We continue the girl group theme here on Electric Jive with a 1977 album from The Queens, the female troupe that backed the legendary Mahlathini during his time away from the Mahotella Queens.
The music of Mahlathini, the Mahotella Queens and the Makgona Tsohle Band dominated the townships during the 1960s and early 1970s. Under music exec Rupert Bopape’s vigilant direction, the Queens, the triumvirate recorded a massive amount of highly successful singles and performed in hundreds of halls and stadiums across South Africa and neighbouring countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland.
But exploitation was rife within the music industry. In the early ‘70s, Mahlathini and several of the Mahotella Queens resigned after disputes with Bopape over show takings. (Bopape, with assistance from Makgona Tsohle Band members Marks Mankwane and West Nkosi, replaced the missing Queens with newer singers and had Robert ‘Mbazo’ Mkhize installed as their new groaner.) After one or two similarly unfavourable (and very brief) recording deals, the girls and Mahlathini formed a performance-only group, Amakhosazana (the princesses). This group was hugely successful for nearly two years until aspiring promoter Piet Ntuli charmed his way into the group, subsequently pocketing all the wages and creating in-fights. The singers left Ntuli in 1974 and joined Satbel Record Company under producer Cambridge ‘Baba’ Matiwane. Backed by the wonderful strains of Ndlondlo Bashise, Mahlathini and The Queens (the new name referencing their time within Mahotella) recorded a series of beautifully fierce, tough, gritty singles.
In 1977, Satbel underwent a reorganisation and Mahlathini and The Queens ended up once again without a studio to record in. Their only option at the time was to join EMI, under the production of none other than the corrupt Piet Ntuli. They gave him a second chance and simply carried on recording the wonderful hard-edged jive that they had created at Satbel. The result was two albums, both released on EMI’s Yashingoma label: Wavutha Umlilo, spotlighting King Mahlathini in all his glory; and the aptly-titled The Queens which we share with Electric Jive readers today.
Some songs, such as “Izinyoni”, “Ikhubalo”, “Keba Bone” and “Umakhelwane” are brilliant examples of unadulterated jive, while the growing influence of American soul on mbaqanga music can be detected in groovy numbers like “Ndiphilise Nkosi Yami”, “Bakgotsi Baka” and “Ndiphuthe Somandla”. All 12 songs are enjoyable and it's hard not to be moved by the passionate harmonies of The Queens - Mildred Mangxola (lead vocalist - tracks 2, 4, 7, 8 and 10), Isabel Maseko, Agnes Mhlauli, Thoko Nontsontwa, Belinda Sithole and Paulina Zulu
produced by Piet Ntuli
Yashingoma YGA (E) 301
Zulu Vocal Jive