|Chris Schilder aka Ebrahim Kalil Shihab at the Zambezi Restaurant, |
Hanover Street, District Six, 1965. Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
|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
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.
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.
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.
|Ronnie Beer and Tete Mbambisa|
Pic: Ian Bruce Huntley
|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.
I look forward to sharing more with you next month. Cheers!