Monday, 25 November 2013

Amagugu: Ubhek'uZulu (1974)

"Africa's Greatest Vocal Group": goes the front cover marketing hyperbole from 1974. Amagugu were certainly vocally very strong though - sultry, velvet harmonies. Add legendary lead guitarist and arranger Hansford Mthembu to the girl group and groaner mix, and you have a very strong mbaqanga album.

I turned to Electric Jive's walking mbaqanga encyclopedia, Nick Lotay, to see if he could tell me more than the little that is available on the record and cover. This is what he had to say:

"The regular members of Amagugu during this time included Sannah Mnguni (lead vocals), her sister Francina 'Thopi' Mnguni, Thoko Khumalo, Liliah Vilakazi and Thandi Kheswa (who was a Mahotella Queens member from around 1969 to 1974). The lady photographed on the front cover isn't Sannah - it looks like it could be Thandi Kheswa, but I'm not sure. The male groaner is Harry Nhlapo who later joined Abafana Baseqhudeni at Mavuthela, and at one point sang with the Queens.

"The lead guitarist on this LP is Thopi's husband Hansford Mthembu, one of the legendary mbaqanga players of all time and one of the crafters of Amagugu's sound. Kali Monare is the drummer. Titus Masikane, credited with writing two of these songs, was the group's producer and manager.

"I don't know who or what the "Umqangabodwe" credited as having written four songs was, but producers of the time would habitually invent random names to replace the name of the real composer, possibly to collect the ensuing royalty fee for themselves."

1. Ubhek'uZulu - (H. Nhllapho)
2. Imvula (Umqnagabhodwe)
3. Ulwandle (Umqnagabhodwe)
4. Inyoni Emhlophe (Umqnagabhodwe)
5. Instsholontsholo (Umqnagabhodwe)
6. Chuchu Makgala (Thandi Kheswa)
7. Mesong (K. Monare)
8. Samelu (Sannah Mnguni)
9. Emakhabaleni (T. Masikane)
10. Mngane Wami (T. Masikane)
11. King of My Heart (H. Mthembu)
12. Salani Kahle (H. Methembu)

Producer: Titus Masikane
Skyline Jazz: SK80162

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Mediafire here


  1. I just happened to find your blog the other day and downloaded this absolute work of art -- one of the best albums I've ever heard.

    I've been mesmerized the moment I listened. It's so good, I can't believe it. I can't believe it.

    Thank you.

  2. You are most welcome Dolamance - glad you like it - do spend some time explore the site, there is more like it. Best wishes. Chris

  3. Chris, you have no idea how much nostalgia your selection has given me. 'Insizwa' simply took me back to the '60s - which is when I last heard the tune! It used to drive me nuts and, to keep its memory alive, I have over the years been constantly playing my mentally-reconstructed version whenever I chanced to have an organ around. However you sniff them out please keep them rolling in! Manzo

  4. it is a great pleasure for all of us on electric jive to make you happy Manzo - I imagine the thae thanks in this case should go to Siemon - Insizwa is located on the Roick Jive selection. All the best

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  6. Greetings Chris! I'm truly humbled and blessed to have discovered this wonderful website and in so doing discovering the heritage lost to young people like myself being an eighties baby, the amount of work that has gone into the construction of this wonderful Griot is amazingly beyond comprehension that it can only be a labour of love. Not enough words exist; for me to elaborately convey my gratitude and my indebtedness to you, please do let Nick, Rose, Matt and Siemon know how sincerely grateful I am, you have not only imparted this knowledge, but have also bestowed upon me a sense of pride and hunger to intimately know this joyous and severely unappreciated aspect of our heritage, please continue to educate and enlighten us, in me you have one keen student :)

  7. Zwai I am humbled, honored and excited to read what you say - thank you. Your feedback tells us we are reaching towards our purpose in catching the attention of more people to the wonderful musical heritage that South Africa has - and to make sure that these out of print and unobtainable creations do not become forgotten and lost. Siyafundanke.


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