Friday, 26 April 2013

The Vampires: Underground (c1971)

 
The mere existence of Durban’s Raj Recording Company in the 1960s and 1970s is testament to a viable market with a unique and eclectic mix of influences among musicians and fans who were classified as “Indian” and “Coloured” at the time. I remember the time and place well, buying my "underground" vinyl at Record King in the bustling Ajmeri Arcade off Grey Street. At that time in Durban "underground music" referred to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd.
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.


Mediafire here
Rapidshare here

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. I really appreciate these short essays which bring together the music and the socio-political context. Very insightful and rewarding to read. Gracias!

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  2. Thanks funcrusha for the kind words - I take encouragement from these

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  3. I'm holding a copy of El Rica Dance Band "Sax A Go Go" Raj RMC-SLP-013. Let me know if you would like some credit info from the cover. This was an interesting find in a bargain bin here in Vancouver

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  4. Hi Peter - thanks for your message - really amazing to learn where and how these vinyls land up as far afield as Vancouver. I do have the "Sax A Go-Go" LP (but am always on the look-out for more from Raj Recording) - some of that LP features on this post here: http://electricjive.blogspot.com/2013/12/electric-jive-durban-office-party-2013.html

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    Replies
    1. Hi Chris,

      i found your blog on the net, im desperately look for these 2 Lp El Rica Sax a gogo and Los Pepitos Dancing time with Los Pepitos. It was given to me by my late father but unfortunately they got damage during a storm here in Mauritius.

      I keen to pay to have them the LP or CD or even in Mp3 format..

      Please help me


      Regards

      Delete
  5. Hi Chris,

    i found your blog on the net, im desperately look for these 2 Lp El Rica Sax a gogo and Los Pepitos Dancing time with Los Pepitos. It was given to me by my late father but unfortunately they got damage during a storm here in Mauritius.

    I keen to pay to have them the LP or CD or even in Mp3 format..

    Please help me


    Regards


    Stephan
    stephanmootegoo@gmail.com

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  6. HI Stephan - thanks for your message - the 2 LPs you mention are out of print, bt they do still sometimes turn up in charity shops and those kinds of places. You can download some of Sax A-Go-Go from here http://electricjive.blogspot.com/2013/12/electric-jive-durban-office-party-2013.html
    I have not seen the Los Pepitos LP you mention. Good luck

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  7. Hi I have a similar story and pretty much the same search:
    Looking for good quality digital version of Los pepitos, Crusaders, Dukes Combo and El Rica's

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  8. Nice dark and exotic album!!
    I saw this Vampires band has other one first album. Can you give me more info about title? I would like to listen that too!!
    Flute instrumental music is one of most groovie music I can listen.
    It does my feet can't stop to tap.
    Thanks again (never too much) for this gem.
    David

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  9. Hi David - thanks for your comments and kind words. I unfortunately do not have details of the first album by this group. But do check out the"East Meets West" post for some tracks that are similar. Best wises

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  10. Hello Chris and friends!
    I was searching for that first album of The Vampires in the net, I only have get some info from the lyric notes of the booklet of their second album which you have posted here.
    I found these booklets through users friends of mine in soulseek program, i'm sure you know this p-t-p program.
    It says that first album was titled 'Swinging guitars', 4 year earlier than this 'Vampires Underground'. No more info about it.
    If you want, i can send to you these booklet pages!

    Thanks for your suggest about 'East meets West' album. Listening now! Incredible music, the Chicago's cover song '25 or 6 to 4' is my chosen one! Great track, and rest are great too!

    Thanks a lot to ElectricJive team!!!

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    Replies
    1. Hi David,

      Can you please send me the booklet pages of the album Swinging guitars by the Vampires. My email address is dbnretro@gmail.com

      Thanks.

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    2. Hi there dbnretro!! Sorry for the late.
      I'm sending to you just now those booklets/covers from this gem-album.
      You can see it says The Vampires recorded another album 4 years earlier than this from 1971.
      But i can't find it in the net.
      If you or someone has more info, i would to apreciate a lot.
      If someone more want these booklets/covers, write here your mail address or write direct to me to next address:

      brujomckei@hotmail.com

      Big hugs for all of you!!

      Delete
  11. HI, looking for any info about "Party Time" Red roosters, have some digital files of Raiders and Los pepitos. can upload if they differ from what is posted here.

    jiteshj2@hotmail.com

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  12. The original Vampires band made one only one album. The lead singer's name was Victor Soul. Three brothers were in the band including my brother Tony Gilbert. Does anyone have a copy of that album?The Vampires were one of the most amazing bands ever and way ahead of their time.They also won The Battle of The Bands contest. Does anyone even have a photo of them? I was a child at that time, so I wish that someone did photograph them.

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  13. This has been officially released...with good sleeve notes http://www.juno.co.uk/products/the-vampires-vampires-underground-remastered/533279-01/

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