Today we present a classic jive album by the one of mbaqanga's most well-known and loved girl groups, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje. This LP is Siya Emshadweni ("We're going to a wedding"), released on the CBS label in 1973 and produced by Hamilton Nzimande.
Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje was formed in late 1967 as a direct response to the success of Rupert Bopape's Mahotella Queens over at Gallo. The founding members were Sannah Mnguni, Francina "Thopi" Mnguni, Nomvula "Nunu" Maseko and Thoko Khumalo. Almost immediately, the line-up found popularity with classic hit singles like "Uyawuz' Umoya Makoti", "Pendula Magwala" and "Is'dudla Sik' Joseph", the latter being their first really big hit. Hamilton Nzimande was the only producer who managed to build up a roster of musicians that seriously challenged Bopape's Mavuthela. Nzimande's own stable within the Gramophone Record Company was called Isibaya Esikhulu, the "big kraal".
Sannah, the singer whose earthy and soft contralto voice provided Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje with a unique and distinct identity very quickly, left the group after only a year. She moved over to Troubadour Records, which was on the cusp of being swallowed into Teal-Trutone. Sannah joined the famous and popular mbaqanga female group The Sweet Sixteens, which was led by the beautiful and serene harmony of Irene Mawela. Sannah was not the only one to join Troubadour. Bhekitshe Shabalala, the man who was to Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje what Mahlathini was to the Mahotella Queens, also followed. Irene, Sannah and Bhekitshe harmonised together until around 1970, when Sannah rejoined her old bandmates in Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, bringing with her a junior Sweet Sixteen by the name of Jane Dlamini.
Some more successful recordings followed until almost of the Izintombi members quit in 1972. Sannah, Thopi and Thoko decided to move to EMI where they formed a very popular new group called Amagugu. With only Jane Dlamini left in Izintombi, Nzimande recruited and poached some new members. With an expanded new line-up that included Nobesuthu Shawe (who had served as a member of the group in 1967 before moving to the Mahotella Queens), Ruth Mafuxwana and Lindiwe Mthembu, the group continued to remain fairly successful until the general decline in the popularity of mbaqanga groups during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Siya Emshadweni features some of the fairly typical material that the group recorded during the early 1970s. The title track is by far one of my favourite tunes on the album. From the elasticated rhythm guitar line to the harmonious bass rhythm... and of course the voices of the girls and groaner Mthunzi Malinga... this one is a gem. "Udumbe Dumbe" and "Sicela Indlela" are two other great ones - the ladies clearly lose themselves in the joyous melodies here. "Ziyathuthuka Izintombi" is another nice song, with its stomping and solid rhythm work. Do you have a favourite tune? Make sure to let us know! "Siya Eswazini" is also noteworthy because, although the lyrics are different, the instrumental players here have stolen the melody of a Mahlathini song titled "Shwele Baba", released the year before. The melody is exactly the same, note-for-note! It was something often done during this period of South African music. Who knows... we may approach this subject in-depth very soon... until then, I hope you like this album of downright funky, layered vocal jive.
IZINTOMBI ZESI MANJE MANJE
produced by Hamilton Nzimande
CBS LAB 4042
RS / MF