Saturday 27 August 2011

Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje - Umuntu Othulile (1979)

Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje is a group that needs little introduction to regular EJ visitors. It is a name that conjures up the classic sights and sounds of mbaqanga's heyday - the quick-tempo jive music, the line-up of girls swaying to the beat, the groaner cutting through the atmosphere with his gruff voice.

For this post, however, we will be taking a brief look at one of the "forgotten" parts of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje's career... the fusion of soul into their mbaqanga stylings in the late 1970s.

Hamilton Nzimande, talent scout at EMI, was promoted to the highest position - producer - after his boss Rupert Bopape was enticed by Gallo to lead their new African music operation in 1964. Nzimande took over as the man behind the Dark City Sisters and the Flying Jazz Queens until 1967. Gramophone Record Company (GRC), a subsidiary of CBS, started up a new black music production company for which Nzimande became the new producer. The company was named Isibaya Esikhulu and was intent on challenging the crown held by Gallo's Mavuthela Music. The monarchs of Gallo-Mavuthela were the Mahotella Queens, the country's most popular female group at the time. In a shrewd move, Nzimande lured several of the Queens away from Gallo-Mavuthela and into Isibaya Esikhulu with the offer of more money. The early line-up included Nunu Maseko, Windy Sibeko, Thopi Mnguni, and the lead vocals of Sannah Mnguni, but the more memorable line-up stabilised in 1971: Jane Dlamini, Lindiwe Mthembu, Nobesuthu Shawe, Hilda Tloubatla and Ruth Mafuxwane. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje were neck-and-neck with the Mahotella Queens and managed to regularly topple them for a while in the early 1970s.

Electric Jive has already shared a previous Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje LP that gives a wonderful summary of their late 1960s formative material. Umuntu Othulile likewise offers a wonderful summary, this time of the late 1970s, at a time when the legendary Soul Brothers (perhaps the "male equivalent" of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje) were ruling supreme, and all-female line-ups were beginning to move out of the limelight. While the 1960s material will always be classic, there are some real gems in this record.

The typical keyboard, drums, bass and guitar sound is prevalent throughout the album, and while it is not one of Izintombi's "classic" albums, it is totally worth a listen to. One highlight is "Lensizwa", which appears to be a reworked version of the Soul Brothers hit "Mantombazane". Other tunes to look out for include the ballad-like "Ungabinomona" and "Nayi Lensizwa", and the expressive "Siyoyicela Ivuthiwe".

Only a handful of Izintombi's recordings are available to purchase, and those that are available are hardly a sampler for this great band's best material - even their "Best of" collection omits the classic, high-selling 1970s material, focusing only on the modern early 1980s sounds - but we hope this share today contributes to lifting the lid further on a wonderful musical career.


UMUNTU OTHULILE (Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje)
Masterpiece LMS 541


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Sunday 21 August 2011

Another Spirits Rejoice LP is found

Another surprise that none of us here at Electric Jive knew of. When EJ reader Molemo contacted me and asked if I would be interested in hearing the self-titled Spirits Rejoice album I was confused. The only Spirits Rejoice LP I knew of was 1976 African Spaces featured here earlier on EJ.

We now know that South Africa’s leading 70s jazz fusion band made another record, this time through Joburg records and distributed by WEA. This recording showcases a band that had diversified its style repertoire - remaining rooted in a fusion mould, with a touch of latin, in places it begins to show tiny glimpses of the emerging 80s smooth jazz trend that became so popular in South Africa.  Thank you Molemo.

1. Emakhaya
2. Woza Uzo Kudanisa Nathi
3. Music Is Our Purpose
4. Spirits
5. Happy and in Love
6. Confusions
7. Why All This Time
8. Papa's Funk

Robbie Jansen- Alto sax, flute, lead vocals
Paul Petersen- Electric and acoustic gutar
Duke Makasi- tenor and soprano sax
Mervyn Africa- fender rhodes, strings, acoustic piano and ARP synth
Gilbert Matthews - drums, belltrees, vibra slap and finger cymbals
Thabo Mashishi- 2nd trumpet
George Tyefumani- 1st trumpet and vocal on "emakhaya", additional percussion on "woza"
Sipho Gumede- Bass
"Joy"- backing vocals on Happy and in Love" and "Papa's Funk".

1978 Joburg Records, distributed by WEA records

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Monday 15 August 2011

The Movers play Mannenberg

There's an ownership dispute at the heart of South African jazz composition and anthem Mannenberg. Those disputing Abdullah Ibrahim's authorship point to it being a slowed down version of a Zacks Nkosi tune Jackpot. For this reason Lulu Masilela approached the Movers to record the song and have it credited to Nkosi. Producer David Thekwane refused to let Lulu and the Movers credit Nkosi but they did have the pleasure of seeing their version outsell Ibrahim's.

Listen to Jacks Nkosi's Jackpot

Watch and listen to Abdullah Ibrahim's version

The Movers - Repeat After Me (GEN-3007, 1974; also City Special CYL1029)
1. Mannenberg
2. Change My Love
3. Repeat After Me
Produced by David Thekwane.
Movers: Sam Thabo (drums), Archie Mohkaka (drums), Sankie Chounyane (piano, organ), Oupa Hlongwane (lead guitar), Norman Hlongwane (bass guitar), Peter Moteolhe (bass guitar), Lulu Masilela (alto sax), Thomas Phale (alto sax), David Thekwane (alto sax), Dakkie Tau (lead guitar), Robert Mbele (tenor sax)


Tuesday 9 August 2011

Miriam Makeba in Tokyo (1968)

Electric Jive is proud to present a unique, Japan only, release by South African icon Miriam Makeba. This is one of the rarest of the Makeba albums, coming up (as far as I know) only twice on eBay in the last six years. Recorded in Tokyo on August 28th 1968 this live album comes in the wake of her classic Pata Pata disc, which also marked the height of her US career. The album is Makeba’s second live release after In Concert! was recorded and issued the previous year in 1967. An earlier live recording of Makeba at Bern’s Salonger in Stockholm was made in 1966 and broadcast on Swedish Television in 1967 but was not issued until 2003. The DVD of the Swedish concert is simply stunning and I highly recommend it!

Makeba’s Japan tour came at a turbulent time for the singer and anti-apartheid activist. Four months earlier, in April of 1968, she had married Stokely Carmichael, the charismatic civil rights leader and president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The marriage came with much media scrutiny including a full color spread in Ebony magazine. The FBI considered Carmichael to be a dangerous radical and extended its investigations to include Makeba. Soon recording contracts were dropped and performances cancelled and by early 1969 the couple had left the US for Guinea. After her 1970 album Keep Me in Mind Makeba had no major-label releases in the US until the 1988 Sangoma.

In Tokyo offers many gems, most notably the first live recordings of Pata Pata and Malayisha. A Manhattan Brothers classic, Malayisha, had been issued as a single by Makeba but was not included on any of her albums at that time. The studio version eventually found a place on the CD re-issue of Pata Pata. For me a notable track on the album is Makeba’s version of Jeremy Taylor’s A Piece of Ground taken from the musical Wait a Minim. Makeba first recorded this song on her album The Magnificent Miriam Makeba in 1966 and an alternative version is featured on the classic Pata Pata album as well as In Concert! The song sung live also gave Makeba the opportunity to subtly bring up race relations in South Africa and it is interesting to compare her almost identical intros to the song on both live albums.

The lineup on the Tokyo album includes Sivuca (on accordion and guitar), Leopoldo Fleming (on percussion)—both featured regularly on the majority of Makeba’s Reprise releases—and Jimmy Phillips on bass.

A comprehensive discography for Makeba is currently in process… so watch this spot! For more information on Makeba I recommend Ake Holm’s dedicated site! Holm is also responsible for bringing the live Swedish recording to light.

Interesting detail... notice the dresses Makeba and her backing vocalist are wearing? The same dress is also featured as a wall hanging in the cover image of Letta Mbulu's second album Free Soul which was similarly released in 1968.

Miriam Makeba in Tokyo
Reprise, Japan
SJET 8082 
(white label promo)

A1) Jikele Maweni 
A2) Mas Que Nada
A3) Click Song No.1 (Qoqotwane)
A4) Ask the Rising Sun
A5) Ibablazie
A6) Ring Bell, Ring Bell
A7) Malayisha
B1) Umqokoza
B2) Hambe Haye
B3) A Piece of Ground
B4) Reza
B5) Into Yam
B6) Pata Pata
B7) Amampondo 

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Deep funk on Deep South: Joshua Sithole's Africa

Joshua Sithole: Joshua Sithole's Africa (Deep South DSML 003, 1975)

Despite a long professional career that began in 1959 with his brother Robert in the Kwela Kids, Cape Town guitarist Joshua Sithole seems to have left a relatively modest ripple in the discographic waters. His death in 1999 brought testimony of his ubiquity and hard work on the club circuit, and a trickle of fond memories concerning his long-running residency at the Heidelberg Tavern can be found on the web (some recordings, perhaps suggesting the flavour of crowd expectations at the Heidelberg, can be found here). The proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in the case of an amnesty hearing for APLA cadre Luyanda Gqomfa, indicate Sithole was playing the Heidelberg gig on the 30th December 1993 when Mr Gqomfa and others attacked the pub with AK47s, R4s and grenades, on grounds of it being a known Security Forces hang-out.

Our friends at Soul-Safari posted a superb Joshua S-penned late 60s Kwela Kids side a few weeks back (here), and today we share a rare full length LP, Joshua Sithole’s Africa, the back cover of which rather confusingly pictures him playing soprano. Needless to say, it is rather heavier fare than covers of 'Wonderful Tonight' and 'Groovy Kind of Love'.