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.


  1. This is so good. Thank you for all your hard work...

  2. Thanks for this, loving the title track!

  3. Many thanks. -- Murf

  4. this is incredible! thanks a lot!

  5. thank you! this is amazing! so rich!

  6. Only just discovered this. Beautiful music, thank you very much for sharing. Interesting fusion of mbaqanga, jazz, soul, funk, pop... a truely tasty meld!

    By the way, this was recorded directly before the Makhona Zonke Band LP "The Webb" (Soul-Jazz-Pop BL 73) and the uncredited musicians are most likely the band members. That is Marks Mankwane on lead guitar, and the others are almost certainly Vivian Ngubane (rhythm), Joseph Makwela (bass) and Lucky Monama (drums). West Nkosi may be one of the hornmen on here too alongside the fantastic Reggie. No idea on the other musicians sadly but the same female vocals as provided by Mavuthela's talented troupe of female singers including Olive Masinga (A2, B1 - B4) appear on A1 on BL 73.

  7. Thank you Nick! Your knowledge, insights and generosity are a real plus for all of us. The mind boggles at how much recording Marks Mankwane, Joseph Makwela and co must have done ... and I have never seen a picture of them driving a Cadillac or such like.

  8. so good. thank you so much! the female vocalists rules!!!

  9. This is a wonderful album, thanks so much for bringing it to my stereo, and for the background information.


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