I am struck by the comments on an earlier posting of “TheRaiders”, and also the follow-up e-mails I keep getting from people looking for more recordings of this clearly enduring and popular band who also recorded on the Raj label. More of the Raiders in another post soon.Raj Recording Company was located in Durban's CBD "Indian Quarter" at 48 Prince Edward Street, next to the Raj Cinema. They issued their first LP in 1967. Within three or four years Raj had already pressed 23 albums performed by local Dance Bands bearing names such as: Los Pepitos, Conquerors, Gay Cavaliers, El Ricas, Cyclones, Helmets, Soul Crusaders, Red Roosters, and the Green Pastures.
The LP featured in this post gives some perspective on the popularity of the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rare Earth, Wilson Pickett and even Trini Lopez. This second album by The Vampires is full of fuzz guitars, flute, and even some vocals that pass for a credible Robert Plant in Whole Lot of Love. Motown arrives in the form of the 1970 Rare Earth hit "Get Ready", with R&B and jazz getting the nod with Herbie Mann's 1969 success, Memphis Underground. Trini Lopez toured South Africa in 1968 and was hugely popular with Unchain My Heart. Arguably the first "funk" chart topper (by Wilson Pickett in 1967) also features in the form of Funky Broadway.
Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed are vivid in their description of growing up in the Indian Quarter around that time.
“We grew up in the Indian quarter during the 1960s and 1970s, Vahed in Pine Street and Desai in Prince Edward Street. Our histories are folded into the labyrinth of this area. Writing these words is to write our boyhoods. It was a time of street football (illegal of course), the electric atmosphere on Saturday nights as thousands thronged Victoria Street, dressed to the nines, to watch English and Hindi movies at Shah Jehan, Avalon and Naaz cinemas, the adolescent male street corner society with its petty chauvinisms and repressed sexualities, and the gangsters whom we both feared and respected.
“We were witness too to the emptying out of the quarter. The movie houses closing, neighbours across generations disappearing into the designated Group Areas on the outskirts of the city, the Quarter locking-down every night as shop owners pull down their steel shutters. It is a sign of the times that even the mosques have to shut shop. Those who survived the Group Areas were relocated when the Western Freeway was built in the 1970s. It comes into the city at the very point where “Red Square” stands. In the name of “development” even the dead were not spared. Part of the cemetery was lost and several hundred graves were dug up, much to the chagrin of locals. All this took place behind our backs as we watched ‘Enter the Dragon’ at the Raj Cinema, one more time.” Taken from Indians In Africa.
Raj Recording Company was one of multiple business initiatives of Rajadhaysing who, it seems, was born in the Indian Quarter in 1895. In addition to owning sugar, timber and cattle farms, Rajadhaysing established the Atlas Brick Company, National Fuel Supply (Umgeni Road) and the Raj Cinema in Prince Edward Street and the Raj Mahal Cinema in Stanger. He also owned properties in India and Scotland.Rajadhaysing’s first two wives died in childbirth. With his fourth wife Lilawathy, they had five children. (Inside Indian Indenture. www.hsrcpress.ac.za).
I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has more information on the Raj dynasty in Durban – and particularly, the Raj Recording Company.