Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Groovin' with Green Pastures (c1971)
Perhaps one of my favorite records is this rather obscure album by the Green Pastures issued on Durban's Raj label. The musicians are not necessarily "proficient" but their approach has a simplicity that is just hypnotic. Sitting somewhere between the soul sounds of the late 1960s and a kind of informal, stripped-down, quasi-surf-rock, the music only gets better when that elastic mbaqanga baseline occasionally enters. Don't Cry Baby is an excellent example of this rock-mbaqanga crossover, and was featured on my flatinternational mix posted at Matsuli in 2008. But the album has a number of other interesting and even strange gems like the final two tracks where the vocals are, at times, barely legible. These closing tracks almost sound like an amateur church band surfing a bit of Durban Poison!
I purchased the record from a seller in Durban in 2007 and I have only seen it come up on eBay one other time. There is next to zero information on the group and its members but judging from the cover photograph these guys appear to be serious mods or hipsters. I love the way the bassist is holding his instrument!
Another interesting detail is that the record used to be owned by Nanaboy Govender of Palmiet Road, who carefully scrawled his name and phone number across both sides of the cover. Palmiet Road is located in Reservoir Hills an historically Indian suburb of Durban in apartheid South Africa. The Raj Record Company was located on Prince Edward Street in downtown Durban near the Raj Cinema and began pressing local recordings in 1967. The label included some of the best Indian rock groups of the day including The Raiders and The Vampires both featured here at Electric Jive. (For more information on Raj check out Chris and Matt's excellent posts). Green Pastures, as a black African group in this context, may have been somewhat unusual. But their music certainly gives a flavor of what the vibrant Durban scene must have sounded like 45 years ago.
Grooving' with Green Pastures is the 22nd Raj LP release and issued just before Vampires Undergound (RMC SLP 023), The Vampires second album and maybe Raj's last pressing. That record has, since Chris' posting, been restored and reissued on Pharaway Sounds and is now available on vinyl and CD. For more detailed images of the Green Pastures cover check out flatinternational.
Grooving with "Green Pastures"