The black South African music scene of the 1960s and ‘70s was dominated by a unique electric jive sound that was later christened mbaqanga. For almost its entire near-twenty year rule over the country, mbaqanga’s most distinctive feature was the all-female close harmony sound, sometimes augmented by the booming bass vocals of a gruff male singer. The girl group of South Africa was partly modelled on the girl group of the USA. The smooth arrangements of The Andrews Sisters, the tight harmonies of The Shirelles and the sex appeal of The Supremes – combined with a modern African twist – helped to create such memorable groups such as the Dark City Sisters, the Mahotella Queens, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, and countless others that still sit fondly in the memories and minds of many today, young and old. Today, Electric Jive presents another special mix of tunes: Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups – Vol. 2.
In our first installment, we elaborated extensively on the histories of these wonderful groups, so we shall not repeat ourselves. Vol. 2 contains recordings from the artists mentioned above (and many more), released between 1962 and 1981. This mix is bookended by the ladies who started it all – the Dark City Sisters, with two wonderful ballads from 1968 and 1962 (the latter recorded under one of their other pseudonyms, the Killingstone Stars) sandwiching this mbaqanga feast. The Sisters also bring us a tune from 1981, by which time they had conformed to the mbaqanga sound of that particular era – but the golden voices of Joyce Mogatusi, Doris Ntuli and Grace Moeketsi still shine through wonderfully.
The ones who took the torch from the Sisters and kept it burning brightly throughout mbaqanga’s heyday, the Mahotella Queens, are represented generously here with several classic numbers, all of them sublime – and three of them recorded using their other pseudonyms: Soweto Stars, Izintombi Zomqashiyo and Dima Sisters, spotlighting the voices of various members including Olive Masinga, Hilda Tloubatla, Ethel Mngomezulu and Thoko Mdlalose. The Mahlathini Girls are here as well with two numbers fronted by male singer Joe Mdluli (something of an irony considering the group’s name…), as are Mahlathini’s wonderful backing group The Queens (led by Mildred Mangxola), with a small selection of enjoyable tunes. Irene Mawela, that saccharine-voiced sweetheart of the 1970s, features in our mix with something of a diversion: her voice may well be the only female presence in the line-up The Zebras, but it is a wonderful number well worthy of inclusion, and in any case, Mawela herself was a massive contributor to the ‘70s girl group. She also appears on two classic 1973 recordings made with the Mgababa Queens, contained in this mix and categorised “Soul Vocal Jazz” on the original label.
So… let’s hear it for the girls. More biographical information on these (and associated) artists can be found elsewhere on Electric Jive… but feel free to post any thoughts or queries in the comments section. All that remains to be said is... enjoy! YEBO!!
Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 2
1. ONTSEKISANG – DARK CITY SISTERS (1968)
2. OH! BABA OMKHULU – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1972)
3. NKHONO OAKA – THE ZEBRAS (1976)
4. NGIZOKWENZANI MAHLALELA – SOWETO STARS (1968)
5. SIDL’ IMALI ZETHU – MGABABA QUEENS (1973)
6. IZINDABA ZABANTU – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1973)
7. UMFOKANKOSI – MAHLATHINI AND THE QUEENS (1976)
8. UTHULI LWEZICHWE – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1977)
9. HHEM, HHEM, HHEM – MTHUNZINI GIRLS (1971)
10. KEBA BONE – THE QUEENS (1977)
11. MAJAZANA – MTHUNZINI GIRLS (1972)
12. MAMA ZALA – MAHLATHINI GIRLS (1975)
13. KUDALA BEKUSHO – THE QUEENS (1977)
14. AKULALWA ESOWETO – MGABABA QUEENS (1973)
15. SUZIE UYANGIPHOXA – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1979)
16. LERATO LARONA – DARK CITY SISTERS (1981)
17. TSHEPO – S’MORDEN GIRLS (1980)
18. UMZIMBA OKHALIMALI – THE QUEENS (1977)
19. LAKHALA IQHUDE – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1972)
20. WAKHALA UMNTWANA – MAHLATHINI GIRLS (1976)
21. THATHU KISI – DARK CITY SISTERS (1966)
22. BUYA BUYA – SOWETO STARS (1966)
23. USIKHESHE KHESHE – IZINTOMBI ZOMQASHIYO (1968)
24. THEMBELENKOSINI – DIMA SISTERS (1964)
25. EMANXIWENI – KILLINGSTONE STARS (1962)
RS / MF