Welcome to December on Electric Jive! In my humble opinion, there can be no better way to kick off the festive season than with a seriously large dose of the greatest South African sax jive. Tetemuka Jive, released on the Inkonkoni label in 1969, collects 12 of the best mbaqanga instrumentals (originally released as singles) of the last 12 months.
At the time of this album’s release, Mavuthela Music – Gallo Africa’s black music production facility headed by Rupert Bopape – had successfully solidified its position as the most dominant African record label in the industry. This success was initially generated by a number of popular recordings from a line-up of female singers, later to be known as the Mahotella Queens, together with groaner Mahlathini and the Makgona Tsohle Band. The triumvirate recorded a frankly astonishing amount of hit singles during the 1960s in addition to extensive tours across the country to fulfil demand – so it was inevitable that the formidable and shrewd Bopape sought to replicate the success by forming a number of junior bands to follow in their footsteps.
Tetemuka Jive spotlights a couple of the more successful instrumental combos that Bopape formed to capitalise on the success of Marks Mankwane and company – Abafana Bemvunge (Boys of the grapevine) and Abafana Bama Big Bag (Boys of big bags). On this album, both teams provide the instrumental accompaniment to some of Mavuthela’s great sax jivers including Sipho Bhengu, Jack Lerole and Lemmy Mabaso. There are also two other numbers provided by the premier house band, Makgona Tsohle, in conjunction with premier sax jiver West Nkosi. This LP was the first issued on the Inkonkoni label, then the latest in a long line of Mavuthela labels (Motella, Gumba Gumba, C.T.C. Star Record, Smanje Manje… and so on). Though the term has since been adapted for other uses by the younger generation, ‘inkonkoni’ was at the time the straightforward Zulu term for 'wildebeest'.
It’s rare to come across an album of this style and vintage and find that every single track is nothing less than amazing. But I must admit to having a few personal favourites. “Tetemuka” (“Cruise along”) echoes some of the other sax jive singles of the decade including “Jive Mojikisa” and “Ice Cream and Suckers”, but this one must have been successful enough to warrant its appearance here as the title track and a follow-up recording, “Tetemuka No. 2”, from Izingane Zomgqashiyo (available on Indoda Mahlathini, Motella LMO 110). Big Voice Jack’s four numbers on Tetemuka Jive make remarkable use of other musical styles including tango, ska and soul. Marks Mankwane’s jive-tastic “Marks Special” started a huge craze and, with West Nkosi on alto sax and the rest of the Makgona Tsohle Band backing them up, he proceeded to record as many follow-up singles as possible over the next couple of years. But Marks’ “Pheladi” (“daughter-in-law”) is my absolute favourite and one can quite clearly hear the infectious beat eventually stir the band members up into a musical tizzy.
A huge, huge thanks to Manzo Khulu for providing the translations here.
Readers please stay tuned to Electric Jive this month for your usual end-of-year mixture of musical treats. I hope this one starts the party with an absolute bang! Enjoy!
produced by Rupert Bopape
Inkonkoni LNKO 2000