Electric Jive here presents an LP filled with what one might call “the good stuff”. Makgona Tsohle Reggi, featuring some exquisite instrumental mbaqanga music performed by the top teams of the day, was released on the Inkonkoni label in 1970.
The term “reggi” undoubtedly refers to reggae, which does put the LP title at odds with the music contained in the first side of the record. The first six tracks are certainly not straightforward sax jives, but rather seem fuse that tried-and-tested style with elements of ska and soul rather than reggae. The sugary guitars and rowdy bass of the Mavuthela instrumental section are joined not by screaming alto saxes, but by an organ that – rather delightfully – manages to create both very soft and very strident melodies on different numbers. It makes for very pleasant and interesting listening, and one wonders whether or not more of this gold still exists on wax somewhere in the world. “Marks Reggi” is a particular favourite of mine, just because of the lovely combination of instruments working together to create a lively, chirpy tune. “Soul Track” is another personal gem – it is forthright, minimalist and just plain great.
The second side of the LP takes the listener straight back to base, with five tracks of sax jive goodness (and one lovely track, “Somewhere”, that sounds as if it could sit right at home on side 1). Lead guitarist Marks Mankwane’s 1969 tune “Marks Special” was so popular that it spawned several follow-up songs, the first of which kicks off side 2 with a bang. “Marks Special No. 2” is credited to Marks Mankwane and His Alto Sax, as is the delectably-busy “Shaluza Marks No. 3”, but both tracks feature the virtuoso doing what he does best – sending the listener into a tizzy with beautiful guitar melodies. West Nkosi plays the alto sax on both of these tunes, in addition to a third number closing this LP. Fellow alto saxophonist Elias Lerole is present with an instrumental tribute to radio personality K.E. Masinga, while Wilson ‘King Force’ Silgee offers “Vulani Munango”.
As with many LPs released by Gallo Africa during this era, the word “STEREO” appears in the top right-hand corner underneath the record label name and the LP catalogue number. To my ear, none of the tracks sounded stereo in the slightest with the possible exception of “Somewhere”, which I avoided performing a mono mixdown on during the clean-up process. The word “Tsohle” is misspelt almost everywhere on the jacket and on the disc labels as “Tshole”, but not on the signs hanging on the band equipment in the fantastic cover photograph. Left to right, the photo features the ace members of the Makgona Tsohle Band: Joseph Makwela (bass), Marks Mankwane (lead guitar), Lucky Monama (drums) and Vivian Ngubane (rhythm guitar).
In short, Makgona Tsohle Reggi features twelve of the best single tunes recorded during 1969 and early 1970. It’s a veritable goody bag of sounds, so please download and enjoy!