Monday, 15 July 2013

Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 4

ABOVE - IZINTOMBI ZESI MANJE MANJE IN 1975.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: LINDIWE MTHEMBU, JANE DLAMINI, NOBESUTHU SHAWE, RUTH MAFUXWANA

Collecting records from the glory days of black South African music invariably results in the accumulation of “factory-line stuff”. It is something inherent within mbaqanga music, which was as quick to produce as the traditional snack it was named after. But very often, that factory-line material would be intercepted. The individual talents and geniuses of the wonderful musicians in the studio would collide spectacularly and explode. The results of that explosion were stunning masterpieces that blended superb vocal harmony and sumptuous guitar rhythm together seamlessly. It is these masterpieces that Electric Jive presents here proudly today – the fourth installment of our regular series, Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups.

“Awuthule Bo”, recorded in 1970, is one of the classic hits from the Mahotella Queens repertoire during their most successful era. Nobesuthu Shawe, one of the group’s regular vocalists and the composer of this song, tells her baby through fabulous high-spirited jive to listen to mother and quieten down. The ladies’ 1967 tune “Umuzwa Ngedwa” is an oddity because of its unusual swing-like melody, a throwback to the styles that their brand of mbaqanga had replaced. On the other hand, “Metsoalle Yaka”, is a deeply soul-infused 1970s number with some crazy-brilliant vocal work, featuring the golden voices of Thandi Radebe, Beatrice Ngcobo, Emily Zwane, Thandi Nkosi, Constance Ngema and Caroline Kapentar. The Mahotella Queens was perhaps the finest example of a truly classic mbaqanga girl group. The harmonies blended perfectly, the songs – either based on themes of love, folklore or topical matters – were always relevant, and the essential instrumental backup from the Makgona Tsohle Band was as raw and emotive as possible. Just one listen to their selections in this compilation certainly does go some way towards confirming those statements.

While the Mahotella Queens was the first group on the scene to pioneer the new, more electric-led female vocal jive of the mid-1960s, they were certainly not the only team of singers to shoot to stardom with beautiful recordings. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje arose some three years after the Queens had already bedded into the market as the most successful female group of the 1960s, but this wasn’t going to deter Sannah Mnguni and her fellow songbirds, Thopi Mnguni, Thoko Khumalo and Nunu Maseko, from challenging the Queens for the crown. “Salani Kahle” spotlights Sannah’s beautiful vocal talent against the solid rhythm of the group. Along with the likes of mbaqanga vocalists such as Hilda Tloubatla, Irene Mawela, Olive Masinga and Julia Yende, Sannah possessed a voice that was instantly recognisable no matter which group she recorded with. She had left Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje in 1968, moving to the famous and well-known girl group the Sweet Sixteens which was led by Irene. Although Sannah did record some enchanting, hypnotic tunes with the group like “Uthuleleni”, she decided to return to Izintombi in 1970, bringing with her a junior Sweet Sixteen, Jane Dlamini. In 1972, the Izintombi line-up was thrown into jeopardy when the core members of the team resigned. Sannah, Thopi and Thoko – as well as lead guitarist Hansford Mthembu, Thopi’s husband – left the company and joined EMI, where they formed a successful new mbaqanga girl group called Amagugu. It remained a popular act until the early 1980s, when changing musical tastes brought an end to the dominance of the mbaqanga girl group. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje retained its popularity through the early 1970s with a revised line-up: Jane Dlamini was joined by Nobesuthu Shawe (joining Isibaya after four years with Mavuthela’s Mahotella Queens), Beatrice Ngcobo (who was to depart the group soon and join the Mahotella Queens later in 1973), Lindiwe Mthembu and Ruth Mafuxwana. “Siya Kwa Mzilikazi”, featuring Izintombi’s regular groaner Saul Shabalala, was one of the many hits recorded by this newer incarnation of the group. "Sicela Indlela", another tune of similar vintage, sounds so carefree and laidback that it's almost as if the ladies are jamming with each other at a rehearsal.

During the mid-to-late 1960s, Mavuthela Music’s roster expanded so that set units of female singers were formed, utilising many of the names originated by Rupert Bopape back in 1964, and arranged almost in a hierarchy: the so-called “top tier” was the group that recorded under the names Mahotella Queens, Marula Boom Stars, Soweto Stars, Dima Sisters, Izintombi Zomgqashiyo, and the Sweet Home Dames. A second regular unit, featuring the voices of singers such as Julia Yende and Windy Sibeko, recorded under names including the Mthunzini Girls and Izingane Zomgqashiyo. “Sangena, Sangena” is an infectiously loud tune that has a slight-rumba feel to the rhythm – and a melodica is included in the band for good measure! On the other hand, “Akashaywa Umfazi” is the top tier at its best. Written by vocalist Mildred Mangxola and featuring Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde on lead vocals, the song refers to physical abuse against women, although the song could be categorised as being more “classic mbaqanga” than “ballad”. Mangxola had joined Mavuthela in 1965 with her group, the Daveyton Sisters, with whom she had been singing since she was in her teens. The Sisters recorded some solid material for Mavuthela, but was to eventually disintegrate, with Mangxola and fellow Daveyton vocalist Thoko Nontsontwa joining the Mahotella Queens. Mangxola's wonderful, lively vocals can be heard prominently on "Akashaywa Umfazi", "Sengibuya Emarabini" (in which she has a very brief solo) and on an early tune with her old bandmates, "Ulele Emini U Makoti", a song composed by Makgona Tsohle Band drummer Lucky Monama.

After Mahlathini left Mavuthela in 1972 following a dispute over royalty payments with Rupert Bopape, he formed a new group called Amakhosazana which found some astonishing success as a performance-only group. This venture lasted only two years, after which the great groaner joined the new black music operation recently started at Satbel Record Company. Cambridge Matiwane, producer of the new subsidiary, busied himself building up a roster of artists to rival the material pumped out of the successful Mavuthela and Isibaya stables. Mahlathini preferred to work in conjunction with a female group, and although the Mahotella Queens remained the sole property of Gallo’s Mavuthela, a new group was formed at Satbel that was simply named The Queens. Pay disputes over at Gallo saw several of the Mavuthela singers move over to Satbel to record with Mahlathini. These included Koekie Makhanya, Mildred Mangxola, Ethel Mngomezulu and Thoko Nontsontwa. The Queens recorded some of the finest female vocal classics one can find. The raw passion and emotion came across in whatever song they sang, be it a ballad (“Siyaniduduza”, “Nginothando”) or a lively and boisterous tune (“Baratsale”, “Mhlobo Mdala”). Also at Satbel was Izintombi Zephepha, a group led by former Mahotella Queens and Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje vocalist Nunu Maseko. The group mostly recorded with singer Victor ‘Mahlabathini’ Zulu, a fine vocalist and groaner.

Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo (or “MNZ”) was a shortlived reunion between the groaner and five of the 1960s line-up of the Mahotella Queens. MNZ, which was put together by Marks Mankwane in 1983 on the back of a nostalgia trip for mbaqanga’s heyday, was named in that way so as not to disturb the Mahotella Queens line-up of that time, which had been stable for some years by that point. Interestingly, MNZ’s 1984 LP Pheletsong Ya Lerato features Mahlathini on only two of the ten tracks, making that particular album more or less an Izintombi Zomgqashiyo project. “Moradi Wa Mofokeng” is perhaps one of the finest songs produced by this line-up. Hilda Tloubatla, one of the most recognisable and popular lead vocalists of mbaqanga's heyday, leads the ensemble here, and the troupe's vocals are nothing short of strong, hearty and passionate. Backed by the unrelenting beat of the Makgona Tsohle Band, this certainly is the “A” team performing at its very best. While Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo busied themselves recording some of their best new material since the 1960s, the latter-day Mahotella Queens led by Emily Zwane solidly carried on recording the wonderful, sturdy, easy-listening material they were famous for. “Moleko Ntlohele” is a rich, watery ballad that spotlights their beautiful, soulful and emotive voices.

Thanks to Siemon Allen for contributing the Mahotella Queens songs “Awuthule Bo” and “Metsoalle Yaka”, and to Chris Albertyn for the equally wonderful songs from the Sweet Sixteens and Mahlabathini. I’m very grateful to both of you for your help in adding to this collection of classic, wonderful jive…

…and now, it’s over to the girls for another dose of goodness from the archives of yesteryear. I sincerely hope you download and enjoy.

YEBO!

CLASSIC MBAQANGA GIRL GROUPS
COMPILED BY NICK LOTAY
VOLUME 4

1. Awuthule Bo*
Mahotella Queens
Gumba Gumba BL 123
1970
FROM THE LP "BEST OF THE MAHOTELLA QUEENS"
*COURTESY OF SIEMON ALLEN

2. Sangena, Sangena
Izingane Zo Mgqashiyo
Motella LMO 110
1968
FROM THE LP "INDODA MAHLATHINI"

3. Salani Kahle
Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje
CBS CB.4007
1971

4. Mmathobela
Mahotella Queens
Gumba Gumba MGG 716
1977

5. Uthuleleni*
Sweet Sixteens
Troubadour SPA 892
1969
*COURTESY OF CHRIS ALBERTYN

6. Siyaniduduza
The Queens
Soweto SWB 136
1974

7. Siya Kwa Mzilikazi
Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje
CBS LAB 4042
1973
FROM THE LP "SIYA EMSHADWENI"

8. Umuzwa Ngedwa
Mahotella Queens
Smanje Manje SJM 7-5
1967

9. Akashaywa Umfazi
Sweet Home Dames
Motella LMO 110
1968
FROM THE LP "INDODA MAHLATHINI"

10. Baratsale
The Queens and Ndlondlo Bashise Band
King KGB 034
1976

11. Metsoalle Yaka*
Mahotella Queens
Gumba Gumba BL 123
1977
FROM THE LP "BEST OF MAHOTELLA QUEENS"
*COURTESY OF SIEMON ALLEN

12. Mathamyizimimyaba*
Izintombi Zephepha
Soweto SWB 14019
1976
FROM THE LP "MAHLABATHINI AND IZINTOMBI ZEPHEPHA"
*COURTESY OF CHRIS ALBERTYN

13. Musu Dlala Ngami
Mahlabathini
King KGB 006
1976

14. Iminyaka Kayifani
Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje
Masterpiece LMS 529
1977
FROM THE LP "IMINYAKA KAYIFANI"

15. Maile
Mahotella Queens
Gumba Gumba BL 226
1980
FROM THE LP "TSAMAYA MORATUOA"

16. Moradi Wa Mofokeng
Izintombi Zomgqashiyo
Gumba Gumba BL 457
1984
FROM THE LP "PHELETSONG YA LERATO"

17. Moleko Ntlohele
Mahotella Queens
Hit Special IAL 4005
1984
FROM THE LP "KHWATHA O MONE"

18. Vulamehlo
S'morden Girls
Masterpiece MS 508
1980

19. Sidlala Yonke Imidlalo
Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje
Masterpiece LMS 529
1977
FROM THE LP "IMINYAKA KAYIFANI"

20. Ha Bo Tle
Mahotella Queens
Gumba Gumba BL 226
1980
FROM THE LP "TSAMAYA MORATUOA"

21. Sikhulekile*
Mahlabathini and Izintombi Zephepha
Soweto SWB 14019
1976
FROM THE LP "MAHLABATHINI AND IZINTOMBI ZEPHEPHA"
*COURTESY OF CHRIS ALBERTYN

22. Nimzwile Umntimande*
Sannah Mnguni Nesimanjemanje
CBS AB 284
1971
*COURTESY OF CHRIS ALBERTYN

23. Nginothando
The Queens and Ndlondlo Bashise Band
King KGB 034
1976

24. Awungifanelanga*
Sweet Sixteens
Troubadour SPA 892
1969
*COURTESY OF CHRIS ALBERTYN

25. Hole Thaba
Dark City Sisters
HMV JP.1002
1966
FROM THE LP "STARTIME VOL. 3"

26. Ulele Emini U Makoti
Daveyton Sisters
Gallo-USA USA 320
1965

27. Sicela Indlela
Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje
CBS LAB 4042
1973
FROM THE LP "SIYA EMSHADWENI"

28. Uyangizungeza Lombemu
Usizwe Namatshitshi
CBS LAB 4022
1971
FROM THE LP "NOMA UNGAYAPHI BAKHALA NGATHI"

29. Mhlobo Mdala
The Queens and Ndlondlo Bashise Band
King KGB 035
1976

30. Sengibuya Emarabini
Mahotella Queens
Motella LMO 110
1968
FROM THE LP "INDODA MAHLATHINI"

RS / MF
ABOVE - IZINTOMBI ZESI MANJE MANJE IN THE STUDIO IN 1976.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: LINDIWE MTHEMBU, JANE DLAMINI, RUTH MAFUXWANA, NOBESUTHU SHAWE AND HILDA TLOUBATLA

12 comments:

  1. Fabulous research and selecting, all up to your usual high standard, Nick. I'm seriously tempted to go to my hairdresser this morning and ask to get an Afro just like Nobesothu in the photo. Such cool dude-ettes!

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  2. YES YES

    is this one the best of the four??

    loving these

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  3. Nobody beats Nick Lotay at this game. I am pleasantly surprised at your researching. There once was a single called Sponono by possibly Isintombi Zesi Manje Manje. Any chance?

    Rob Gumbo

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  4. Thanks for your wonderful comments!

    Rob - good to hear from you again. I'm sure there were several songs titled "Sponono" recorded by different groups, but I think the one you're talking about was recorded in 1968 by the Jabavu Queens. I do have a copy, so I'll see what I can do!

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  5. Hi there – maybe I'm being stupid , but I can't find any download links here…

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  6. Me too...where is the link?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, anonymous readers - the download links are definitely present right at the bottom of the post. You can download from either RapidShare (RS) or MediaFire (MF).

    Happy listening!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Goodness gracious, Nick almighty. Makes the rest of the month worth living.

    (I believe I spot a typo on track 4 - the single ought to be from 1967, not 1977, judging from the sound and the adjacent catalogue numbers on Gumba Gumba.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi FredrikO - lovely to hear from you again.

    Track 4 was definitely released in early 1977, and the matrix numbers of that particular single indicate that it was recorded circa December 1976. The sound of the vocal line-up on this recording certainly corresponds with the dates given here.

    However... I had incorrectly typed in the cat. no as MGG 517, when it should have been MGG 716! Thanks for alerting me to this!! :)

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  10. Salute !!
    Great work !!
    Many thanks :))
    Peace

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you Nick. Much appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
  12. It must be Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje or S'morden Girls who did some songs called "yimi Nawe Enkundleni" and "Mr Blue Monday" in the mid-1970's. Anybody anywhere with a hand on those tunes?

    ReplyDelete

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