Monday 26 September 2011

Mahotella Queens - Khwatha O Mone (1984)

We present to EJ readers today some clean 1980s mbaqanga courtesy of the Mahotella Queens.

A tasty mix of sounds cooked that great big pot, 1984’s Khwatha O Mone fuses straight-cut mbaqanga with rootsy stuff (“O Boshako”) and gospel (“Thato Ya Modimo”, “Moleko Ntlohele”) but also offers the winning formula of up-front stomping jive (“Ke Mmarona”, “Bana Mamelang”). The cover description calls it “Sotho Vocal / Traditional”, which doesn’t say much at all about how good this material is… American-style soul this definitely isn’t.

“O Boshako” is perhaps one of the finest tunes on this LP. Strong lead vocals from Emily Zwane, striking accordion work from Mzwandile David, amazing drumming from Michael Stoffel and layered lyrics written by Caroline Kapentar all help to make this song a great one. Every song is a gem, and this one gets the album off to a great start.

The friendly rivalry between the Queens and Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje was still going strong in the 1980s: the serene pose of the five Queens on the jacket of Khwatha O Mone mirrors the photo on the front of Izintombi’s 1979 LP Izenzo Zakho. Incidentally, Izintombi’s line-up in the early 1980s included two former Queens, Nobesuthu Shawe and Hilda Tloubatla – who, by the time of Khwatha O Mone’s release, had become a part of a reunion of the original Mahotella Queens in early 1983 – under the name Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo. (Stay tuned for a special EJ post soon, featuring music taken from two LPs from that 1983/4 reunion.)

Marks Mankwane, producer of the Queens at the time, once again provides crystal clear guitar work in combination with the typical florid keyboards and intricate bass lines. The vocalists on this album are: Emily Zwane (lead), Maggie Khumalo (alto), Beatrice Ngcobo (alto), Hazel Zwane (tenor) and Caroline Kapentar (tenor).


KHWATHA O MONE (Mahotella Queens)
Hit Special IAL 4005



Tuesday 20 September 2011

Shebeen (1959): South African Jazz musical

Some great 50s African Jazz on this musical performed by the cast of African Jazz and Variety  – well honed after seven years of touring southern Africa from 1952 to 1959. Supported by a diverse cast, Lionel Pillay, Lemmy Special and Elijah N’kwanyana were largely responsible for musical composition while Bill Brewer wrote and produced.

Like its more famous contemporary, King Kong, this recording of Shebeen gives us well crafted stand-alone songs that do not succumb to the “group-sing” tendency of some musicals. Set in Cape Town’s District Six (before the apartheid government tore it down), Shebeen fuses African jazz, kwela, marabi, and some great vocal performances from Ben Satch Masinga and, sadly, unlisted women. The likes of Dorothy Masuka, Dolly Rathebe, and Thandi Klaasen cut their teeth in this troupe.

One of the most notorious spots in Southern Africa is “District Six. Tough and vice-ridden, but possessing a definite dingy beauty, this is Cape Town’s “Casbah”, and no white man in his right senses ventures there at night. Crouching under the shadow of Table Mountain, the square-fronted houses crowding the pavements present impassive poker-faces behind which are hidden scores of “shebeens” – illicit drinking haunts, each presided over by its own “queen”, who distils and dispenses her own high-powered concoctions and can also provide a selection of “Nize Time Girls” for the added pleasure of her patrons”.

... The original cast of “SHEBEEN” was drawn from “AFRICAN JAZZ AND VARIETY”, a talented vaudeville company composed of Zulus, Swazis, Xhosas, Basutos, Pondos, Fingos, Indians, Malays and Cape Coloured artists. This group toured the Union of South Africa and the Rhodesias over a period of seven years, It was a hard but efficient training school from which are now emerging many of the leading figures in the new exciting theatre of Africa.” (from the record sleeve).

Rapidshare here
Mediafire here

Wednesday 14 September 2011

The Drive - Coming to the End of This (1976)

A return to the jazz fusion sounds of the Drive. But it's a disturbing cover and title given that both Henry Sithole and Bunny Lithuli came to their end in a car crash under a year later in May 1977. And after that the Drive dissolved with remaining members moving on to Spirits Rejoice, Sakhile and elsewhere.

But there are three glorious tracks with the band at the height of their powers. The copy of the album being shared today was manufactured and distributed in Mozambique under a Teal imprint. The urbane tastes of Maputo and Beira residents clearly needed to be met!

For detailed context and background please visit these earlier posts at matsuli and here at electricjive where a detailed discography is available.

The Drive - Coming to the End of This (RCL1208, 1976)
1. To the End
2. Ama Swazi
3. T.J. Bump
All compositions by Henry Sithole. Produced by David Thekwane


Thursday 8 September 2011

The Movers - Greatest Hits Vol. 4 (1971)

This post comes to you on the fly from OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg and because of that it will have to be short! But then again what more could be said about the funky soul sounds of The Movers who have been featured on Electric Jive at least five times in the last year. Today we focus on their fourth album Greatest Hits Volume 4 issued in 1971 on Teal's City Special label. View their other albums on Electric Jive including Greatest Hits Vol.2 (1970),  Repeat After Me (1974), Bump Jive (1975), Bump Jive 6 (1975) and on the compilation Tower Special (1975). 

Hope you enjoy!

The Movers
Greatest Hits Volume 4
City Special
CYL 1007

01) Alex Soul Hit
02) Last Word
03) Watch Out (with Diana Mbatha)
04) Hard Day's Work
05) Crying All Night (with Diana Mbatha)
06) Plea to my Heart (with Blondie Makhene)
07) Crying Guitar No.2
08) Soul Party (with Blondie Makhene)
09) It's a Pity
10) Sleep Out
11) Swazi Pineapples
12) Swazi Tribal Soul

Thursday 1 September 2011

The Jazz Ministers - Zandile

The Jazz Ministers – Zandile (Gallo BL 51, 1975)
Victor Ndlazilwane’s Jazz Ministers were one of the great festival bands of the 1970s – it seems that hardly a jazz fest passed without this popular and very accomplished group putting in a turn. Some background on Victor Ndlazilwane and the group has been provided on Electric Jive already (Nomvula’s Jazz Dance, here); the LP we share today is the 1975 set Zandile, once again featuring the teenage Nomvula Ndlazilwane at the ivories, and the great Johnny Mekoa on flugelhorn. The Zandile LP was reissued with a different cover in 1981 (check the flatinternational page, here, for details on both issues of this great album), and for a live version of ‘Take me to Brazil’, check the Strut LP Next Stop Soweto, vol 3, here.
Johnny Mekoa – Flugelhorn
Victor Ndlazilwane – Tenor sax
Nomvula Ndlazilwane – Piano
Boy Ngwenya – Bass
Shepstone Sothoane – Drums and cow bell
Produced by Ray Nkwe