allingham)

Their track Swazi Stomp, composed by Zacks Nkosi is included on the compilation LP Jazz and Hot Dance in South Africa. Huskisson has that tune being Nkosi’s first, composed in 1953, though the track by the African Swingsters, issued on HMV (JP 133), probably dates from around 1955. (SAMAP has it as JP 418, which could be a reissue.) Shay’utshane, a major hit in 1959, comes quite late in the history of majuba.

After Bopape left for Gallo in 1964, he took many of his EMI musicians with him including Themba. The African Swingsters would continue to record for Gallo well into the 1960s, in fact they are the last group represented on Volume Three with, by then, a distinctly mbaqanga sound. In 1975 Gallo re-assembled a band of jazz musicians from the golden age of majuba. Called The Members, this group included Ellison Themba, Ntemi Piliso, Shadrack Piliso and Spokes Mashiyane amongst others. They recorded in the style of what was then called bump-jive — a slowed down, extended version of the very music they helped create in the 1950s. The group released a number of albums including Wayback Riverside (BL 40), and Kadudu Special (BL 44).

17) BROWN COOL SIXEmigodini – 1959
(Gray Mbau, Columbia, YE 252, CEA 5330)
18) BROWN COOL SIX Meadowlands Blues – 1959
(Gray Mbau, Columbia, YE 252, CEA 5350)

As mentioned in the opening text of Volume One, Gray Mbau performed with the Harlem Swinsters and Todd Matshikiza puts him significantly at the very birth of the majuba musical style in his 1957 Drum article Jazz comes to Joburg: “Gray put the corn bread aside and started blowing something on the five note scale. We dropped our corn bread and got stuck into Gray’s mood. And that is how some of the greatest and unsurpassed African Jazz classics were born.” Recording for EMI as the Brown Cool Six, Mbau was also part of Bopape’s Magic Circle Band. (Jeffrey)

19) ELITE SWINGTERSPanga - c1959
(Sylvia Maloi, RCA, RCA 179, 8KBB 60)
20) ELITE SWINGTERSThu Thuka - c1959
(L. Matlotlo, RCA, RCA 179, 8KBB 59)

The Elite Swingsters were formed in April 1956 by Johannes 'Chooks' Tshukudu as a session band for RCA, an imprint of Teal Records in South Africa. After a string of hits including Phalafala, the group decided to continue recording under the name: Elite Swingsters. Lebenya Matlotlo worked as a producer for RCA and penned four of their early tracks including the hit Phalafala and subsequently also played a significant role in the group's formation. A collection of their 78 rpm hits were issued as The Beat of Africa around 1958. It is not clear to me who was part of the original lineup of the Swingsters at that time, but it could be extrapolated from the track listing of their first LP that the group included Tshukudu and Paul Ramesti. Mojapelo in his book puts Philip Thami Madi in the original group as well and according to the classic lineup included leader and string bass player, Tshukudu, Louis Molubi on drums, Rex Ntuli on guitar, Johnny Bangazi on trumpet and Rametsi on tenor sax. The Solven Whistlers' Peter Mokonotela joined the group as an alto saxophonist in 1962 as did the notable film star and vocalist, Dolly Rathebe, in 1964.

In 1963 the Elite Swingters won the "Band Section" of the Cold Castle Jazz Festival. Though this information may be incorrect given the inclusion of Chris McGregor's Big Band in that same year. While in Durban, performing at the 1965 BATFAIR trade show, Tshukudu drowned while swimming. The group continued to perform and record but interest in their style of jazz dwindled with the rise of mbaqanga, which appealed to a younger audience. In 1989 the group reunited with Rathebe to record a number of albums. Over the years, members performing with the group have included: Jury Mpehlo, Chris Songxaka, Albert Ralulimi, Mike Selelo, Elijah Nkwanyane, Johnny Selelo, Blythe Mbityana, Chris Columbus, Daniel Ngema, George Manxola, Jackie Mogali, Paul Ntleru, Dimpy Shabalala, Philip Mbele. Bennette Rahlao, Conrad Zulu, Jack Mogale amongst others. (Huskisson, Mojapelo)

21) TRANSVAAL ROCKING JAZZ STARSHere is a Message – c1960
(Michael Xaba, Bopape, Columbia, YE 320, CEA 5622)
(Ellison Themba, Bopape, Columbia, YE 320, CEA 5621)

Rupert Bopape
Rupert Bopape became a producer at EMI in 1952 and while there soon established one of the strongest jazz catalogues in the country. The Tranvaal Rockin Jazz Stars were one of Bopape’s “Magic Circle Bands.” The liner notes of EMI’s Hits of 59 LP (JCLP 18) sheds light on this concept: “To explain the meaning of the “Magic Circle” — we have taken the number 7 — considered a lucky number by all Africans, and have formed the “Magic Circle” from the seven outstanding African bands. This famous group The Tranvaal Rocking Jazz Stars is comprised of the seven leaders of the seven bands of the “Magic Circle” to form a unique combination.” (Allingham, HMV liner notes)

Generally this group would include legends from the EMI roster including Ellison Temba, leader of the African Swingsters; Zacks Nkosi of the Jazz Maniacs and then City Jazz Nine; Elijah Nkwanyane of Elijah’s Rhythm Kings, Gray Mbau of the Harlem Swingsters; and Michael Xaba from the Jazz Maniacs and Harlem Swingsters to name but a few. In 1964 Bopape moved to Gallo, taking many of their musicians with him. There he established Mavuthela and built a significant foundation for mbaqanga music. While at Mavuthela, Bopape did attempt to reconstitute the “Magic Circle Band” as can be heard on Volume Three of this compilation. Bop’s Magic Circle Band was issued on Motella in 1964, an early issue from that famous label. Notably the tracks there are a lot more mbaqanga sounding than those of the Transvaal Rockin Jazz Stars. Read more about the history of the Motella label, Mavuthela and Rupert Bopape in Nick Lotay’s classic post Jive Motella! at Matsuli.

23) N.D. HOTSHOTSN.D. City – 1960
(Reggie Msomi, New Sound, GB 3139, ABC 18373)
24) N.D. HOTSHOTSSonce Special – 1960
(Reggie Msomi, New Sound, GB 3139, ABC 18374)

According to the liner notes of Swing Africa featured here at Electric Jive, Reggie Msomi was born near Port Shepstone, along the South Coast of Kwa Zulu Natal. In 1953 he moved to Johannesburg seeking work, interestingly, as a male nurse in a mining hospital. Roughly around 1955 he joined RCA, an imprint of Teal Records, where he met ‘Chooks’ Tshukudu the future leader of the Elite Swingsters. By 1957 (I am assuming given his credit on the kwela tune above) he had moved to Gallo Records. Though first a guitarist, Msomi also played saxophone and at Gallo produced a significant body of hits including Twisting with Reggie. The N.D. Hotshots were a session band featuring Msomi on alto sax and also included trumpeter Banzi Bangani. N.D. refers to “Natal, Durban” an abbreviation found on car-number plates. Ironically as Rob Allingham points out, Msomi was the only member to hail from the region. (Ansell, Allingham)

Reggie Msomi
The tracks featured in this compilation are some of my favorite and show Msomi, along with Mashiyane, to be at the forefront of transforming the mbaqanga sound from its majuba roots. Msomi’s approach to mbaqanga was quite experimental, often introducing elements like ska or twist to the music. Significantly he was often credited as composer on many classic Gallo New Sound tracks, most notably those with Mashiyane as well as the Skylarks featuring Miriam Makeba. In 1962 he formed the Hollywood Jazz Band and also became a producer / talent scout for Gallo. Alas, in 1964 he was replaced by Rupert Bopape in an unfortunate turn of events recounted in Nick Lotay’s classic post Jive Motella! on the history of Mavuthela at Matsuli. View more of Msomi’s albums at flatinternational.

25) ETHEL RULULUNda Zenza - 1961
(Ethel Rululu, Envee, NV 3303, E 11351)
26) ETHEL RULULU & MAHAMBAUnyako ‘Mtsha - 1961
(Ethel Rululu, Envee, NV 3303, E 11352)

Finding information on this jazz singer has been quite difficult. In the early 1950s, Ethel Rululu performed with the Hi-Tide Harmonics and recorded with them on Trutone’s Bantu Bathu label (BB 627) possibly in 1952. The tracks featured here are from 1961 also recorded with Trutone. Given the rise of mbaqanga, her style of singing at this point almost seems out of place, coming from the seemingly forgotten era of the 1950s.

27) HI-LIFE SEPTETTEEkhaya Kwa Chaka – 1961
(Christopher Songxaka, Hi-Life, HL 522, J 73)
28) HI-LIFE SEPTETTEHouse Full – 1961
(Christopher Songxaka, Hi-Life, HL 522, J 75)

Again it is difficult to find information on Christopher Songxaka. The SAMAP archive reveals a number of compositions by him, including Zulu Jazz recorded by the Eastern City Seven led by Boyce Gwele. The track was issued on the Tropik label around 1957. Spokes Mashiyane and his Big Five’s New Sound Jump also composed by Songxaka was an early hit and issued in 1959 or 1960. Christopher Songxaka and His Sax recorded 1959 Se Cherries on Trutone’s Quality label in, I am assuming, 1959. And then Songxaka fronted at least two bands at Gallo during the Mavuthela era: the Home Swingsters and the Home Town Units, both from about 1964/5. The tracks featured here by the Hi-Life Septet come quite late in the majuba chronology but do sound classic!

29) DUMA OF DURBANDiphoofolo Tsotlhe – 1961
(Allen Kwela, Envee, NV 3494, matrix 11300)
30) DUMA OF DURBAN Thatha Umthwalo – 1961
(Allen Kwela, Envee, NV 3494, matrix 11299)

Pioneering jazz guitarist, Allen Duma Kwela was born in Chesterville, Durban in 1939 and acquired his first guitar in 1954. In 1958 he moved to Johannesburg and began playing and composing with Spokes Mashiyane and others. Electric Jive has featured two of his classic, hard-to-find albums the 1972 Allen’s Soul Bag and the late 1970s Black Beauty. In an interesting side note Roger Koza in an interview with Lars Rasmussen revealed that Allen Kwela, Barney Rachabane along with Winston Mankunku and others were part of the group The Cliffs that recorded the 1975 album Alex Express also available here at Electric Jive. Oddly, the track Diphoofolo Tsotlhe featured here includes a number of farm animal sounds. Not sure why this experimental approach was taken, but perhaps it was meant to give the track a more rural feeling.


The tracks on Volume Three trace the music as it augments from sax jive to mbaqanga. Many of the artists here of course are featured in the previous two volumes and were the pioneers of majuba or African Jazz in its hey-day in the 1950s. These tracks reveal the innovators — having set the foundation for the music that was to dominate South African styles for the next twenty years: mbaganga — now having to adapt to its commercial requirements. The tracks here show a style in transition, where artists were exploring new avenues but also trying to keep up with the changing times. They had to either swim with it or sink.

In his book In Township Tonight, David Coplan’s account of this period is particularly revealing: “the veteran big band and mbaqanga jazz players could at first still get work in the studios backing simanje-manje groups like the Dark City Sisters. Producers like Bopape and Mathumba, however, preferred to hire musicians individually for standard msakazo recordings. Professional urban musicians expressed their dissatisfaction with the new system, while the producers disdained the jazzmen’s sense of artistic and professional independence and found their demands for better pay and working conditions annoying: Who did these hired hands think they were?

In response Bopape replaced the middle-class players with working-class and migrant performers and instituted a system of rigid studio control, employing only players who obeyed them […] Performance units were rehearsed incessantly and the music result became his property. The late Rupert, though not a performing musician himself, has more than a thousand compositions copyrighted in his name […] Wilson Silgee, Zakes Nkosi, Ellison Themba, Ntemi Piliso, and a few others stayed on to help organize and rehearse the new groups, but most had no studio contracts and changed to freelance recording with pickup ensembles. Among these were Early Mabuza, Eric Nomvete, Mongezi Feza, Mackay Davashe, Kippie Moeketsi, Gideon Nxumalo, Cyril Magubane, Blythe Mbityana, Allen Kwela, Elijah Nkwanyana, Dalton Khanyile, Skip Phalane, and many other great jazz talents.”

While this account of the business side of the music creates a bleak picture of the 1960s, it must be said that the music on this volume is still some of the best. Reggie Msomi’s Black Cat is one of my favorites of the whole compilation. Volume Three also features classic tracks by David Thekwane and Strike Vilakazi, both producers for Teal and Trutone respectively. If you are interested in where this music goes from here I highly recommend Nick Lotay’s, excellent posts on the history of Mavuthela at Matsuli and here at Electric Jive.

One final note about the last track here by Ellison Themba’s, African Swingsters. This track features Muvuthela’s Marks Mankwane on guitar backed by the Magkona Tsohle Band and while it is an instrumental, you almost keep expecting Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde to start groaning.

(flatinternational / Electric Jive, FXEJ 6)

1) ALBERT RALULIMIEaster Monday Taps Taps - 1962
(Jill Desmond, TJ Quality, TJ 657, matrix 12469)

2) ALBERT RALULIMIGood Friday Kwela - 1962
(Jill Desmond, TJ Quality, TJ 657, matrix 12468)

3) DAVID THEKWANE AND CO.1962 Shalashala – 1962
(Thekwane, Envee, NV 3324, matrix 11997)

4) DAVID THEKWANE AND CO.String Bass Taps– 1962
(Thekwane, Envee, NV 3324, matrix 11995)

5) ELITE SWINGSTERSJika Jika Twist - c1962
(G. Ntutu, Drum, DR 125, B62D 0337)

6) ELITE SWINGSTERSMabelebele - c1962
(Jordan Bangazi, Drum, DR 125, B62D 0338)

(Reggie Msomi, Gallo USA, USA 246, ABC 23916)

(Reggie Msomi, Gallo USA, USA 246, ABC 23915)

9) ALEXANDER ALL STARSIsikebe Siwile – 1964
(Shadrack Piliso, Motella, MO 8, ABC 30047)

10) ALEXANDER ALL STARS Umkhovu – 1964
(Shadrack Piliso, Motella, MO 8, ABC 30048)

11) BOPS MAGIC CIRCLE BANDLehlabile Ska – 1964
(Rupert Bopape, Motella, MO 14, ABC 30060)

12) BOPS MAGIC CIRCLE BANDOn the Beat – 1964
(Rupert Bopape, Motella, MO 14, ABC 30059)

13) ALBERT RALULIMIMonkey Jive – 1965
(Ralulimi, Top Beat, RCA 365, RQBB 3962)

14) ALBERT RALULIMIMr. Rocktion’s Best – 1965
(Ralulimi, Top Beat, RCA 365, RQBB 3963)

15) ALEXANDRA ALL STAR BANDInkomo Emnyama – 1965
(Shadrack Piliso, Motella, MO 47, ABC 30308)

16) ALEXANDRA ALL STAR BANDMakomkom No. 3 – 1965
(Shadrack Piliso, Motella, MO 47, ABC 30309)

(Mashiyane, New Sound, GB 3617, ABC 30355)

(Mashiyane, New Sound, GB 3617, ABC 30354)

19) SDV SWING BANDTaxi Jive 700 - 1967
(Strike Vilakazi, Tempo, KT 015, matrix 16148)

20) SDV SWING BANDTaxi Jive 6 No. 2 - 1967
(Strike Vilakazi, Tempo, KT 015, matrix 16147)

21) AFRICAN SWINGSTERSIndhumbula - 1967
(Ellison Temba, Gumba Gumba, MGG 512, ABC 30751)

22) AFRICAN SWINGSTERSSimanjemanje No. 2 - 1967
(Ellison Temba, Gumba Gumba, MGG 512, ABC 30752)


  1. Talk about knockout punches Siemon, not one, not two but three! Not sure I'll recover until after the holiday period....

  2. I'm having a hard time accepting that I'm worthy of such riches. (I'm working on it, though.) To amass the bounty on display in these offerings would have been a marvel to accomplish 45 years ago. To be hand-delivered this historic material easy as 1-2-3 is almost incomprehensible. We are so insanely lucky. Thank you Siemon and thank you ElectricJive.

  3. Thank you again, Siemon, and in advance for Volume 3. These are REFERENCE posts, great resources for anyone interested in this music. Perhaps your wonderful text and graphics could be included as a PDF with the dl? Just an idea. . .

  4. Wonderful stuff, Siemon. Your hard work is very much appreciated. And your sharing of Volume 3 leads in very nicely to next week's Christmas posting... ;)

  5. Thank you and Merry Christmas, your musical compilations are a great gift!

  6. Hi, thanks for a wonderful post. (Checked it out quite late, as you can see.) Curious about track no 7 – the only non-instrumental track. Label claims "Black Cat" is instrumental. But who's in fact singing there?

  7. Hi FrederikO - thanks again for dropping by - I think Nick and Siemon might be better qualified to say who the female vocal singers are that are accompanying Reggie Msomi and His Hollywood Jazz band on the version of Black Cat you are referring to. (I could only guess) You will have noticed I am sure that the version I posted last night is indeed slower, and is instrumental. Best wishes - Chris

  8. Thanks Fredrik for the kind words and Chris for commenting! I suspect Nick might be best qualified to answer the vocalist question on "Black Cat".

  9. Nick weighed in with these notes on "Black Cat":

    "It sounds like there are three vocalists but the only singer I can hear clearly is Thoko Mdlalose. Not sure who the other two are, but if the song is indeed from 1963, it could be any of the following: Sarah Mabokela, Doris Molifi, Pinkie Mseleku, Mary Rabotapi, etc. When Rupert Bopape came along in 1964, he started recording Mavuthela vocal jives with these ladies who were already contracted to Gallo. These ones were actually the first to record under the Mahotella Queens name but Bopape brought new girls in to replace them all pretty soon."

    Thanks Nick for these details!

  10. The links don't seem to be working - would you please re-upload these compilations?

  11. I'm looking for dates for all the Township Jazz series - Jazz Dazzlers, ND Hotshots, Orlando Seven & Havana Swingsters in particular all difficult to track down. Internet no help - but this site is clearly compiled by musical archivists who know what they're dealing with ! Any clues ? All three of the downloads are no longer available by the way. (I'm doing an unofficial PhD in South African music by the way) Thanks for the posts - real gold here.


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