Monday, 15 April 2013

Africa Music and Life of Today Vol. 1 (c1958)

As promised, today we feature another double disc gatefold EP similar to the one we posted last week — Music and Rhythms of Africa Vol. 2. At first I thought this was volume one in that series: the design is identical and the matrix numbers are consecutive... almost! What is different is that this disc was issued on Columbia (SEYJ 101/102) while that volume was on HMV (7EYJ 103/104) — both EMI labels. The matrix numbers for all four discs run consecutively even though their prefixes are slightly different: 7TCA 105-108 and 7TAS 109-112. Nevertheless the comments below reveal that Volume one of the HMV series does exist and can be viewed here at Soul Safari.

Where volume two of the HMV series featured "traditional" music and vocal jive, this volume focusses on African jazz and kwela. The four volumes thus marketing the key South African styles of black music in the late  1950s. The covers of both though betray an idealised, traditional view of "African life" far different from the modern images of musicians found inside the gatefolds. It is likely that these EPs were marketed to white audiences or for international export.

Disc one opens with the Sharpetown Swingsters playing two 1957 tracks you may be familiar with from Electric Jive's Majuba Jazz compilations. Two tracks by the Sophiatown Septet follow. Disc two focusses on kwela and features the Jumping Jacks with one track composed by Zacks Nkosi. If you are a fan of Tom Hark and are looking for other material by Elias and his Zig Zag Jive flutes then side two will not disappoint. Bomma, composed by Rupert Bopape, is vocally quite dynamic, with the base background singing sounding very familiar to me... did Miriam Makeba sample this melody in one of her later songs?

As before, here are some excerpts from the rather dry liner notes:

The Sharpetown Swingsters
"The Sharpetown Swingsters, unlike most other African Jazz bands do not come from Johannesburg, but they live in a quiet little town on the banks of the Vaal River, the border of the Transvaal and the O.F.S. They are extremely popular and have brought much entertainment to their people. Their jazz, which is known as "Marabi", differs from other African Jazz in that it is closely linked with African traditional music. In fact, "Maeba" and "Jikela Bessie" could be called Traditional African Jazz."

"The Sophiatown Septet are a truly exceptional group. Not one of them can read a note of music! They are "natural" musicians, who never fail to please their audiences. The Septet, all young Johannesburg boys, were brought together by our African talent scout Rupert Bopape and are now one of the top names on Bantu records."

Elias and his Zig Zag Jive Flutes
[...] "Elias Lerole, leader of Elias and his Zig Zag Jive Flutes, is one of the best exponents of the penny-whistle in this country, and this group has already had one of their records released on the international market. The tune, "Tom Hark", was written by Rupert Bopape, and since it was featured in the T.V. serial "The Killing Stones" it has caused quite a sensation overseas, reaching the top twenty on the English "Record Mirror" hit parade within 3 weeks of issue." [...]

AFRICA Music and Life of Today Vol. 1
Columbia, EYJ 101/102

1) Sharpetown Swingsters — Maeba (trad. arr. H. Bessie) 
2) Sharpetown Swingsters — Jikela Bessie  (H. Bessie) 
3) Sophiatown Septet — Sophiatown Special (Blacky) 
4) Sophiatown Septet — Blacky (Blacky) 
5) Jumping Jacks — Jumpingjack Special (I. Nkosi)
6) Jumping Jacks — Opa Skaef Weet (D. Moumakoe)
7) Elias and his Zig-Zag Jive Flutes — Dark City (E. Lerole)
8) Elias and his Zig-Zag Jive Flutes — Bomma (R. Bopape)


  1. Thanks, Siemon, for these lovely tracks. I mostly appreciate the volume 1 with this fantastic septet.
    Go on!

  2. Thank you so much for all of the great music!

  3. I think that actually this post from Soul Safari provides Vol.1 in the Rhythms and Music of Africa series:

    This Africa Music and Life of Today appears to be a sister series, which is interesting in itself, but also raises the question of is there a Vol.2 of this series?!

    I'm really enjoying these posts - many thanks.

  4. Kelvin, you are right!
    I am guilty of breaking my first rule of discography: "Never make assumptions!"

    Volume 1 of the HMV series is featured at Soul Safari, and I should have known that because I have seen that post a bunch of times...! It just slipped my mind.

    Anyways I will correct the above post accordingly.
    Thanks again.


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