Monday, 29 December 2014
New Year Jive! An EJ Special
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Electric Jive!
We hope you’ve been enjoying the festive treats shared throughout December – and it is my pleasure to bring 2014 on EJ to a close with a smashing goody bag of 1960s and 1970s mbaqanga. Whether you’re ringing in the New Year with a celebratory party or doing something rather low key does not matter one iota – whatever your situation, our New Year Jive is the compilation that you NEED to be playing at full volume (and dancing along to) when the clock strikes twelve!
The girl group and groaner combination almost exclusively dominated the black pop music scene of 1960s and 1970s South Africa. The origins of the trend go back to the late 1950s with the birth of a girl group factory-line, the slow development of jive and the ultimate decline of intricate African jazz. Electric instrumentation arrived at the right time and the foundations of mbaqanga were laid. The tame early electric jive soon advanced into the now familiar rock-solid elastic mbaqanga, personified by fierceness, energy and thunder. Ensembles like the Sweet Sixteens and the Dark City Sisters successfully paved the way for the Mahotella Queens, who in turn influenced the formation of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, and on and on the story goes. Key to the success of the new mbaqanga girl groups were the strong-willed and determined studio producers (or ‘talent scouts’) who ran tight ships, encouraged a factory-line approach to music making and held close relationships with people in the right places – which ensured mbaqanga music was almost vehemently propagated across the state broadcaster’s Radio Bantu service. Although this chagrined the African elite, mbaqanga was already becoming a national craze and the black public firmly embraced the music in very much the same way their counterparts in the United States embraced the Motown sound.
“Utshodo Lumantwengu” is a fantastic example of mid-1960s girl group mbaqanga. This tune, telling the story of a girl fighting off the advances of a romeo hobo, was recorded in 1966 by Nobesuthu and Gcaba Twins. This shortlived trio produced a number of up-tempo vocal jives during 1965 and 1966 before the main singer – Nobesuthu Shawe – joined the rival Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje in 1967. One of Izintombi’s first big hits was “Pendula Magwala”, a fast-paced number with thrilling drum patterns and tightly layered vocal harmonies. Izintombi’s lead singer was Sannah Mnguni – who by 1972 had built up enough recognition and popularity to feel able to quit the group and form a brand-new ensemble named Amagugu. Sannah’s notoriety is celebrated in a collaboration with Zulu-traditional guitarist Frans Msomi and violinist Ncane Ndlovu, the appropriately-titled “Sannah”.
Although Izintombi tried and sometimes even overtook them in the popularity stakes, the Mahotella Queens were South Africa’s most popular girl group of the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s, releasing a string of hugely successful singles (on both 78 and 45rpm) and performing in venues ranging from wedding parties to huge soccer stadiums. “Jive Jibav No. 7” tells every boy and girl in the country to take part in the latest dance craze, while “Isigubhu Sabalozi No. 2” – the 1972 follow-up to a huge 1970 hit of the same name – emphatically states that the tough Mavuthela mgqashiyo beat shall never die. By the mid-1970s, the Queens’ tour schedule was so hectic that a number of other vocalists kept their name going on record. A multi-tracked Irene Mawela performs “Uthando Luyisilima” alongside Potatoes Zuma, aka Indoda Mbhodlomane, a wonderful bass vocalist but someone whose stage name rides the waves of that true king of the groaners, Indoda Mahlathini.
Two other groaners following in Mahlathini’s footsteps were Umfana Wembazo – real name Robert Mkhize – and Boy Nze – otherwise known as Lazarus Magatole. Mbazo’s vocals can be heard punctuating the chorus in Dulcie Luthuli Nabalilizeli’s “Ntomb’uthini” and in his own splendid solo effort, “Maye Mina”. Boy Nze’s “Uzobuya” isn’t one to miss either – it’s perhaps one of the finest solo records from a male vocalist that I’ve ever heard.
Alongside the Queens at Mavuthela were junior bands, some of whom over the years included the Mthunzini Girls, Izintombi Zomoya, Umgungundlovu Dolls, Love Birds and many others. The Mthunzini Girls borrow from the US and inject soul into the mbaqanga brew – Paulina Zulu is the lead singer on (and songwriter of) “Tsohang” and “Ikele Ngoaneso”, two downright funky Sotho tunes that should at least make your foot tap. Izintombi Zomoya’s “Isilomo” – a fantastically rapid tune with animated vocals and excellent lively instrumentation – should also stir your soul.
A few more notable highlights for me - "Orlando", featuring the perennial vocal sound of the Dark City Sisters in all their mid-1960s glory, with Esther Khoza shouting words of praise for the Orlando Pirates; the group's 1976 Sotho ode "Dikgarebe" with Grace Msika's mid-song chant and Joyce Mogatusi's inimitable alto; "Daly", from the somewhat unknown Lesotho Sisters, just for the delightfully swish three-part harmonies; "Sophie" by Izingane Zomgqashiyo and its sweet lead guitar patterns; the strength of vocal passion in the Umgungundlovu Dolls' "Vuka Uvale"; the archetypal electric elasticity in all its glory in Reggie Msomi's Love Birds' "Uzwakanjani"; and the effective simplicity of the all-too-short "Umhlaba Awunoni" from Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje under another name.
So that’s all from Electric Jive for the moment. Whatever the New Year brings, you can rest assured we'll still be doing our utmost best to bring the sounds of yesteryear back to the forefront where they belongs. We're very grateful for all the support and appreciation you send our way - we just do it for the music and the people who created it all. So... download the following mix of mbaqanga heaven and clear the floor, ready to jive until you drop.
See you in 2015!
NEW YEAR JIVE!
COMPILED BY NICK LOTAY
01) NOBESUTHU AND GCABA TWINS – UTSHODO LUMANTWENGU (1966)
02) DARK CITY SISTERS – ORLANDO (c1965)
03) S’MODERN QUEENS – PENDULA MAGWALA (1967)
04) MARULA BOOM STARS – JIVE JIBAV NO. 7 (1965)
05) LESOTHO SISTERS – DALY (c1966)
06) IZINGANE ZOMGQASHIYO – SOPHIE (1968)
07) IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA – ISILOMO (1972)
08) BOY NZE – UZOBUYA (1971)
09) DULCIE LUTHULI NABALILIZELI – NTOMB’UTHINI (1971)
10) MSOMI AND AMAGUGU – SANNAH (1977)
11) UMGUNGUNDLOVU DOLLS – VUKA UVALE (1970)
12) MTHUNZINI GIRLS – TSOHANG (1972)
13) IZINTOMBI ZESI MANJE MANJE – SHE KEEPS ON KNOCKING (1974)
14) MTHUNZINI GIRLS – IKELE NGOANESO (1972)
15) AMAQHAWE – UMHLABA AWUNONI (1974)
16) DARK CITY SISTERS – DIKGAREBE (1976)
17) MAHOTELLA QUEENS – ISIGUBHU SABALOZI NO. 2 (1972)
18) INDODA MBHODLOMANE & MAHOTELLA QUEENS - UTHANDO LUYISILIMA (1974)
19) UMFANA WEMBAZO – MAYE MINA (1974)
20) REGGIE MSOMI’S LOVE BIRDS – UZWAKANJANI (1977)