It might surprise you to know that this is the 400th post on Electric Jive. In fact, we at EJ HQ realised our 400th was coming only in the last week or so. It's really a bit of a milestone for us and one that we felt shouldn't go unnoticed. But we've decided it's better to give than to receive - so what better way to mark 400 posts than offering our readers another compilation of wonderful '60s and '70s South African vocal jive 45s?!
The Dark City Sisters, that wonderful group of wonderful dames, open this celebration with their 1968 hit "Nice Time". Though the Mahotella Queens had taken the crown upon their 1964 formation, the Sisters were unmoved and continued to fly their mighty flag up high under the stewardship of Joyce Mogatusi and her fellow songbirds Grace Msika, Esther Khoza and Audrey Zwane. The Sisters continued to perform and record for a further 40 years - by the end, only on a very small, local circuit - until the death of lead vocalist Joyce Mogatusi in July 2012. Grace Msika, now in her mid-70s, has retired from singing but still remembers and hails the magical voice of her late best friend whose talent put the Dark City Sisters on the map.
"Dikuku" was a huge Sotho vocal hit in 1968. Composed by singer Virginia Teffo and performed by John Moriri and the Mthunzini Girls (but released under their other recording name Izingane Zo Mgqashiyo), the song simply celebrates the tasty cakes prepared to be eaten at traditional wedding ceremonies. As the John and the girls sing, the cakes are delicious but marriage is a tough nut to crack. Apart from Virginia, the original Mthunzini Girls - Julia Yende, Windy Sibeko and Teddy Nkutha - had actually resigned not long before this recording was made and were now recording for Isibaya Music as Izintombi Zentuthuko. Virginia was kept at Mavuthela by boss Rupert Bopape, who eventually became father to her children. Although Bopape officially retired in 1979, he continued to write songs and travel to the Gallo studios until the early 1980s. Virginia continued popping in and out of the Mahotella Queens until Bopape entered his old age and settled in Limpopo.
Though "Intlonipho" is credited to the Mthunzini Girls, it is really performed by the Mahotella Queens. Juliet Mazamisa, the composer of the tune, joined the Mahotella Queens in 1965 as their alto vocalist. She had arrived at the Gallo studios with fire in her belly. Her family members had turned on her, furious and jealous that she wanted to express herself in some artistic way. In the Mahotella Queens, she found love and support from her fellow singers. In 1969, Juliet was among the handful of Queens who quit Mavuthela to join Isibaya, recording as Amakhosazana (princesses). They moved again after less than a year, this time over to Teal Records - "Mapule" was recorded there in 1971 - and after a further few years unsigned, Amakhosazana split. Juliet then joined John Moriri and the Manzini Girls over at Satbel to make a dozen wonderful recordings; "Ciyongi Khumbula" is another Mazamisa composition, featuring both John and Manzini Girl Joana Thango on lead vocal duties. But it was only right that Juliet, a wonderful raconteur and a truly natural actress, would try her hand at television drama once the SABC had developed its African TV business. Until her retirement in 2000, Juliet lit up the screen with her sizzling personality in a bevy of serious TV dramas and comedies.
The star that had once shone so brightly during the mid-1950s had more or less faded after the rapid changes in the music scene and a botched goitre operation, and by 1965, Mabel Mafuya found herself at something of a dead-end. So she got in touch with top producer Rupert Bopape, who agreed to sign the big name to Mavuthela. "Intombi Yami" is one of the few sides she recorded with the Mahotella Queens, then on the cusp of becoming the country's most popular group, but not even they could help to bring Mabel to the same heights of fame she enjoyed a decade previously. It wasn't until the advent of the SABC's black television production that Mabel, like Juliet Mazamisa, was able to successfully breakthrough into another market.
1970's "Sebokeng Sa Dipina" represents the time when the Mahotella Queens name was at its highest peak - the only problem was that the original line-up had just quit to form Amakhosazana over at Isibaya, so Rupert Bopape found himself having to rebuild the group on the orders of Gallo executives, who didn't want their most popular African group to disappear overnight. Until Hilda Tloubatla came back to the group after her brief maternity leave, Phyllis Zwane took over the reigns as lead singer. But Phyllis' vocal range was not nearly as powerful or distinctive as Hilda's, so Bopape moved her around Mavuthela until she was able to find her niche. By the time Phyllis recorded "Segametse" with Izintombi Zomoya in 1975, she was still trying to develop a lead singing voice but was ultimately drowned out by those who possessed more memorable voices, such as Hilda, Julia Yende, Sannah Mnguni, Joyce Mogatusi, Emily Zwane and Irene Mawela.
Irene provides the feminine touch to the testosterone-fuelled "Shona Phansi Ndoda", an ode to the hardworking men digging for gold and diamonds in South Africa's mines. The song is credited to Mahabula Joza but it is really Irene along with members of top male mbaqanga group Abafana Baseqhudeni. Their lead singer, Robert 'Mbazo' Mkhize, features on two other hits in this compilation: "Ngiyayithanda Lentombi", a brilliant solo effort from 1973, and as the male lead singer in the fantastic "Usapho" by Dulcie Luthuli and her group Abalilizeli. Mbazo, Boy Nze, Tshabalala, Mazambane, Mabhawodi and countless others were actually following in the footsteps of the original king of the groaners - the main man himself, Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde. The lion roars with all his might in "Basibon' Izithutha" (performed with the Mahotella Queens) and "Sabela Zwide" (a duo with the aforementioned Boy Nze).
We at Electric Jive sincerely hope you've enjoyed our posts over the past six years - how astounding to realise we've been going that long already! - and while 400 certainly doesn't have the robustness of a figure such as... for instance, 500... it's still humbling to reach such a target. I say with pride and not arrogance - truly - that Electric Jive holds an important position within the online movement towards the preservation and celebration of South African music from the 1950s through the 1980s. We'll carry on documenting this great country's rich musical heritage and sharing the out-of-print sounds of the past for as long as we possibly can.
Here's to the next 400! :)
Here's to the next 400! :)
COMPILED BY NICK LOTAY
01) DARK CITY SISTERS - NICE TIME (1968)
02) IZINGANE ZO MGQASHIYO - DIKUKU (1968)
03) MABEL MAFUYA AND THE QUEENS - INTOMBI YAMI (1965)
04) MTHUNZINI GIRLS - INTLONIPHO (1966)
05) SIMANJE MANJE - AWUSIBONI (1967)
06) IZINTOMBI ZESI MANJE MANJE - THEMBA MASOMBUKA (1966)
07) MAHLATHINI & IZINTOMBI ZO MGQASHIYO - BASIBON' IZITHUTHA (1969)
08) MAHLATHINI AND RHYTHM - SABELA ZWIDE (1972)
09) UMFANA WEMBAZO - NGIYAYITHANDA LENTOMBI (1973)
10) MAHOTELLA QUEENS - SEBOKENG SA DIPINA (1970)
11) DULCIE LUTHULI NABALILIZELI - USAPHO (1971)
12) MAKHOSAZANA - MAPULE (1971)
13) IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA - SEGAMETSE (1975)
14) JULIET, JOHN MORIRI & MANZINI GIRLS - CIYONGI KHUMBULA (1975)
15) JOHN MORIRI AND MANZINI GIRLS - ISITHUKUTHUKU SENJA SIPHELELA EBOYENI (1977)
16) MAHABULA JOZA - SHONA PHANSI NDODA (1976)
17) MSHIKISHI NAMAGUGU - NANGOMKHWENYANE (1977)
18) BOY NZE - SICELA INDLELA ESIBAYENI (1976)
19) THE QUEENS & NDLONDLO BASHISE BAND - TSETLANA (1976)
20) THE MAHLATHINI GIRLS - NGIZOSHONA PHI (1977)
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