Saturday 7 November 2009

The birth of Heshoo Beshoo

Tony McGregor spent Friday with bassist Ernest Mothle at a Pretoria memorial tribute gig to Winston Mankunku Ngozi. Tony was not sure that the version published by ElectricJive below was quite as he heard it, so he asked Ernie for his recollection of how Heshoo Beshoo were formed. Here is the story:  Ernest Mothle Playing at the Mankunku tribute in Pretoria (6th November) Pic: Tony McGregor.

The band Heshoo Beshoo grew out of a great friendship. formed in the home of jazz promoter and founder of the Johannesburg Jazz Appreciation Society, Ray Nkwe.

After the recording of Yakhal' inKomo, Mankunku Ngozi stayed on in Johannesburg at Nkwe's house and there Ernest Mothle, Cyril Magubane and drummer Gilbert Matthews used to hang out to listen to the rich collection of jazz albums that Nkwe had, courtesy of the record companies, especially RCA, who sent him albums to review.

Meanwhile Abdullah Ibrahim, on his first visit back to South Africa, had a gig at the Mofolo Hall in Soweto, for which he needed some supporting musicians. Ernest, Cyril, Mankunku and Gilbert were hired for the gig. For Ernest it was a life-changing moment. “I have never seen anything like it in South Africa – the musicians were actually crying on stage,” Ernest says of the gig. “It was very, very powerful.”

Ray Nkwe then teamed Gilbert and Mankunku up with the Schilder brothers from Cape Town to record the famous album Spring (This album has been put together with Yakhal' inKomo in re-issues).

To keep the band going, Ernest and Cyril then asked the Sithole brothers, Henry and Stanley, as well as Nelson Magwaza, to join them. This band was then named Heshoo Beshoo, with Ernest handling the business side of things and Cyril doing most of the composing.

The band played around Fordsburg in Johannesburg for a while and were heard by John Norwell who's father was on the board of EMI. He was looking for music of substance to record in South Africa but the company was more geared to the pop side. Norwell almost got fired for recording a jazz album. Norwell took the band into the studio and recorded the album released as Armitage Road.

Four of the five tracks on Armitage Road were composed by Cyril, the exception being “Wait and See” which was composed by Henry Sithole.

After the recording was released the band struggled to get paid, apparently because of internal disputes about it within EMI.

Ultimately Ernest went to the EMI offices and threatened to put a lawyer onto them, even though he had no money to pay a lawyer and didn't know a lawyer he could ask to act for them

Walking back down Eloff Street Ernest saw a lawyer's shingle and went into the office. He found that the lawyer had just set up his practice and Ernest was his first client. The lawyer offered to take on the case free. He wrote a letter to EMI which resulted in the band's fee being paid very quickly.
LINK to Arimtage Road.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the info; interesting yarn. -- Murf


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