Sunday 31 January 2010

Sixties Twist Jive Jazz ‘n Ska Mbaqanga from South Africa

Reggie Msomi was a prolific writer who drew upon and fused multiple cosmopolitan influences into a sound that must have energised Western and African audiences alike. While having its distinct South Africa flavour, this fusion of jazz, jive, ska and twist would – if it had been so distributed - most likely have filled sixties dance-floors from Kingston to Kinshasa – from New York via London back to New Orleans.

Thanks again to artist and collector extraordinaire Siemon Allen for sharing these rarities with ElectricJive. If you have not yet done so – do yourself the favour of giving Siemon’s flatinternational site a browse, starting here.

new download link here (June 2015)

Sunday 24 January 2010

Swing Africa: Reggie Msomi and His Jazz Africa (1976)

Mbaqanga may have paid the bills, but for Reggie Msomi and quite a few other talented 1970s South African musicians, jazz and soul were their first love. A relatively small buying public meant that some strong music was being overlooked by the record companies. With a big reputation in the  industry as a consumate musician, talent scout, band-leader, writer, arranger and producer, Msomi managed to record   this eclectic and now rare collection of his own soul, jazz and even marabi-tinged compositions – recorded as a Mavuthela Production two weeks before the Soweto uprisings in June 1976. Do yourself a favour – sit down and listen to “Swing Africa”, or better still, stand up and Swing Africa  - some jazz, lots of soul, but essentially South African!

Reggie Msomi formed and led the Hollywood Jazz Band in 1962. He wrote scores of hits for big stars, including Miriam Makeba. One of his bands' own hits that has endured in current compilations is "Midnight Ska", a great sixties ska number which can be downloaded here. In the early seventies Msomi was also band leader of the Flying Jazz Queens, a popular Mbaqanga group.

From the back cover:
“Reggie was born at Frankland KwaQwabe the Ngunis, along the South Coast, Port Shepstone, Natal. He grew up like all other African Boys, first herded cattle then went to school. He started his music career at an early age, when he made his own guitar with a gallon tin a wooden handle and three ordinary wire strings. He was only ten years of age when he was playing his hand-made guitar, entertaining beer-drinking older men. In 1953 Reggie left Natal for Johannesburg seeking work in the gold mines as a male nurse in the mine hospital.

“He bought himself an electric guitar whilst employed by the mines. After a year’s service he left the mines and worked for the Turf Club as a groom boy. There he played for the people of Magaba Njegabane.

“The following year he joined a recording company known as RCA where he met people like Chuks Chukudu, bass player; Stanford Tsiu, guitarist; Christopher Songxaka on tenor saxophone. Later he joined Gallo Africa where he made best-selling records composed by himself, some of them he recorded with famous stars like Miriam Makeba, Manhattan Brothers, Lemmy Special Mabaso; The Sky Larks and the late Spokes Mashiyane.

“Most of the songs played by Spokes were composed by Reggie who also played a guitar. They were then under talent scout, the late Sam Alcock. In 1960 Reggie was now playing a saxophone. He then recorded a song titled “Dinner Time Twist” which he composed. In 1962 he was appointed as a talent scount for Gallo Africa. During the same year he formed his own band known as the “Hollywood Jazz Band” which took part in the Batfire Trade Fair in South Africa. In 1965 he toured Rhodesia and Zambia with his band. In 1966 he joined Mr R. Bobpape together with the Mahotella Queens and Makgona Tsohle Band.

“Between 1970 and 1974 he was on his own doing his works at his house until he recorded an album entitled “Bump to Bump”. Through thick and thin he is taking us to the heart of Africa with this fantastic album.”

Written, arranged and produced by Reggie Msomi
Co-produced by West Nkosi
Recording Engineer: Peter Ceronio

1. Swing Africa
2. I Like Summertime
3. Emkhumbane
4. Leave Me No More
5. Days to Remember
6. Respect is Important
7. Lord Love Us All

Soul Jazz BL 72
No further information on the other musicians.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Mbaqanga from the men of Super Ten (1981)

The Super Tens herald further wishes for a "super" 2010 to all ElectricJive readers! This year’s third instalment of electric jive is a double-dose straying into the early 1980s and to a highly popular all-male band dispensing an increasingly sophisticated and rounded mbaqanga, re-introducing some marabi jive, but also flagging a taste of future 80s sounds.

Fronted by three tight saxophones (including Lemmy 'Special' Mabaso), the honey-smooth vocal harmonies, funky keyboards, and a pinch of synth, glide along to a strong mbaqanga drum and bass foundation.

EJ reader Gordon O’s request for the Super Tens got me digging out these two LPs bought at the store that traded in traditional medicine, plastic buckets and African music LPs at the top-end of Church Street next to Pietermaritzburg Central Railway Station in the early 1980s. Named after the first wave of 1970s ten-seater taxis, ‘The Super Tens’ spoke deeply to migrant workers - a pervasive beerhall sound-track, pulsing from straining speakers in the doorways of furniture and clothing stores across downtown urban South Africa.

From the inside cover of 'Umuzi Wempi': “The ‘Super Tens’ formed with some of the finest musicians in early 1981. They have gone from strength to strength, and their first release entitled “Ukuhla’ekweni” went double gold on release. Since then they have had hit after hit, establishing themselves. As one of South Africa’s top groups they have sold in excess of 160,000 units in records and tapes, with hits such as   Indod’Iyakhuluma”, “Khatazile”, “Usithathapi Usibandi”, and many more. This new album shows the true talent of the “Super Tens” and every number on the album is a hit. We are sure that the fans will enjoy the new release entitlted “Umuzi Wempi”, which took a long time in the studio to ultimately get the right sound. The “Super Tens” would like to thank all their fans for supporting them, and also to Maxwell Mngadi for his fine production of their LP’s.”

Musicians on “Umuzi Wempi”:
Lemmy Mabaso – Alto Sax and Tenor Sax
Noah Nduweni – Alto Sax
Maxwell Mngadi – Lead and bass guitar
Henry Ngwenya – All keyboards and synthesiser
Cyprian Cele and Sipho Bhengu – Vocal and Harmonies
Reggie Mfeka – Bass Guitar
Sipho Xaba – Drums
Richard Bongani Hadebe – Lead Guitar

On “Indod’Iyakhuluma” - the band has a third sax player in ‘Boy Mpongose’. Sipho Yeni plays keyboards.

"Umuzi Wempi"
1. Umuzi Wempi
2. Okwa Bonwa Yimi
3. Izinto Ziyajikajika
4. Uyokhala Zome
5. Sa Sala Sihlupekha
6. Ithemba Alibulali
7. Uyindod’ Enjani?
8. Umgumxa Banisi
9. Phindile
10. Lizzy
Beat City QBH 1026. (1982)

MF Link

1. Indod’Iyakhuluma
2. Ukhulumelani Kabi Ngegamalami
3. Khatazile Yini Ngawe
4. Kant’Uyintombenjani?
5. Ucele Uxolo Njalo
6. Mama Ka Nonhlanhla
7. Ba Ka-Sipho
8. Ngiboniseni Madoda
9. Ustithathapi Isibindi
10. Ngiyazisola
Beat City QBH 1023 (1981)

MF Link

Thursday 14 January 2010

Jiving Two Times with The Queue Sisters

Sharp on the heels of Izinthombi Zesi Manje Mange and the Space Queens comes another dose of electric jive. This time from the Queue Sisters. Kwa Nobamba is an area close to the Zulu Royal Kraal at Ulundi and the cover image gives prominence to the beer pot, an item then found in every Zulu household and symbolic both as a receptacle of heritage and of a spirit of togetherness.

The Queue Sisters - Kwa Nobamba (Number One 9043, 1975)
1. Kwa-Khahya Ezani
2. Ethembeni
3. Kwala Mangihambe
4. Uphetheni
5. Kwa Nobamba
6. Tshitshi Lami
7. Mamazane
8. Ziya Sengwa
9. Isisho Sabadala
10. Bhande Lami
11. Ayinganga Mlomo
12. Vuma Mngoma
Producer unknown

Thursday 7 January 2010

The Sound of Now

We can only speculate about a parallel universe in which Joseph Makwela never bought an electric bass off Mannie Parkes (see the Mavuthela story at matsuli) or where Robert Bopape at Mavuthela Productions never introduced Marks Mankwane to Joseph and the other band members that were to solidify the foundations of mbaqanga as the Makhona Tsohle Band. But enough the late sixties the formula had been laid and "vocal jive" (we like to call it electric jive) was the modern urban sound of NOW. Its not surprising that the female band to challenge the crown of the Mahotella Queens and the Dark City Sisters was Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje - literally "the NOW NOW GIRLS". Other girl groups heralding the new were the S'modern Girls, the Queue Sisters, the Manzini Girls, the Flying Jazz Queens, Mgababa Queens and the Space Queens amongst others. And so serious dose of electric jive from Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje and the Space Queens.

Ingwe idla Ngamabala (CBS, LAB4005, 1968)
1. Ingwe Idla Ngamabala - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje
2. Shela Wethu - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje
3. Isinkwa Nobanana - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje
4. Siy' Emshadweni - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje
5. Indandato - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje
6. Sizoni Dlalela - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje
7. Siyo Ba Bamba - Space Queens
8. Sesi Ngenile - Space Queens
9. Sesi Yeza - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje
10. Jabulani Nonke - Space Queens
11. Sivela Pesheya - Space Queens
12. Isalukazi - Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje


If you wish to purchase the CD compiling their greatest hits then you can buy the Best of Izintombi Zese Manje Manje from for ZAR40.00. This release was re-mastered as part of Rob Alingham’s work whilst at Gallo Archives. Louise Meintjies has also written extensively on Izinthombi Zesi Manje Manje in her fascinating book Making Music Zulu. More details via AMAZON.

Oh, and happy 2010!