Monday, 29 October 2012

Mpharanyana and the Cannibals (1978)



Today we feature possibly one of the last albums that legendary soul singer, Jacob "Mpharanyana" Radebe recorded with the Cannibals before his untimely death in 1979. He would put out at least one more album with the Peddlers in 1979 (also on Gallo's Soul Jazz Pop label) which can be viewed here at Electric Jive.

The line up for the Cannibals on this LP includes Radebe on lead vocals, Sandra Senne, Johanna Tango and Catherine on backing vocals, Ray Phiri on lead guitar, Richard Shongwe on electric piano, Ephraim Hlophe on bass and Isaac Mtshali on drums. (Allingham)

After Radebe's death in 1979, the Cannibals continued to record and their album Get Funky can be viewed here at Electric Jive. Of course the Cannibals would soon dissolve and Phiri and Mtshali would go on to form another hugely successful group—Stimela—in 1982.

Produced by West Nkosi, the album opens with the title track, Nka Nako Ho Motseba, a Sesotho cover version of Percy Sledge's Take Time to know her; and also features some great soul-disco, including the hits Hlotse and Dihwapa as well as my favorite, Rosie.

Many of the songs also include Radebe's signature coughing. Initially an unintentional problem, as Max Mojapelo reveals in his book Beyond Memory, that caused taping to be stopped frequently during recording sessions, but one that evolved into a stylistic characterisitc after producer Nkosi decided to leave the tapes running.

The track Thakane was later included on Rob Allingham's seminal compilation—The History of Township Music—and in the liner notes to that disc Allingham maintains that Radebe "was arguably the greatest vocalist of the entire local soul-disco era and his impassioned style is wonderfully showcased by West Nkosi's sharp production techniques on 'Thakane'. The American-style harmonies of the female backing chorus, the walking bass lines and Ray Phiri's blazing, blues-inflected guitar licks all combine to produce an atmosphere entirely reminiscent of the landmark Stax label material of US soul legend Otis Redding. A year after this recording was made and at the height of his reknown, Mpharanyana fell ill and suddenly died. A few years later, a television dramatisation based on his life rekindled the public's interest and today Mpharanyana's story constitutes South Africa's most popular legend of musical talent and early demise." (Allingham)

MPHARANYANA AND THE CANNIBALS
Nka Nako Ho Motseba
Soul Jazz Pop
BL 142
1978

RS

Monday, 22 October 2012

Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 3

ABOVE - THE MAHOTELLA QUEENS IN 1980.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: CAROLINE KAPENTAR, THANDI NKOSI, EMILY ZWANE AND SHEBA MALGAS

There comes a time when a particular song becomes ingrained in your mind. Every tune in this mix has been, at one time or another, one of those songs for me. Electric Jive is proud to present another installment of Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups, our ode to the black South African songbirds of the 1960s and the 1970s. In this, the third volume, more rare gems from the archives are presented for you to enjoy – but I have decided to dispense with the usual format of a long mix in a single MP3 and instead provide you all with a compilation of individual tracks. The first two mixes in this series combined have been downloaded 1809 times (as of 22/10/12), which shows how well liked this particular form of female harmony sound is among the EJ followers – but I have taken into consideration the lack of flexibility of the single MP3. Many of you will have your own particular favourites to listen to, so I hope the new method of sharing the tracks individually is more helpful!

Without further ado, let us now shine some light on the people responsible for such beautiful music.

“Silihambile Ilizwe” features the 1972 incarnation of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, here fronted by resident groaner Mthunzi Malinga. The resonating guitar and soft vocals of the girls endeared me to this song almost as soon as I first heard it. Mthunzi weaves in and out of the girls’ harmonies with guttural moans, while Nobesuthu Shawe solos in the number with expressive beauty. The song refers to the amazement and excitement of travelling across the country to perform for appreciative audiences who clap their hands vigorously. It is a true gem of a song, and one that I am glad to share with you. One of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje’s early recordings, “Shela Wethu”, features some lovely vocal work in combination with the classic elasticated mbaqanga rhythm section.

“Ngibuzindlela” is perhaps the best example of the female vocal mbaqanga that sold very highly during the 1960s, should one ever need to select one single track to represent the genre during that era. The track has all the key elements, from the bouncy electric rhythm and bass to the watery lead guitar, the smashing brushed snare, and – of course – the close harmony of the Soweto Stars, the group merely being another name used by the Mahotella Queens. The five ladies on this song were the most famous and well known of all the Queens line-ups. Hilda Tloubatla fulfills the role of the strong-voiced woman lead singer here (belting out the vocals with utter proficiency has perhaps become one of Hilda’s most familiar trademarks in all her 50 years of recording!), answered by the rest of her team with a superb response. “Uhlathana” is another classic hit from the Mahotella Queens repertoire, recorded in 1970. A different grouping of the same pool of ladies sing in a rough-and-ready manner, raw mgqashiyo singing at its best, while the Makgona Tsohle Band provide some of the best instrumental accompaniment I have ever listened to. A great number not to be missed!

Another popular group back in the day was the Mthunzini Girls. Originally, the name was just yet another cover for the pseudonymous work of the Mavuthela girl group team, but by 1966, had evolved into a separate unit led by Julia Yende. This group, also featuring Virginia Teffo, Teddy Nkutha and Windy Sibeko, recorded some of the Girls’ best-selling material, often fronted by the regular Mahotella Queens groaner, Mahlathini – but the singers eventually dispersed. By 1972 it had settled down into a more stable unit. John Moriri was now the male lead of the group for the last four or so years (but he was eventually to depart, being replaced the year after by Robert ‘Umfana Wembazo’ Mkhize), with the Girls comprising Beatrice Ngcobo, Phyllis Zwane, Thandi Nkosi, Maseri Nombembe, Beauty Radebe, Barbara Shabalala, and others. One of the latter-day Mthunzini Girls hits was “Uyadelela”, a lovely song with the vocal and guitar patterns evocative of traditional Zulu music. Also included here is a 1968 song called “Umnumzane”, which although released with the Mthunzini name, is actually a Mahotella Queens song – unusually late in the decade for that practice to still be in use. It is, nonetheless, a nice tune!

You will find that many of the tracks in this mix benefit from exquisitely beautiful guitar work. The Satbel black music team of the 1970s featured a talented collection of lead guitarists such as Raphael Ngcamphalala, George Mangxola, Michael Nyembe whose distinctive handiwork helped to create an airy, atmospheric sound to the recordings of the Mellotone Sisters, Indoda Mahlathini and The Queens, Victor ‘Mahlabathini’ Zulu, and many others. The two numbers contained here by The Queens (the girl group that backed Mahlathini whenever he was away from Gallo–Mavuthela’s Mahotella Queens) are gems in their own right. Koekie Makhanya, Mildred Mangxola, Isabel Maseko, Agnes Mhlauli, Thoko Nontsontwa, Joyce Twala and Paulinah Zulu provide richly sumptuous vocals and march through the tunes in stunning synchronization, backed by Ndlondlo Bashise (who were also credited in equal measure as The Mahlathini Guitar Band).

“Siyobona umdlalo omusha – iDisco! iDisco! iDisco!” sing the Mthembu Queens. The new late 1970s music craze ebbed away at mbaqanga’s longstanding popularity in the townships, but that’s no problem for these ladies. They’re going to Soweto to see this new disco music in action! We’re doing the disco dance! The song in question, “Asambeni”, is completely un-disco to the point of confusion. This is a female mbaqanga classic, it could not be further from disco music, with guitars scratching all over the melody alongside some wonderful vocal talent. The Mthembu Queens, one of the few successful new girl groups of the 1970s, also give us the sweet serenade “Julieta”, the message of a man’s love for a woman who doesn’t appreciate him in the same way. No more remains to be said – just listen to their passionate and mesmerising voices.

That new disco music did indeed eventually force mbaqanga producers to alter the familiar sound somewhat. A heavier drum mix combined with the 1970s soul organ entered the studio, and the trademark bouncy rhythm guitar was retired, to be replaced by either a second lead guitar – or, in many studios, nothing at all. The lead guitar and bass remained the key elements of mbaqanga even into the 1980s. But while the Soul Brothers were leading the way with their popular mbaqanga-soul fusion, the Mahotella Queens were still quietly and confidently going about their business – bizarrely, to some degree of success. Alto vocalist Beatrice Ngcobo leads the ladies in fine voice in the 1982 song “Malume”, a young woman’s wish for her uncle to forgive her for all the unforgiveable things she did as a youngster. I’m so sorry my uncle, sings Beatrice. I’m so sorry… I’d like to return home to my family, continue the Queens. The ladies managed to hang onto some of their popularity well into the 1980s, and producer Marks Mankwane even saw fit to reunite five of the original Queens together with Mahlathini under a brand new grouping entitled Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo (or “MNZ”). The MNZ group and the Mahotella Queens, rather oddly enough, existed alongside each other and remained two separate units. One of the MNZ songs recorded without Mahlathini, “Ha Ke Tsebe” from 1984, has been included in this compilation. It is a typical love song with nice and relaxed singing.

I am indebted to Laurent Dalmasso for contributing three wonderful tracks from the early years of mbaqanga, taken from 78 rpms – “Andikathale” by the Joy Sisters, “Lamalobalemabane” by the Soweto Stars and “Moratuoa” by the Slick Sisters. Another thanks to our own Chris Albertyn for contributing two fantastic numbers – “Lepae Laka” by The Queens and “Jabulani Balaleli” by Amaqawe Omculo.

I hope you’ll enjoy Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups – Vol. 3. Download the music, take in the sublime melodies, and do help us to spread the fact - the fact that old school South African female harmony was just as kickass as anything these hip-hop youngsters throw at us today.

Give it up one more time for the girls! YEBO!

CLASSIC MBAQANGA GIRL GROUPS – VOL. 3
1. SILIHAMBILE ILIZWE – UMTHUNZI NEZINTOMBI ZESIMANJEMANJE (1972)
2. AMAZING GRACE (SIMAKADE) – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1972)
3. WE BABA ZALA – MAHLOKOHLOKO STARS (1966)
4. ANDIKATHALE – JOY SISTERS (1962)
5. NGIBUZINDLELA – SOWETO STARS (1968)
6. MALOME OREKILE SEPANE – S’MODERN GIRLS (1971)
7. UHLATHANA – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1970)
8. SHELA WETHU – IZINTOMBI ZESI MANJE MANJE (1967)
9. UMNUMZANE – MTHUNZINI GIRLS (1968)
10. LAMALOBALEMABANE – SOWETO STARS (1965)
11. BEKEZELA – MELLOTONE SISTERS (1976)
12. ASAMBENI – MTHEMBU QUEENS (1977)
13. HA KE TSEBE – IZINTOMBI ZOMGQASHIYO (1984)
14. DITABA TSA HAO – THE MATTERS (1980)
15. MALUME – MAHOTELLA QUEENS (1982)
16. MENATE YA LEFATSHE – THE MATTERS (1980)
17. JULIETA – MTHEMBU QUEENS (1977)
18. IQHUDE – DYNAMIC SISTERS (1966)
19. SEKULU KHUNI – THE QUEENS (1976)
20. JABULANI BALALELI – AMAQAWE OMCULO (1972)
21. UYADELELA – MTHUNZINI GIRLS (1972)
22. MORATUOA – THE SLICK SISTERS (1962)
23. SEKUYASA – MAHLABATHINI (1975)
24. LEPAE LAKA – THE QUEENS (1975)
25. AMAZWE NGAMAZWE – MTHEMBU QUEENS (1977)
RS / MF

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Associated Sounds: Pt 2 – Sweet Congo Singles


Following all the positive feedback from last month’s Congo seventies ASL singles post (get that last post here), I just had to make some time to prepare another instalment. Sixteen more tracks comprising 78 minutes of sweet early Congolese sounds.
 
Please accept this unusually short posting – life sometimes gets in the way of music. The important part of digitising and uploading is done. I have not had chance to photograph the labels and upload these. But, I think it is better to share the music even if I am unable to give you more information.

For more on the ASL label, and all labels East African – do consult Tim Clifford’s growing ‘webpedia’ – Kentanzavinyl .
 
1.     Emmano & L'Orchestre Cobantou: Alphonsine - ASL 7-1934 / LO 155 A
2.     Noel & L'Orchestre Cobantou: Libala Ya Philo Na Gina - ASL 7-1934 / LO 155 B
3.     Vicky & L'Orchestre O.K. Jazz: Monoko Oyo Ezali Na Ngai - ASL 7-3090 / FOL 13150
4.     Vicky & L'Orchestre O.K. Jazz: Dodo Tuna Motema - ASL 7-3090 / FOL 13151
5.     Johnny Bokelo & L'Orchestre Conga De J. Bokelo: Nakopelisa Mwinda - ASL 7-3153 / FOL 14811
6.     Modero & L'Orchestre Conga De J. Bokelo: Ets Transpalia - ASL 7-3153 / LB 45B
7.     Lidjongo Danyla & L'Orchestre Veve: Clementine - ASL 7-3174 / FOL 15169
8.     Verckys & L'Orchestre Veve: Ah Ngai Matinda - ASL 7-3174 / FOL 15170
9.     Max-Sinatra & L'Orchestre Veve: Marcelo Tozongana - ASL 7-3179 / FOL 14337
10.  Matadi Mario & L'Orchestre Veve: Moise Ou Anne - ASL 7-3179 / FOL 15183
11.  Modjos & L'Orchestre Zembe-Zembe: Vero Elongi Ya Modjos - ASL 7-3192 / FOL 14407
12.  Modjos & L'Orchestre Zembe-Zembe: Pepe - ASL 7-3192 / FOL 14541
13.  Samy & L'Orchestre Carrousel: Naboyi Bla-Bla - ASL 7-3194 / FOL 14547
14.  Samy & L'Orchestre Carrousel: Bolingo Ekeki Mbongo - ASL 7-3194 / FOL 14551
15.  Samson Francky L'Orchestre Les Kinois: Ah Vonvon - ASL 7-3205 / FOL 16015
16.  Samson Francky L'Orchestre Les Kinois: Naboyi Bombanda Marie - ASL 7-3205 / FOL 16019
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Monday, 15 October 2012

Mankunku with Cups and Saucers Nkanuka at Ambassadors Jazz Club, Cape Town (1965)

Ephraim 'Cups and Saucers' Nkanuka - Pic: Ian Bruce Huntley
South Africa’s jazz history makes reference to pioneering tenor saxophonist Cups and Saucers Nkanuka as having had a pivotal influence on a generation of emerging South African jazz musicans in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Along with Martin Mgijima on bass (also in today's recording), these two stalwarts were already professionally active as members of  Chris McGregor's 'Cape Town Five' early in 1961.

Winston Mankunku Ngozi
Pic: Ian Bruce Huntley
Until Ian Bruce Huntley produced this reel-to-reel tape from the recesses of his seemingly bottomless cupboard I did not know there were actual recordings of Nkanuka playing with one of the greats he mentored, Winston Mankunku Ngozi. 

Today’s previously unreleased recording from the Huntley archive reveals an historical saxophone duo treat, supported by a top-class and tight band. Themba Matole (piano), Phakamile  Joya (drums), Martin Mgijima (bass), Winston Mankunku Ngozi (second sax), Robert Sithole (flute).

Both Martin Mgijima and Phakamile Joya had stints with early formations of the Blue Notes, the band playing at 'The Naaz' in Salt River for a fee of  five pounds a week.

Cups and Saucers Nkanuka and Temba Matole were members of the Jazz Ambassadors who competed in the 1962 Cold Castle National Jazz Festival. Mankunku Ngozi played in the Jazz Giants, along with Martin Mgijima (and Tete Mbambisa, Dudu Pukwana, Nik Moyake and Makaya Ntshoko).

In the late 1950s the Ambassadors School of Dancing in Woodstock (its original name) was home to a group of jazz musicians who regularly jammed there - including Chris McGregor, Cups and Saucers Nkanuka, Christopher Columbus Ngcukana, Dave Galloway, and Martin Mgijima. A year after the departure of the Blue Notes, the Ambassadors was still hosting amazing jam sessions with the remaining stalwarts.

Captured live by Ian in 1965 at The Ambassador’s Jazz Club, located on Main Road in Woodstock, Cape Town, this stimulating yet laid-back ninety-minute gem of a set features seven tracks – two of which we would love some help in identifying.

Ian Huntley with Willie Nete, Themba Matola (hat)
Martin Mgijima (pipe), Chris Schilder (seated left)
Winston Mankunku Ngozi (seated right)
Cups and Saucers leads with a languid and sensitive sax which could be the Coleman Hawkins to a 22-year-old Mankunku’s Coltrane influence. Themba Matola’s versatile and bluesy piano steps in regularly and leads from the front, for example on unidentified track three, and then taking ‘Milestones’ on some entertaining tangents. Robert Sithole’s haunting flute features on “Bag’s Groove” and “Whisper Not” – playing solo and in harmony with muted saxophones.

For me, the really stand-out track on an all-round outstanding set is the rendition of “Summertime” – I just can’t get enough of it. It really is something special.
 
Ian and all at Electric Jive are hoping that these posts stimulate further interest, research and writing on these musicians, their legacy and the recordings. We welcome your thoughts and reactions.
Robert Sithole: Pic  Ian Bruce Huntley
If you have not yet listened to the earlier postings from Ian’s archive, you can find them here:
 



Recorded live on stage with a Tandberg 6 reel-to-reel by Ian Bruce Huntley.

Nkanuka and Mankunku At the Ambassadors Jazz Club (1965)
1.     Why Don't I (Sonny Rollins) 14:35
2.     On Green Dolphin Street – 16:43
3.     Unidentified track – (suggestions please) 13:59
4.     Summertime – 12:10
5.     Whisper Not – 11:16
6.     Bag’s Groove – 10:55
7.     Milestones – 10:43

Cups and Saucers Nkanuka – Tenor Saxophone
Winston Mankunku Ngozi – Tenor Saxophone
Themba Matola – Piano
Martin Mgijima – Bass
Parks Joya – Drums
Robert Sithole - Flute

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Monday, 8 October 2012

Elite Swingsters - Watch Your Step (1980)



There is an abundance of information on the web to provide context for The Elite Swingsters - one of the foundation South African jazz bands that released their first LP back in 1958 (see flat international for details).  Steve Gordon's music.org.za has a full and detailed biography. The Watch Your Step album appeared in 1980 soon after which the band receded from public view until a turn of events in the late 1980s led to the recordings Woza (1990) and A Call for Peace (1993).    

The Elite Swingsters - Watch Your Step (1980, Sonor, SHZ786001)
1. Bread and Butter
2. Easy Does It
3. Watch Your Step
4. Blues for Buggs
5. Twelve Minute Jam
Producer: Paul Rametsi

And from the liner notes with a nod to the political pressure of the time: "There is no instrument to measure talent and potential. An artist can't be a prisoner of himself, nor of style, nor of reputation. He has to be free. Listen and see how free the Elite Swingsters are and how free they make you feel!"


ENJOY! MF / RS

Monday, 1 October 2012

UKZN Jazz Legacy Ensemble live @ VCU (2012)




Today we depart from our usual historical review and feature some recent South African music that was performed five days ago here in Richmond, Virgina, USA. The occasion marked the visit by the UKZN Jazz Legacy Ensemble, a group of six students with their director and professor, Neil Gonsalves, from the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa who are participating in an ongoing exchange with students in Jazz Studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts Department of Music.

Performing a repertoire of mostly South African jazz the event took place at The Camel club in Richmond on Monday, September 24th, 2012, and included a final jam with students and alumni from the VCU Jazz Studies program. I happened to be at the concert and captured some of the perfomance on my iPhone.

UKZN is a partner school with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond and the exchange was organized through a grant written by Professor Tony Garcia, director of Jazz Studies at VCU. Earlier this year six students from the VCU program went to South Africa and were hosted by UKZN — performing in Durban and traveling around KwaZulu Natal. View more about this trip here. The exchange will include a number of future trips and was funded by a generous grant from the International Partnerships Major Initiatives Award (IPMI) with matching grants from VCU School of the Arts. 

Richmond, Virginia is a place with a history that gives an exchange with South Africa a special significance. One of the centers of the global tobacco industry, Richmond was also the capital of the Confederate States during the American Civil War, a past memorialized in the famous avenue featuring monuments to Confederate military leaders. But the city is also home to artists such as Plunky Nkabinde aka James Branch of Oneness of Juju funk/jazz fame. Of course readers of Electric Jive will be familiar with one of his early spiritual jazz LPs, the very rare and much sought after Ndikho and the Natives, recorded with South African Ndikho Douglas Xaba in Oakland, CA in 1969. 

from L to R: Prof. Neil Gonsalves, Ildo Nandja, Linda Sikhakhane, Sakhile Simani,
Sebastian Golswain, Sphelelo Mazibuko and Lungelo Ngcobo

The UKZN Jazz Legacy Ensemble was formed specifically for this Richmond tour and rehearsed for two months prior to the visit. Performing two sets of largely South African jazz material, two tracks in particular stood out for me: Ezra Ngcukana’s Sobukwe and Abdullah Ibrahim’s classic Manenberg. The line-up on Sobukwe included Sakhile Simani on trumpet, Linda Sikhakhane on tenor sax, Sebastian Goldswain on guitar, Lungelo Ngcobo on piano, Ildo Nandja on bass, and Sphelelo Mazibuko on drums.



Back in South Africa, director Neil Gonsalves had given the ensemble the score to rehearse Ngcukana’s Sobukwe and they responded to it immediately. Gonsalves mentioned that he also wanted the group to hear the original LP recording before coming to the US, but that unfortunately the copy in the UKZN music library, the very one where he had heard the music, was there no more. The use of a score to access the music rather than a recording seemed to a have a particular poetic irony in light of the fact that Ngcukana himself could not read music.

Ngcukana speaks about this notion of ‘read’ music and ‘heard’ music in the collection of interviews Jazz People of Cape Town when he explains to Lars Rasmussen how “back in the day” he was invited to teach saxophone at the parent institution of UKZN, when it was then known as the University of Natal (UND):

Ezra Ngcukana by Lars Rasmussen
“Now, people ask me, Could you come and play this cocktail gig, I got to learn again something that I’ve never played before, so I have to put a score in front... I can't even read [music], for that matter, so I only insist people give me a programme, because of my limitations. And the joke, I can't read, eh? But Natal University, they needed a saxophone teacher and, because of the exchange rate with the Rand, they can't get overseas people. So they approached me to go and teach there, because I have two degrees, B.Sc. and B.Com., and I've worked for fifteen years at one company, so it qualifies me to teach at the university. To have the programme running, I was the only candidate available. I didn't apply for the job, they approached me. So I would teach students there, but I couldn't even read, so when they made mistakes, I told them, No, man, just repeat that bar [laughs]. Music is all about the ear anyway. That's what one of the first educationists in America would say, he said, 20 % of music is visual, 80 % is audial.”

In 1973, at eighteen, a very young Ngcukana, joined and toured with the Dashiki Poets raising funds for Steve Biko’s South African Student’s Organization (SASO) and of course he also recorded with Dick Khoza on his classic 1976 album Chapita (The Sun, GL 1873, reissued by Matsuli in 2010).

The son of jazz legend, Christopher Columbus Ngcukana (aka Mra), Ezra made very few recordings and according to the Rasmussen interview his first solo project was You Think You Know Me, (Jive, JAJ 003, 1989) which included the track Sobukwe. Of course the title track is a variation on Mongezi Feza’s beautiful tune You Ain’t Gonna Know Me Cause You Think You Know Me featured here at Electric Jive on our compilation of South African jazz In Exile. That version was from Louis Moholo’s 1978 album Spirits Rejoice and interestingly Ngcukana toured with Moholo’s group, Spirits Rejoice, when they came to South Africa (not to be confused with the other local South African group of the same name). Sadly Ngcukana died in 2010 at the age of 55.

Robert Sobukwe, a major anti-apartheid figure in South African history, joined the ANC Youth League in 1948, the same year the white National Party came to power. He gained notoriety in 1952 when he backed the Defiance Campaign and after leaving the ANC in 1957 he formed the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and became its leader in 1959. In March of 1960 the PAC led the campaign against the segregationist Pass Laws and in one protest in Sharpeville, 69 PAC supporters were killed after police opened fire. Sobukwe was subsequently arrested and jailed on Robben Island until 1969.

Sitting at the bar in the jazz club last week, I thought about the complexities of circumstance. Here I was listening to a song played by young South African musicians and dedicated to Robert Sobukwe in Richmond, Virginia, a city with its own complex racial past.

In the second set the group performed Abdullah Ibrahim’s classic Manenberg, and in a wonderful extended jam rotation was joined by students and alumni from VCU’s Jazz Studies program including: Justin Esposito on bass, Trey Sorrells on alto sax, Brendan Schnabel on tenor sax, Chris Ryan on guitar, Victor Haskins on trumpet, alumnus Mary Lawrence Hicks on trumpet and C.J. Wolfe on drums.



Starting with the UKZN group each performer then gradually substituted out for a VCU colleague who then took turns to solo. All rejoined toward the end of this 24 minute jam. In many ways the act of turning Manenberg into an international ‘jampot’ or meeting of common ground, itself confirmed the song’s global significance beyond South Africa. Of course there are still those rumblings over the exact authorship of this great track. While most would agree that Ibrahim is the author, some have claimed, namely Lulu Masilela via Rob Allingham, that the root of the tune lies in Zach’s Nkosi’s Jackpot!

Personally, I find hints of Elijah Nkwanyana’s Bops Special in the iconic track, but regardless, I would say that cultures build on their roots and this “appropriation,” if you want to call it that, does transform the original into a significant new animal that rightfully pays homage to its past.

In any event, whatever the song’s lineage, perhaps it was not such a bad thing to be sitting in a bar in Richmond, Virgina in 2012, channeling Zacks Nkosi and Elijah Nkwanyana via Dollar Brand through UKZN and VCU students that are now using the tune to start a new conversation.

Manenberg is named for the township outside of Cape Town where residents who were forcibly removed from District Six and other areas were sent by the apartheid government. The original title of Abdullah Ibrahim’s classic album is actually Mannenberg - ‘Is Where it is Happening’ (The Sun, SRK 786134, 1974) spelled with two n’s (a typo, I have read somewhere). In an interview with Sue Valentine for the Sunday Times Heritage Project, Ibrahim speaks about the origins of the title: “Because Basil [Coetzee, the saxophonist] was from Manenberg and for us Manenberg was just symbolic of the removal out of District Six, which is actually the removal of everybody from everywhere in the world, and Manenberg specifically because… it signifies, it’s our music, and it’s our culture…"

The Music Department at UKZN has a rich history. Post-apartheid it was built from the merger of a number of music programs in KwaZulu Natal combining those at the University of Natal, the Natal Technikon and the University of Durban-Westville when the provincial government chose to offer a degree in music at only one institution in the province. The location, perhaps aptly, was at the former University of Natal: Durban (UND). This seems appropriate because UND was the first University in South Africa (and in Africa) to offer a degree in Jazz Studies in 1983. The course was initiated by Darius Brubeck, then the Director of the Centre for Jazz and Popular Music. Certainly the UKZN Jazz Legacy Ensemble has followed the path of some very large footsteps made by their alumni at the former UND — notably the Jazzanians — the first group to come out of the new jazz program under Brubeck, and who also toured the United States, earlier in 1988.

The Jazzanians featured some future and past figures of South African jazz including the late Zim Ngqawana and Johnny Mekoa (of the Jazz Ministers). Recording a single album, We Have Waited Too Long (Umkhonto, UMKH 407, 1988), the Jazzanians, while on tour also performed at the National Association of Jazz Educators annual conference in Detroit and made television appearances on NBC and CBS.

It seems fitting to close this post with a YouTube video uploaded by gravystreet of the television footage of that 1988 Jazzanians US tour.



Many Thanks to Neil Gonsalves, Tony Garcia and of course all the UKZN and VCU students!