Monday, 22 September 2014

The Queens (1977)

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
Sotho Vocal
Xhosa Hymn


  1. Thanks Nick - am enjoying this album - some great examples of incorporation of other musical styles into mbaqanga ...

  2. Thanks for posting this great music! Although I am a Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens fan and I had the great opportunity to see them live several times, most of this music is new to me. It sounds great!

  3. Thanks so much for your kind comments - much appreciated!

  4. good musical work and very generous to share you congratulations and waiting for much more material of this to appreciate greetings master live Electricjive.

  5. dude...this blog is unbelievable. I recently found my mum's copy of Umgqashiyo featuring Mahotella Queens and Makgona Tsohle Band. Incredible music!!

  6. Adie, thanks for checking in and leaving thanks. Most welcome indeed. We aim to please! And yes, "Umgqashiyo" is a cracking LP :)

  7. Cheers Nick,

    "Keba Bone" is a stone-classic. Also lovin' "Izintsika" and "Sukuma Ndoda".

    Was doing some homework on this one. Amazing what you can get from the sleeves.

    Which is just as well, considering it is virtually ungoogleable.

    So, we can ascertain that The Queens LP serves as a compilation, with 11 of the 12 cuts having appeared on recent 7" sides.

    Could anyone put a year on any of the singles? It does seem improbable that all 19 of those listed Yashingoma singles would be issued in 1977.

    Thinking a spread between 1976 and 1977 is likely? Somewhere down the line I listed "Keba Bone" as 1976 - but I'll be darned if I can re-discover where I got that info.

    The Queens - The Queens (Yashingoma YGA (E) 301, 1977)
    1. Izinyoni (Yashingoma YAB-1006-A)
    2. Bo Ntate (Yashingoma YAB-1017-A)
    3. Ndiphuthe Somandla (Yashingoma YAB-1018-A)
    4. Ikhubalo (Yashingoma YAB-1013-B)
    5. Uzenzile (Yashingoma YAB-1006-B)
    6. Keba Bone (Yashingoma YAB-1003-A)
    7. Uthando Luphelile (Yashingoma YAB-1005-A)
    8. Bakgotsi Baka (Yashingoma YAB-1017-B)
    9. Ndiphilise Nkosi Yami (Yashingoma YAB-1018-B)
    10. Izintsika (Yashingoma YAB-1013-A)
    11. Sukuma Ndoda (Yashingoma YAB-1005-B)
    12. Umakhelwane

    We can also tell that there is at least one other LP billed to The Queens i.e. "Wavutha Umlilo" by Indoda Mahlathini and The Queens (Yashingoma).

    This seems to follow a similar path - compiling recent 7" sides.

    It's hard for me to see this tracklist properly from the scan - I was wondering if you could fill in any more detail, Nick?

    I wonder which LP came first - is the catalogue number of "Wavutha Umlilo" visible?

    Indoda Mahlathini and The Queens (Yashingoma YGA ?, 1977?)
    Partly established tracklist (which may not be 100% as I was interpreting shapes rather being able to read clearly):
    1. Wavutha Umlilo (Yashingoma YAB-1002-A)
    2. Ukuhlupheka (Yashingoma YAB-1009-A)
    3. Badilize (Yashingoma YAB-1001-A)
    4. Ngalahlekela (Yashingoma YAB-1001-B)
    5. Ngenzeni Na (Yashingoma YAB-1002-B)
    6. ?
    7. ?
    8. Ngakubona Ngakubeletha (Yashingoma YAB-1009-B)
    9. Umona (Yashingoma YAB-1010-A)
    10. Umlungu Omkhulu (Yashingoma YAB-1010-B)
    11. ?
    12. ?

    The title track seems non-existent on the web. I wonder if "Wavutha Umlilo" is a remake of "Uyavutha Umlilo" (1971) ?

    I wonder if these are the only 2 LPs accredited to The Queens.

    I do a lot of wondering when it comes to African discographies - I suspect this'll continue to be the case!


  8. Hi William,

    All the tracks from this album were originally issued on 45 rpm singles in 1977. (Not at all improbable - black South African music was pumped out at a consistently fast rate. Some companies were capable of pumping out more than 50 new tracks in a single week of studio sessions.)

    Most LPs of this era were merely compilations of recent singles - it wasn't until much later on (with the decline of the single format) that albums began to be conceived as albums.

    Here is the tracklist for "Wavutha Umlilo" on YGA (E) 300 followed by the numbers for each original 45 rpm issue:

    1. Wavutha Umlilo (YAB 1002 A)
    2. Ukuhlupheka (YAB 1009 A)
    3. Badilize (YAB 1001 A)
    4. Ngalahlekela (YAB 1001 B)
    5. Ngenzeni Na (YAB 1002 B)
    6. Bethela Ndoda (YAB 1000 B)
    7. Izwe Linge Hlule (YAB 1000 A)
    8. Ngakubona Ngakubeletha (YAB 1009 B)
    9. Umona (YAB 1010 A)
    10. Umlungu Omkhulu (YAB 1010 B)
    11. Intuthuko (unknown, probably YAB 1019)
    12. Kusinwa Kudedelwana (as above)

    The title track is on the excellent Earthworks compilation "King of the Groaners", which is still available to buy from iTunes.


  9. Re: "Wavutha Umlilo" - yes, this track is extremely prevalent online. I'm guessing I pasted the wrong track into my search bar, what a klutz.

    So it's clear that "Uyavutha Umlilo" (1971) is a completely different song to "Wavutha Umlilo" (1977).

    I also note that you've already had this same conversation on YouTube!

    I'm always amused to find that when I do some research on Jive or Mbaqanga all roads lead back to EJ somewhere along the line!

    So, yep, thanks for all that great info above. Seems the "scene" was highly competitive at this time, with a plethora of releases from both The Mahotella Queens and The Queens.

    Must have been hard for fans to keep up at the time...


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