Tuesday, 3 January 2012
Dorothy Masuka - Ingalo (c1981)
Welcome back to Electric Jive!
Today we open 2012 with quite an uncommon offering — the very first LP by South African legend Dorothy Masuka.
Although recording many hits on 78 rpm for the South African Troubadour label in the 1950s, Ingalo was Masuka's first full-length album. Backed by Lovemore Majaivana and Job’s Combination, this Zimbabwe-only pressing was recorded and issued around 1981 on the Starplate label.
According to Rob Allingham, Masuka was born to parents of Lozi and Zulu origin in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1935. When she was twelve, for reasons of health, she was transferred to St. Thomas Covent, a Catholic boarding school in Johannesburg. It is here, through a connection of one of her teachers, that Troubadour talent scouts Ben Ledwaba and Cuthbert Matumba heard her performing in a school concert. By sixteen, Troubadour had arranged a contract with Masuka’s mother that gave the company a form of legal guardianship over her and, as they say… the rest is history!
Masuka’s first big hit with Troubadour was Hamba Notsokolo (Troubadour, AFC 170) recorded when she was just eighteen in 1953. This tune, a South African classic, was revisited by her at least three times during her broad career and a less well-known version is featured here as Notsokolo on the Ingalo LP.
According to Z.B. Molefe, in the book A Common Hunger To Sing, one of Masuka’s first recordings (if not the first) was Into Yam also made in 1953. This song was most famously covered by Miriam Makeba in Lionel Rogosin’s clandestine, 1959 film Come Back Africa. This is also the same tune that introduced Makeba to the United States in her first television performance on the Steve Allen show in November 1959.
Indeed some of Makeba’s biggest hits were originally Masuka compositions, most notably Phata Phata, Ha Po Zamani, Khawuleza, Kulala, Khanyange and Teya Teya to name but a few. Some of these tracks can be viewed on the post Makeba — Track Less Travelled here at Electric Jive. Masuka’s 1980s version of Teya Teya is also featured on Ingalo as Teyateya.
Troubadour at times controlled nearly 75% of the African market and Masuka was their first and biggest star — making her one of the leading South African recording artist of the 1950s. As producer for Troubadour, Cuthbert Matumba was open to recording songs that sometimes contained critical commentary, and the company occasionally drew visits from the Special Branch of the police, who often confiscated masters and copies of records. In 1961, Masuka wrote and recorded the song Lumumba, in response to the outrage over the execution of the newly elected Congolese leader. The South African Special Branch took note and confiscated the master and began searching for Masuka. In the meantime, she returned to Bulawayo and remained there on the advice of Troubadour. After the incident, Masuka was declared persona non grata by the South African authorities and was forbidden from re-entering the country. She remained in exile from South Africa for the next 31 years.
Masuka would spend the following years travelling and performing in Africa and Europe. In 1965 she returned to Rhodesia for a performance. After hearing that the Ian Smith Government was planning to arrest her, she moved to Zambia where she remained in exile for the next sixteen years as a flight attendant for Zambian airways. After Zimbabwe independence in 1981 she returned to the country and resumed her recording career with the album featured here, Ingalo.
According to the liner notes, Ingalo was Masuka’s first full-length album. (View the liner notes at flatinternational). The recording was made and produced in Zimbabwe by Crispin Matema sometime in the early 1980s. Lobegula Nkosi, a contributor to inkundla.net (#385), reveals that Jobs' Combination, was a short-lived band formed by Lovemore Majaivana and Fanyana Dube, and recorded with Masuka after their first album Istimela was released in 1980. According to Nkosi, the group soon split-up. The post also discusses Majaivana’s subsequent abandonment of his music career. View more information on Lovemore Majaivana here at Nehanda Radio.
An excellent compilation of Masuka’s early work on 78 rpm from her Troubadour period can be found on the CD reissue Hamba Notsokolo (Gallo, CDZAC60) featuring detailed notes by Rob Allingham (and from which much of the above information is drawn).
Finally, the title track of the LP, Ingalo, is one of my favorites and was also featured on one of my early all-South African mixes posted at Matsuli in December, 2008. For this occasion I have re-posted those two mixes — volume 1 and 2 — here at the flatint blog.
Dorothy Masuka and Job’s Combination
(Starplate 001, c1981)
02) Sala Ulandela
04) Uyo Ndiani
08) Gona Ramachingura