Wednesday 28 October 2009

Pre-bop fifties Joburg Jazz Jukebox

A delightful and historically important compilation of early fifties township jazz - close-part harmonies, yodelling cowboy Tim Mkize, the Lo Six, Havana Swingsters, a little penny-whistling, and a great Dolly Rathebe track from the 1949 movie “Jim comes to Joburg”. And how about the sultry voice of Martha Mdenge – phew! (Read Janet Suzman on Martha Mdenge here).

The absence of a date anywhere on this publication is not inconsistent with the patronising otherness of the sleeve-note author. Simultaneously detached from the creators but intimately engaged with their products, there is an informed commentary on each song – my guess would be that this compilation was targeted to catch the ‘temporary’ wave of British audiences who were queuing to see the touring production of King Kong. Perhaps the record companies did not see the need for a date as they did not foresee any sustained international interest in African music? How wrong some of them still are.
1. Kalla’s Special : Spokes Mashiyane
2. Habotle Rebobakate : Lo Six
3. Ematyeni : The Royal Players
4. Icingo : The Harmony Crotchets
5. Ekuseni: Martha Mdenge and the Black Four
6. Madlamini: Timothy Umlaba Mkize
7. I’ll never say never again: Simon ‘Blues’ Ntaba and the Harmony Crotchets
8. In the Mood : Pietersburg Star Boys
9. Nansi Van Enkulu: African Mills Brothers
10. Mzala: Havana Swingsters
11. Mpefumlo Wami: King Cole Boogies
12. Nozizwe: Dolly Rathebe with the African Inkspots

Thank you Jonathan Eato in York (UK) for sharing this vinyl. Jonathan is in the process of developing the Jazz in South Africa (JISA) research pages - have a look.

updated link Oct 2015 here

Sunday 25 October 2009

African Spaces

For many the seminal Afro-Jazz fusion group formed in the musical laboratory that was the Pelican Nightclub in Orlando, Soweto. Criticised at times for being too intellectual this band was the genesis of Sakhile, Stimela and the individual careers of Bheki Mseleku, Mervyn Afrika and others. A re-issue was planned by David Mark's 3rdEar label just before the passing of Sipho Gumede but current discussions apparently revolve around remixing the original LP and excluding certain tracks. ElectricJive brings you the original LP and a bonus 45. Enjoy whilst it is still out of print.

Spirits Rejoice - African Spaces (ATH4010, 1977)
1. Joy

2. Standing Here Alone
3. Savage Dance and African Spaces
4. Mulberry Funk
5. Minute Song
6. Sugar Pie
7. Makes Me Wonder Why
8. Electric Chicken
Bonus tracks (from 7"):
I'm So Strong Now (What Does It Matter)
Shine On

Monday 19 October 2009

Blue Notes (1962) Go Musical: Mr Paljas

Chris McGregor and Stanley Glasser team up here to bring us a 1962 musical story of dwindling fish stocks, lonely wives, and ‘bergies’ (tramps) being appointed to run the Village Management Board. The tramps start levying outrageous taxes on the villagers so they can build a ‘lighthouse in the sky’. Funny thing how the subject matter of so many musicals can always seem relevant, no matter how dated the music may feel and where you may live.
Recorded in January 1962 at the Manley Van Niekerk Studios in Cape Town, Mr Paljas presents some key Blue Notes members along with some other stars:
Chris McGregor - piano, leader;
Dudu Pukwana - alto sax
Nick Peterson - alto sax;
Cornelius Kumalo - baritone sax, clarinet;
Hugh Masekela - trumpet (see Blue Notes discography)
Dennis Mpali - trumpet;
Blyth Mbityana - trombone;
Joe Mal - bass;
Columbus Joya – drums.

Stanley (Spike) Glasser was also musical director of King Kong - he wrote some of those songs too. Glasser left South Africa for England in 1963 and was Professor and Head of Music at Goldsmiths College, University of London from 1969 to 1991. He retained close links with the country of his birth and studied the music of the Pedi and the Xhosa people.

Adam Glasser – Stanley’s son – is an accomplished jazz harmonica player, having recently released an African-jazz album entitled “Freedom at First” – which features Pinise Saul on vocals. It really is well worth getting hold of a copy. You can find out more about it here.

This recording of Mr Paljas was very kindly made available to EJ through artist and collector extraordinaire, Siemon Allen. If you have not seen his installation of Miriam Makeba records (amongst other wonders), that is another web-visit worth making. Siemon tells us that, in the near future he will be setting up a website for an archive of South Africa audio at In the interim he can be reached at Thanks Siemon for sharing!

Mike Fowler has built up a valuable "Blue Notes" discography and archive here
Mr Paljas
1. Daeraad (Daybreak)
2. Paljas
3. Stick Around
4. Sophia
5. To The Boats
6. More Fish In The Sea
7. One Bright Day
8. Fish Galore!
9. Overture To Act II
10. Lighthouse In The Sky
11. Ghoema Song
12. Unpredictable
13. Goodbye Paljas
14. When You’re At Sea
15. Rock Lobster
16. Sing Tomorrow
LP released on Gallo: GALP 1207

Thursday 15 October 2009

Phiri: An eternal musical

Now here is a special and rare musical treat with a topical message for today’s times.
Phiri is Barney Simon’s African “Volpone” – a 1972 musical about the richest people and the poorest people in Soweto. Add Wally Serote to the co-writing team, and then mix four months of intensive musical composition input from Mackay Davashe and Cyril Magubane (Heshoo Beshoo Group - who will appear on EJ) … and then bring in a stellar band with three of the Heshoo Beshoo Group, Mackay Davashe and Barney Rachabane… and you have a cracker of a production.

Phiri is the richest and most mischievous villain and swindler in Soweto. He pretends to be on his deathbed, desperate for a wife and heir to his riches – attracting a long line of people bringing bribes to Phiri’s side-kick Mutla to win the favour of becoming the heir. Wealthy shebeen-queen Mamabele (Sophie Mgcina) is pregnant and decides she is tired of ‘having bastards’, and a half-dead man suits her fine. Phiri’s plan is to have his will read at his coffin – leave everything to Mutla – and then to leap out of the coffin and chase all the expectant bribers away with a sjambok (whip). The plan misfires when Mamabele brings a police sergeant to the reading of the will. Phiri stays in the coffin in fear of the trouble he will get into – and later has to run off to one of the homelands, while Mutla shares Phiri’s wealth with the people on the street. You can read more about the basic plot of the original 1606 Ben Johnson play “Volpone” here.
Cyril Magubane: Guitar
Mackay Davashe – Tenor Sax
Nelson Magwaza – Drums
Ernest Mothle – Bass
Barney Rachabane – Alto Sax, Flute
Zachariah Ntsele – Trumpet
Themba Koyani – Baritone Sax

1. Klink of Khooza (apologies for the jump on starting)
2. Mamabele - Sophie Mgcina
3. Twilight
4. Money Makes Madness
5. H.P. Blues
6. Who’s Earth is This
7. Choo Cha (Black Mamba)
8. Leeba’s Dance
9. Madam Please
10. In this our World
11. See these hands
Musical Director: Mackay Davashe
CBS ASF 1652

Tuesday 13 October 2009

RIP: Winston Mankunku Ngozi

Jazz great Winston Mankunku has died in Cape Town. The masthead photo of ElectricJive (above) features Mankunku centre-stage on his soprano saxophone playing at the Langa Town Hall in 1972. It was taken by Ian Huntley, a long-time friend and supporter of this great musician.
Mankunku had been ill for months, staying with family in Atlantis. Born in Retreat in Cape Town in 1943 Mankunku leaves a huge legacy to the world of jazz. The Ngozi family was uprooted from their home and relocated to Gugulethu under the Group Areas Act in the early 60s.
John Coltrane was Mankunku's greatest source of inspiration and his respect and admiration for "Trane" endured throughout his career. Ian Huntley recalls many car journeys with Mankunku in the backseat where he would play multiple ongoing looping variations of "My favourite things" as they drove to and from gigs. We in KZN were blessed in the 1980s to witness his special talents when he gigged at the Rainbow in Pinetown and at Eddels in Pietermaritzburg - on the same day!
In 1968 Mankunku recorded the famous Yakhal'Nkomo album together with Early Mabuza, Agrippa Magwaza and Lionel Pillay. Although he received the Castle Lager "Jazz Musician of the Year" in the same year, and despite the fact that the album sold well, Mankunku received little of the royalties.
In celebration of this great musician's contribution to enriching all of our lives, we share this rare and funky  1975 recording of Mankunku with The Cliffs - Alex Express.
Hamba Kahle Baba!
1. Alex Express
2. Over the Cliff
3. Gugulethu
4. Evergreen
5. Revelation

New Link

Saturday 10 October 2009

South African Musical Time

King Kong may be among the most well known South African musical theatre pieces, but it is not the only one. Here at EJ we are happy to admit a limited knowledge of this phenomenon – but that does not mean we cannot share a few of these rarities with you.

Over the next while we will share three we have lined up – Busang Meropa (1989); Phiri (1972) and Mr Paljas (1962).

Busang Meropa (Bring back the Drums) is a South African play written and directed by Maishe Maponya, and was first produced at the Birmingham Repertory in 1989. A number of Maponye’s plays fell foul of the apartheid authorities. Maponya founded the Bahumutsi ("Confronters") Drama Group in 1976 "to reflect in drama the struggle of the people of South Africa". This group was mostly based at the Moravian church hall in Diepkloof, Soweto, but did undertake a number of European Tours in the 1980s.

Sounds from Bahumutsi is an offshoot of the Bahumutsi Drama Group.
Lyrics and Poems by Maishe Maponya - this recording uses six different South African languages:
Performed by:
Moses Ngwenya (bass)
Fuya Nofuya (guitar)
Zenzi Mbuli (drums)
Maile Maponya (piano, flute, voice)
Backing vocals: Nomthemba Mdini; Nomvuyo Mahabehlala; Aubrey 'Ops' Matonyane'; Sydwell Yola; Dan Tlouana; Maishe Maponye; Zenzi Mbuli.
Recording Engineer: Graham Handley
Recorded in South Africa and mixed at The Point, London.

1. Izwe Lolhleko
2. Iyeza Inkululeko
3. Jo'Burg City - Recited by Nomathemba
4. Little Girl of Eight - Recited by Nomvuyo
5. So Many Questions - Recited by Maishe
6. Ugly Brown Canvas Uniform - Recited by Maishe
7. Busang Meropa
8. Helelelele - Recited by Aubrey
9. To the Comrades (Questions)
10. Manano Wee!
11. Mister Gunslinger - Recited by Maishe
12. Hoyina Hoyina - Recited by Sydwell

Tuesday 6 October 2009

When 9 was 6...lest we forget

Another of those rarely seen LPS hiding in the ElectricJive vaults. Includes some key players who created the iconic Mannenberg composition, namely Monty Webber on drums and Basil Coetzee on sax. Enjoy

Remember District Six - A Musical Concept by Sammy Hartman, Lionel Beukes and Monty Webber assisted by Basil (Mannenberg) Coetzee, Errol Dyers and Monwabisi (CBS, ASF 1889, 1976)
1. District Six
2. Love Song
3. Ostracism
4. Simplicity
5. Strange People
6. Happy All The Time

Produced by Monty Weber
Recorded at UCA Studios, Cape Town
Marketed and Distributed by Gramaphone Record Company Pty Ltd

Friday 2 October 2009

Makasi and Mbambisa ride again

Here's a real treat for South African jazz fans. Tete Mbambisa and Duku Makasi in this 1969 studio recording. Very rarely seen on eBay and mostly only gathering dust on collectors shelves. Enjoy!

"It's hardly news anymore that Cape musicians are the best in the Republic of South Africa. It goes without saying that they are still the originals from who almost every group draws more inspiriation. Still it may help silence the jazz diehards who have been doing the 'Cape artists are not that great bit' all year. In this disc they have come out with a very impresive package that will knock you out. The title tune Inhlupheko (Distress) a ditty that wraps around you with infiinite sadness was born at the 'Blue Berry', home of iimpressario Ray Nkwe and Soweto's jazz workshop where entertainers meet to share ideas and knock tunes into shape. It happened during the festive season in 1968. Four gawky figures, their limbs ached and their faces were masks of dejection. They were from Port Elizabeth and had come to the Golden City to perform at shows. The concerts were financial flops and the four musicians were left stranded. When they finally reached the Blue Berry their lonely desperation flooded into Rays heart and he fed the four hungry men. With their tummies full the four jazzmen controbuted towards a drink work fifty cents and it gurgled happily down their throats.They picked up their instruments and started to blow. They blew into the night and temporarily forgot their distress. Thats how Inhupeko was born. The composer of the song, Duku Makasi has been called the new tenor-sax voice of 1969 and this recording proves he is also the sound of '69. He has that hard core of progressive jazz and tears up with a fine rhythm backing of Tete Mbambisa on piano, drummer Mafufu Jama and the thudding bass of "Big T"Ntshele. The other tunes on this LP record illustrates the group's fine voice. And the musical mind behind the success story of the Soul Jazzmen is Duku Makasi. Just one more treat for jazz fans." (From the original liner notes)

THE SOUL JAZZMEN - INHLUPEKO (City Special, CYL1000, 1969)
1. Inhlupeko
2. Relaxin'
3. Mr Mecca
4. How Old is the World
5. Love For Sale
6. Dollar the Great
The Soul Jazzmen: Tete Mbambisa (Piano), Duku Makasi (Tenor Sax), Psch "Big T" Ntsele (Bass) and Mafufu Jama (Drums)
Recorded 6th January 1969. Produced by Ray Nkwe. Cover photos by Alf Khumalo