An awesome out-of-print tape for the Electric Jive archive today, from yet another of South Africa's complex musical geniuses.
In his 1990 liner notes to this solo recording, France-based Henri Martin laments the fact that he could not find any records of his favorite South African jazz musicians. So, he decided he would make a recording himself. Willem Moller of the Gereformeerde Blues Band lent out his studio and helped with the sound engineering. The original idea was to record the Allen Kwela Trio who had just come off a successful three-week stint at Kippie's in Johannesburg. Budget constraints trimmed that down to a solo recording. Martin mentions that Kwela took a long time to "find the right feeling" in the studio and while he became a good friend, he was also a "sometimes painful perfectionist".
Kwela's 1972 masterpiece "Allen's Soul Bag" can be found on EJ here. The track "Question Mark" from Allen's Soul Bag is also featured on the Next Stop Soweto Vol 3 compilation. The Allen Kwela recording "Black Beauty" features Kippie Moeketsi on alto and can be found here. Kwela teams up again with Kippie Moeketsi on Gideon Nxumalo's 1970 holy grail "Early Mart", which is also available on EJ here. In sharing two early 78rpm recordings of Allen Kwela here, Siemon notes that Allen Kwela is reported to have played alongside Winston Mankunku Ngozi and Barney Rachabane in the group "The Cliffs". That great 1975 recording too, is archived on EJ here.
Five of the nine tracks on this tape are also featured with a full band on his acclaimed recording "The Broken Strings of Allen Kwela": including Past Present and Future as well as, Sunday Blue, Tranquility, Stand Up, and KwaMashu. The notes next to the song titles below are Allen Kwela's own comments on his choices.
1. Say it with Love: "Is a tune of mine. It means one must say or do everything with love."
2. Past, Present and Future: "It was beautiful in the past. Black is still beautiful in the present and will always be in the future. The deprivation of rights of the South african Black National did not and will not change that."
3. Sunday Blue: "Is dedicated to a beautiful crystal clear sky-blue Sunday in 1975 when everything went perfectly: pure romance."
4. Tranquility: "When I wrote this tune back in 1968 I had a feeling of calmness and the self-confidence, hence the title."
5. Stand-Up: "Against all that is not right and forced on you."
6. My Funny Valentine: "One of the old standards I adore.
7. KwaMashu: "The township outside Durban, home to my brothers, and sometimes myself".
8. Who knows?: "This is my own version of a 16-bar blues! Playing solo offers the advantage of playing 'free' as you might notice in this recording. However, I prefer to have it played according to its strucuture which is clearly stated in the first 16 bars of the tune."
9. Surrey with a fringe on top: "The bride and groom, in a Surrey, start out in fast pace then medium and finally slow tempo to a halt."
"Recently, I lost my Gibson guitar in a township mugging and I thought that was the end of everything. But someone lent me an Ibanez for this recording and I have been amazed by its performance. the 'Ibanez Artist' guitar was great, although I would have preferred a box guitar like my old Gibson". (from the cassette notes).
Allen Kwela died at the age of 63 on 1st July 2003.
A "Best of Allen Kwela" compilation CD issued by Sheer Sound is still available from Kalahari for ZAR72. It contains 13 tracks and you can audio-preview five of them.
The solo guitar tape can be downloaded as follows: