Thursday, 31 May 2012

Love for Free: Hidden South African jazz archive revealed

Chris Schilder aka Ebrahim Kalil Shihab at the Zambezi Restaurant,
Hanover Street, District Six, 1965. Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
The recorded store of South Africa’s jazz heritage just got a little bit bigger than anybody realised. If you could ask just about any jazz musician who played in Cape Town during the mid 1960s, all would remember Ian Bruce Huntley with an affectionate smile. Ian was this lovable ‘jazz fanatic’ who would be on stage setting up recording microphones from his Tandberg 6 reel-to-reel recorder at many of the live jazz gigs that were played between 1964 and 1966 and then again from 1968 to 1972. Now and then he would also be taking pictures with his Leica M3.

Ian Bruce Huntley in 1967
After more than forty-five years of privately preserving these reel-to-reel recordings, Ian has just concluded a non-profit “public good” agreement that, amongst other things, gives Electric Jive exclusive permission to archive and share this wealth of historically important and amazing music. A new adventure is in the planning stages, and there are some wonderful surprises ahead. I am starting to seek out and have discussions with some good and helpful people, to plot a path which results in a companion book of photos, articles and a full discography of the history that is stored on those reel-to-reel tapes.
Today’s posting serves to announce a jazz musical heritage and excitement which we shall be unpacking on Electric Jive once a month for many months to come. In the medium-term, I am hoping to set up a searchable sub-page archive on Electric Jive to give expression to the agreement whose purpose is “to honour the musicians and their music, to promote the recognition that they are due, and to stimulate wider public interest in and appreciation of this heritage. We do not seek profit or commercial gain in making these recordings available.”

My recent spare time has been focussed on organising and digitising and backing up recordings very few people knew existed. Acutely aware of my own deficits in jazz and musical knowledge I am just excited to keep learning further, and to be able to start sharing this important heritage more widely.

The mid 1960s was an important period of transition, and in many respects Ian’s recordings mirror how the Cape Town jazz scene absorbed, processed and re-packaged that context. While much of the rest of Africa was euphorically bathing in the inception of decolonization, the iron grip of apartheid was really beginning to take hold in South Africa. Globally, the Cold War began to make pawns of countries.
Tete Mbambisa and Psych Big T Ntsele
Pic by Ian Bruce Huntley
In the United States jazz musicians of the African diaspora celebrated Africa’s newly found freedoms, but most walked a careful line on the side of the American Empire’s project of global democratization. A whole new era of musical dialogue between Africa and America was begun.
While many Africans were charting new paths and identities, there was a diverse group of Cape Town-based South African jazz musicians improvising in finding their own meaning and inspiration, listening intently to the likes of Coltrane, Davis, Monk, Mingus, Blakey and a host of other bop musicians.

Robin D.G. Kelley sums the period up well in his recent book: “Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times” -: “African musicians did not exist to bring something ancient to African American modernism; rather, they were both creating modern music, drawing on the entire diaspora as well as the world, to do so. Indeed, perhaps with the growth of trans-Atlantic collaborations and dissemination of culture, we can no longer speak so confidently about jazz as an American art form, or render African Jazz musicians outside the pale of the music’s history. And we certainly need to go beyond listening to non-American artists for ways they incorporate “their culture” into jazz – whether we’re talking about South African or Israeli jazz musicians. Jazz reveals that, even in the search for tradition, its chains do not always bind us, and the most powerful map of the New World is in the imagination.

While he is not a musician, Ian Bruce Huntley has made a significant and until now, unrecognised contribution in recording and preserving an extremely valuable, important and invigorating legacy. Despite attentions of South Africa’s State security apparatus, it was still possible in the mid 60s for racially mixed bands to perform at select public places such as the Zambezi Restaurant in Hanover Street, District Six, The Ambassador’s Jazz Club In Woodstock, The Vortex in Upper Long Street, The Art Centre, Kings Hotel and the Grand Prix Restaurant in Sea Point, The Room At The Top. All of these venues hosted an ebb and flow of South African jazz musicians – those that stayed and those that left the country and returned occasionally.
Ian’s recordings were always made with the permission and blessing of the musicians concerned. Often, after gigs, he would head back with band members to his flat in Main Road, Mowbray, and play it all back to them, way into the early hours. Ian’s Xhosa friends gave him the name “Ka-Nini”(Gwanini?), literally meaning ‘of the night’ – or, someone who comes alive at night.

Friends saying goodbye to Ian who had to leave Cape Town in February 1967: Left to Right - top: Harold Schlensog; Peter Buchanan; Paddy Ewer; Margaret Schlensog; Selwyn Lissack; Ian Huntley; Willie Nete; Themba Matola; Martin Ngijima (with pipe); Front: left to right: Roger Khoza; Howard Sassman; Chris Schilder; Winston Mankunku Ngozi.
In 1967 Ian was suddenly transferred out of Cape Town via somewhat mysterious instructions sent to the government map-making office where he worked. At around the same time he was also evicted from his flat because he was allowing black friends to sleep over there. Ian has many stories to tell, and I look forward to sharing some of these, and his recordings and photos, on this blog.
For today’s post I have selected an introductory sample of single tracks from some of the tapes I have digitised so far. In addition to making many of his own recordings, Ian also collected an impressive legacy of local and international jazz recordings. Some of the recordings are of excellent quality and leave me in wonder of how this amateur enthusiast with minimal equipment in the 1960s was able to achieve this. Some of the tapes have not lasted as well, while the levels in others are not ideal. Once you start listening, I am sure you will agree that the minor blemishes pale into insignificance.

Kippie Moeketsi, Victor Ntoni and Dani Ndlovu - Langa Community Centre 1971
Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
I have to start with a ten-minute Kippie Moeketsi rendition of Body and Soul that just blows me away. Back in Cape Town in 1971, Ian was persuaded by friends to part with fifty rands to pay for an airticket to get Kippie Moeketsi to come down from Johannesburg and play a gig. When Ian and the band picked Kippie up at the airport in his Renault 4L, Kippie had arrived without an instrument. Ian persuaded his friends Lawrence and Sherlaine Koonen at The Record Centre to give him a loan, and bought Kippie a brand new Selmer Mark 6 alto saxophone. This concert involved Kippie Moeketsi and  Danyi Ndlovu on saxophones, a really top-of-his-game Victor Ntoni on bass and Nelson Magwaza on drums.
Body and Soul: Mediafire here Rapidshare here
Two more recordings at the Art Centre during 1966, not long before Winston Mankunku Ngozi was to catapault to national fame as 1967 Jazzman of the year for his Yakhal’ Nkomo.

First up Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi (tenor saxophone), Chris Schilder (piano), Phil Schilder (bass), Monty Weber (drums) – Love for Sale. Mediafire here Rapidshare here

Next is a striking recording of a Coltrane composition, “Ole” made at The Art Centre on 20th August 1966: Morris Goldberg (alto saxophone); Winston Ngozi (tenor saxophone); Chris Schilder (piano); Midge Pike (bass); Philly Schilder (bass); Selwyn Lissack (drums). At nearly 18 minutes long, your patience through the gathering free introduction will be rewarded.
"Ole" - Mediafire here Rapidshare here
Ronnie Beer and Tete Mbambisa
Pic: Ian Bruce Huntley
Going back further in time at The Room At The Top in 1964 we uncover a whole lot of gems, including an 18-minute rendition of “Arabia” featuring Dennis Mpale (trumpet);  Dudu Pukwana (Alto sax);  Ronnie Beer (tenor sax); Tete Mbambisa (piano); Martin Ngijima (bass); Max Dayimani (drums).
Arabia: Mediafire here Rapidshare here

Martin Ngijima. Pic by Ian Bruce Huntley
 The final track I share with you today is of Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes playing Mingus’ Boogie Stop Shuffle at Wits University on 22nd March 1963. The recording was made by Professor John Blacking. Ian just happened to transcribe this rarity onto reel-to-reel. The band: Chris McGregor (Piano); Elijah Nkwanyana - trumpet (and also a little baritone sax); Dudu Pukwana – (alto saxophone); Martin Ngijima (bass); we are not certain of the drummer, but believe it to be Early Mabuza. The tape of the full concert will become available in due course.

Boogie Stop Shuffle: Mediafire here Rapidshare here

I look forward to sharing more with you next month. Cheers!

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

thank you! beautiful pictures and wonderful music. thank you for this important work. waiting for the next post
Bra Robs

Owen said...

This is an astonishing announcement! Such wonderful news. I can hardly wait for these archives to roll out. Two questions - Have the artists or their estates been contacted about this archive? Are any of the recordings planned for commercial release? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow. WOW! Thank you a million times! This is fantastic music, and it's miraculous to have new documentation of these genius players. Salud! MB

Anonymous said...

And of course a million thanks to Ian, as well as congratulations to EJ for being the best forum for this material - all your efforts are greatly appreciated. -MB

Chris Albertyn said...

Thanks for the encouraging comments, I will pass them onto Ian (who does not own a computer or even a mobile phone). @Owen - good questions. To be clear first: these are not bootleg tapes. The full archives will be made available to music schools and research institutions. There is no intent to commercially exploit these recordings. The 'copyright' still resides with Ian. We believe the "permissions" that Ian received when making these recordings enable him to share them with other interested parties, as in electric jive. At the time of recording there was no talk of future commercial possibility. Also, if those with the experience do the sums .. you will soon realise that the costs and risks of going a commercial route could well outweigh any potential income ... and also possibly land up with really important recordings that are never released and never heard of again. Of the living musicians we have managed to contact so far, the response has been really positive.

Owen said...

Thanks Chris. Sorry if I came across as anti, that certainly wasn't my intention. i was actually asking because I would LOVE for these things to get professional remastering, cleanup and release via authentic channels. I think it would be fantastic to have CDs of this stuff to sit on my shelves, with liner notes and photos. I love the "physical object" that comes with owning CDs/LPs etc just as much as the music. I'm certainly not opposed to what you do here! You do a marvellous job, in fact. Keep it up! Cheers!

Chris Albertyn said...

No anti vibes felt Owen - you raise important questions around power, ownership and money. As for cherishing a physical artefact, I and many others share this emotional/spiritual need. As for re-mastering, I would be interested to explore how much better one or two of the tapes could be made to sound - but to be sure, there were limits placed due to the circumstances and equipment available in the mid 60s. Cheers

jazzuk said...

Big thanks here to all concerned! I'm particularly interested in anything Pukwana...so thanks for the tasters. Sounds great!

Evan Milton said...

Thank you to Ian and (again) to Chris for this marvelous archival material. Highlight of the month (if not the year) music-wise so far.

Sean said...

Finally back in NYC I can download this. Gold. Looking forward to the next installment.

alan cameron said...

this is hip, thanks!

Chris Albertyn said...

Thanks Alan - fantastic to know that these sounds are reaching current South African jazz musos.

Peter said...

crazy stuff. Thanks a million!

The Cake said...

i am a descendant of this music, I appreciate your work in the digitization, some of the artists that play here are still alive and living in abject poverty without recognition, Big T Ntsele, a father and a friend recently passed away after paving a way, we just honored him in partnership with Rhodes University Music School, in a project called Generations of Jazz, can the author send me an email and maybe I can supply more content and expand on this project to the benefit of my Heritage and the artists that made it so. Lindikaya - Johannesburg, South Africa. lindikaya@gmail.com