Monday 26 March 2012

In Exile - Volume 1/2

South Africa outside!
For the past ten years I have been exploring through a number of varied projects the idea of a history of South Africa outside itself. The premise of the research involves the idea that individuals (as well as artifacts) leave the country for a range of complex reasons and thereafter exist in an external space. Often these individuals (and the histories they embody) remain unrecognized or forgotten in South Africa. My goal has been to mine and collate the information and to return it in some form back to a South African audience. In many ways the compilation featured here today is part of one of these projects and features a cross-section of mostly South African music in exile.

For purposes of definition, exile music here covers a thirty year period from 1959 to 1990, during the heart of the apartheid years. This survey is by no means comprehensive, nor is it representative of all South African exile artists or even their ‘best’ work. Rather it is a collection of some of my favorite, more personal tunes. Tunes that for me capture some of the darker but also more ecstatic moments of exile.

The alienation, isolation of the foreign experience is evident on many tracks, especially the solo performances. But at the same time, so are fragments of cultural memory, various phrasings, quotes of the majuba sounds of the 1950s, that instantly recall a distant home. Often the fragments gives way to moments of ecstatic joy and build in strength to challenge the darkness.

The task of compiling a limited set of tracks on this theme has been difficult — there is so much good music out there and these volumes could potentially continue for some time. In any event, I have tried to select albums that are generally harder to come by or tracks that are perhaps somewhat unusual. While European and US jazz enthusiasts might be familiar with some of these recordings, many have been unavailable and remain unheard in South Africa.

Miriam Makeba does not feature on this compilation (an earlier posting offers comprehensive coverage of her contributions and can be viewed here at Electric Jive) yet her singular importance as an artist in exile is undeniable. Makeba is the first major South African artist to record and establish a significant anti-apartheid profile. Her importance in constructing an empathetic image for disenfranchised South Africans in the international context cannot be overstated.

Significantly Makeba's first album was issued within months of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. And while there is no specific mention of the tragedy in the liner notes, Makeba’s condemnation of the apartheid government is evident in these lines: “Though she tries many styles, she never sings the Afrikaner songs of white South Africa. (‘When Afrikaners sing in my language,’ she says, ‘then I will sing in theirs.’)” Interestingly, this text can only be found on the US, Canadian, New Zealand and later Israeli copies of the album. On British and all other versions it has been edited out.

Makeba’s exit from South Africa is slightly predated by the Golden City Dixies, who toured Europe in early 1959 and then in December ten members, including Danny Williams, Harold Jephtah, Brian Isaacs and Ronald Chetty, applied for political asylum in Sweden.

Another major event that catalysed a stream of artists leaving the country was the international production of King Kong. In February 1961 artists including Gwigwi Mrwebi, Jonas Gwangwa, the Manhattan Brothers travelled with the cast to London, but decided not to return when the show ended, leaving a gaping hole in the South African music industry.

Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) and Sathima Bea Benjamin would leave in January 1962. They were later joined by Johnny Gertze and Makhaya Ntshoko. With the help of Ibrahim, the Blue Notes, including Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, Johnny Dyani, Chris McGregor, Louis Moholo and Nikele Moyake, left in 1964 to play at the Antibes Jazz Festival in France. They decided to remain there and in Switzerland, before eventually moving to London. Moyake, suffering from serious homesickness, decided to return to South Africa in 1965 but soon died from a brain tumor.

This blog post cannot begin to describe the emotional, psychological, cultural, and political complexity of the South African musician in exile. Though apparently free of apartheid, these artists endured alienation and isolation. Many suffered from debilitating mental and physical stress and many died in exile never returning home. These complexities however are explored through the music.

Johnny Dyani describes their situation in the liner notes of his album African Bass: “I would like to tell my people. That we think and cry for them now and then; it is not easy for us on this side of the world, but together we will have our freedom: Power to the People: yours in music.”

If anyone is interested in a theoretical analysis of exile in South African jazz I would recommend Michael Titlestad’s very dense essays on the subject in his book Making the Changes. For an easier read, Maxine McGregor’s account of the Brotherhood of Breath is excellent.

Perhaps Louis Moholo sums it up best in an interview: “To be in exile is a motherfucker.”

IN EXILE - Volume 1
(flatinternational, Electric Jive, FXEJ 7)

(Isaacs, Chetty; Afrikanska Rytmer EP, Expo Norr, RIKS EP 2, Sweden)

My Swedish is really not very good (actually non-existent) but according to the liner notes, this unusual EP was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on November 24, 1967. The disc appears to by the product of an academic tour that Brian Isaacs and Ronald Chetty undertook amongst various schools in the region. Their program called “Afrikanska Rytmer” involved teaching various aspects of traditional African rhythm instruments. Ebrahim ‘Brian’ Isaacs was born in Vrededorp, a suburb of Johannesburg in 1939 and Chetty in Kimberly, 1933. Isaacs became part of the touring variety show African Jazz in 1955 and then both joined Majiet Omar’s famed Golden City Dixies in 1956. The group toured extensively throughout Southern Africa before becoming the first South African ensemble to travel internationally in April 1959. During Christmas of that same year 10 members of the group including Isaacs and Chetty decided to remain in Sweden as political refugees. According to Muff Anderson, Isaacs became a cabaret performer in Sweden and to my knowledge put out at least one, privately pressed, solo LP, Bayete, sometime in the 1970s. A track from that album is featured on the flatinternational vol.1 compilation.

2) BRÖTZMANN / MILLER / MOHOLO – Special Request for Malibu (extract) – 1980
(Brötzmann, Miller, Moholo; Opened But Hardly Touched, FMP 0840/0850, West Germany)

The German horn-man, Peter Brotzmann joins South African bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo in a contorted explosion of almost unlistenable free jazz. Recorded in Berlin on November 5th/6th 1980, Opened, But Hardly Touched is the second of two hard-to-find albums by this trio — the first being The Nearer the Bone, the Sweeter the Meat (FMP 0690, 1979).

For me the free jazz captured on this track and the one that follows it, Pukwana’s Yi Yole, are iconic representations of alienation through dissonance. No other tracks on this “Exile” compilation are harder to listen to! The references to the iconic majuba sound of the 1950s, familiar to much South African jazz in exile, is significantly absent in these compositions. There are moments in the recording that remind me of the contemporaneous, industrial sounds of Einstürzende Neubauten’s classic, debut LP Kollaps (ZickZack, 1981) or even Steve Albini’s later groups Shellac or Rapeman.

In many ways Brotzmann’s acerbic aesthetic dominates the sound of trio. At times his horn literally sounds like a screaming human voice. Brotzmann’s 1968 seminal, second album Machine Gun is considered by many to be a cornerstone of European free jazz and is described by one comment on YouTube in this way: “This is the most ugly, abrasive piece of music ever. Cool!”. Significantly the only (until recently) live recording of Machine Gun was included on Brotzmann’s CD titled Fuck De Boere — Dedicated to Johnny Dyani (Unheard Music, ALP 211CD).

Harry Miller opens the extract of “Malibu” (the full version is 22’20”) with a frenetic but quiet scraping of his upright bass that recalls for me Ennio Morricone’s metallic treatments in the opening fifteen minutes of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A time in the West.

Moholo completes the trio on drums and in a 1991 Wire interview describes his experience of free jazz: “When we came here I started hearing some other vibes. I was away from South Africa and away from chains. I just wanted to be free, totally free, even in music. Free to shake away all the slavery, being boxed into places – one, two, three, four – and being told you must come in after four […] From then on I just played free.”

3) PUKWANA / BENNIK / MENGELBERG – Yi Yole (extract) – 1978
(Pukwana; Yi Yole, ICP 021, Netherlands)

Recorded between September 2nd - 5th 1978, Yi Yole features Dudu Pukwana on alto sax and whistle; Misha Mengelberg (Dutch) on piano and Han Bennik (Dutch) on drums, clarinet, trombone and viola. In 1967 Mengelberg co-founded the Instant Composers Pool or ICP, an organization to promote Dutch avant-garde music and also the label on which this recording was issued. Pukwana’s sax treatments here while not as abrasive as Brotzman’s in the previous track are still remarkably strained and yet at times do return to the melodic.

4) A TENT – Seven Years Part 2 (Abundance) - 1981
(Gavin Povey; Six Empty Places, Red Cherry, BRED 17, France)

In the same year that Dudu Pukwana and Zila issued their funky first LP on Jika records, Pukwana also recorded with A Tent featuring Gavin Povey on keyboards. This is a very interesting album. My first impressions of the LP were that is was a type of ambient jazz album in the spirit of Brian Eno, but as I got into it I recognised that it had elements that came far closer to the industrial sounds of Cabaret Voltaire or even Throbbing Gristle, both contemporaries of this group. Pukwana plays saxophone on a number of tracks. More on the album at Mutant Sounds.

5) JOHNNY M. DYANI – South Afrikan (extract) – 1979
(trad. arr. Dyani; African Bass, Red Record, VPA 149, Italy)

Recorded in Milan, November 14th 1979 this sparse album includes Clifford Jarvis on drums. The vocal track here features Dyani moving towards an ecstatic interpretation of the traditional song Bayeza Kusasa. His version comes ten years after Jonas Gwangwa’s brilliant take on the same tune featured on his 1969 album, Who (Ngubani)? For more examples see Matsuli.

6) CHRIS MCGREGOR – The Bride / Ududu Nombambula (extract) – 1977
(Pukwana, McGregor; In His Good Time, Ogun, OG 521, UK)

Recorded in Paris on November 18, 1977. This solo LP is one of three issued by McGregor and captures a loneliness through absence of other performers, and yet is distinctly still warm.

7) HUGH MASEKELA – Ingoo Pow-Pow – 1972
(Caiphus Semenya; Home is where the Music is, Chisa / Blue Thumb, BTS 6003, USA)

Recorded in London in January 1972 with Masekela on flugelhorn, Dudu Pukwana on alto sax, Larry Willis on Piano, Makhaya Ntshoko on drums, Eddie Gomez on acoustic bass. The cover features drawings by South African artist, Dumile Feni.

8) HARRY MILLER – Homeboy – 1974
(Miller; Children At Play, Ogun, OG 200, UK)

According to the liner notes by Pallo Jordan, Harry Miller was born in Johannesburg in 1941 and came to study music in London in 1961. He soon was a prominent figure in the London jazz scene performing with Chris McGreogor’s Brotherhood of Breath and the Mike Osborne Trio, amongst others. Together with his wife, Hazel, Miller co-founded Ogun records in the early 1970s with the goal of documenting the open-minded music of London at that time. Though Miller died in a car accident in the Netherlands in 1983, Hazel Miller continues to run the label and issues great music to this day.

Ogun Records first release was a live recording of the Brotherhood of Breath at Willisau (OG 100) featuring Miller on bass. Children at Play was Ogun’s second issue and Miller’s first solo LP. The album features Miller playing all instruments including double bass, flute and percussion on a multi-track recording. One of my favorites from this album is Homeboy, a very warm reference back to South Africa, with an almost maskanda like treatment of the double bass.

9) DOROTHY MASUKA – This Land is Mine – c1967
(Pat Boone; Africa in Revolutionary Music, LSM Records, R 1, Canada)

In the 1950s, Dorothy Masuka was one of the leading recording artists in South Africa. As producer for Troubadour Records, Cuthbert Matumba was open to recording songs that sometimes contained critical commentary, and the company occasionally drew visits from the Special Branch of the police, who often confiscated masters and copies of records. In 1961, Masuka wrote and recorded the song Lumumba, in response to the outrage over the execution of the newly elected Congolese leader. The South African Special Branch took note and confiscated the master and began searching for Masuka. In the meantime, she returned to Bulawayo and remained there on the advice of Troubadour. After the incident, Masuka was declared persona non grata by the South African authorities and was forbidden from re-entering the country. She remained in exile from South Africa for the next 31 years.

Masuka would spend the following years travelling and performing in Africa and Europe. In 1965 she returned to Rhodesia for a performance. After hearing that the Ian Smith Government was planning to arrest her, she moved to Zambia where she remained in exile for the next sixteen years as a flight attendant for Zambian airways.

The track featured here is a moving fragment of Pat Boone’s This Land is Mine and on the LP is mixed together with a number of other freedom songs from around Africa.

10) THE SWAPO SINGERS – Power to the People – late 1970s
(Kaujewu, Haipinge; One Namibia One Nation, SWAPO Department of Information, 6812 258, Netherlands)

One of my favorite recent finds, this LP features some of the most beautiful freedom songs from Namibia. Stylistically many of the tracks remind me of those by the 1940s guitarist, George Sibanda. Power to the People (not the Lennon version) alludes to a number of struggles worldwide including Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cuba. Contributors to the album include Jackson Kaujewu (who also does all the arrangements), Dan-Hafeni Haipinge, Martha Eliser, Albertina Heita, Sackey Schikwambi, Nick Nambahu and Frieda Kaurimuje. The album appears to be recorded in Amsterdam, but alas there is no date, but I assume it is some time in the late 1970s. More on this album at Dial Africa.

11) THE ZULUS (AFRICA ‘68) – Uyaz’ Gabisa – 1968
(Caiphus Semenya; Africa ’68, UNI, 73030, USA)

While the original record is poorly credited, a compilation CD reissue (The Chisa Years) of some of the tracks from this LP reveal the group in that case to be simply called The Zulus. I am also assuming that all the tracks on Africa 68 are by the same band and if so, then the line-up on this song would include Mumsie Gwangwa, Ernest Moholmi, John Sithebe, Paul Makgoba, Philemon Hou, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya, all on vocals; with Bruce Langhorn on guitar; and John Cartwright on bass.

On April 2nd 1964 Alan Paton’s play Sponono opened on Broadway at the Cort Theatre in New York. Directed by Krishna Shah, the play included musical arrangements by Gideon Nxumalo and the cast featured amongst others Philemon Hou as Ha’ Penny, Doudlas Ndikho Xaba as an imbongi or praise singer, Caiphus Semenya as one of the reformatory Boys and Margaret Mcingana (Singana) as a member of the choir. According to Miriam Makeba, in her biography, the performance on Broadway was picketed. In her words “people thought Sponono was just some white play with Uncle Tom black people in it. They boycotted it. They did a mock funeral parade and carried a coffin symbolizing that Sponono had died.” But Makeba goes on to say that the performers that came were genuine actors and musicians. The show was a “flop” and the cast returned to South Africa, but some of the artists remained including Semenya, Hou and Xaba. Makeba assisted them in finding scholarships to study music and an apartment in New York. In many ways their arrival in New York gave Makeba and Hugh Masekela a vital community away from home.

Caiphus Semenya had been dating Letta Mbulu, before he came to the US and Makeba made arrangements for her to come out and perform at the Village Gate in New York. Mbulu arrived at the end on 1964. She later married Semenya. Mumsie Gwangwa is of course married to Jonas Gwangwa, who left South Africa in 1961 with the King Kong cast.

In 1966 Letta Mbulu’s first single titled Walkin’ Around was issued on the Columbia label. Letta and the Safaris featured a possible similar line up with Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Caiphus Semenya, Stewart Levine, Charlie Smalls, Eric Gale, John Cartwright, Herbie Lovell, Mamsie Gwangwa and Ernest Mohlomi. Check out the single on the flatinternational vol.1 compilation. For more on this record see Doug Payne's article.

12) AMANDLA – Sasol – 1982
(uncredited; Amandla, Melodiya, C60 18207, USSR)

Amandla, like Mayibuye before it, was an anti-apartheid group formed by the cultural arm of the ANC in exile. Mayibuye was established in early 1975 while Amandla began to slowly come together towards the end of the 1970s, though the two groups are unrelated. In the early years the group limited its performances to ANC camps and various venues around Luanda, Angola. Once a Scandinavian tour had been organized for 1980, trombonist, Jonas Gwganwa was called in to assist with arrangements. Gwangwa soon became the group’s artistic director.

In all Amandla recorded four albums, two in Sweden and two in the USSR. Sasol comes from the first Russian release and their 2nd album overall, issued in 1982. The Soviet Union was sympathetic to Anti-Apartheid causes and supported the ANC in exile with training and shelter. Though not fully credited, some of the performers on this album include M. Khuze, B. Kgoale, E. Choncho, L. Tikwane, S. Kumalo. View some of the covers here at Matsuli.

Sasol was a major state-owned oil refining company in South Africa. The lyric translation and more details can be viewed here at flatinternational.

13) SOUNDS OF SOWETO – Mama Ndiyalila – 1983
(Caiphus Semenya, arr. Victor Williams; Wie Lange Noch Dieses Leid?, Misereor 631383, Germany)

Recorded in Hamburg, Germany, this 1983 anti-apartheid record included Linda Conco, Sam Hlatwayo, Steve Khala, Wally Loate, Dumisane Mabaso, Josh Makhene, Sonti Mwdebele with arrangements by Victor Williams and Makhene. Williams also performs on piano with Dudu Pukwana's Spear on the album Flute Music (see volume 2 below).

14) DISTRICT SIX – Etlon-Tu – 1987
(Brian Abrahams; To Be Free, Editions EG, EGED 53, USA)

District Six on this record includes Brian Abrahams on drums, percussion and vocals; Chris McGregor on piano and vocals; Jim Dvorak on trumpet and vocals; Bill Katz on bass; and Harrison Smith on tenor and soprano sax, flute and bass clarinet. An earlier album, titled Akuzwakale, issued in 1984, also includes Mervyn Africa on piano and Russell Herman on guitar.

15) JABULA – Let Us Be Free – 1974
(Bahula, Ranku; Jabula, Caroline, CA 2004, UK)

In 1973, Julian Bahula, originally of the Malombo Jazz Makers, decided to go into exile and moved to the UK. Initially he toured with the South African group Hawk but soon started putting together a new group — Jabula — with Lucky Ranku and an international cast of musicians including a number of South Africans. Jabula worked closely with the African National Congress and the Anti-Apartheid movement and subsequently a number of their records were banned in South Africa.

This track comes from their first album recorded in September 1974. For an extensive discography of Julian Bahula and Jabula check out flatint.

16) SOUTH AFRICAN FREEDOM SONGS – iBande Nge Lami – 1965
(uncredited; This Land Is Mine, Folkways, FH 5588, USA)

Finally we end volume one with a ‘freedom song’ featured on one of the earliest collections of South African protest music. Issued on the Folkways label in 1965, this album includes material that was sent to Moses Asch from an ANC training camp in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). A funky version of this same tune, iBande Nge Lami, which roughly translates as The Belt is Mine, can be heard on Miriam Makeba’s 1970 album Keep me in Mind. View more information about the Folkways album plus translations of all the song lyrics here at flatinternational.

IN EXILE - Volume 2
(flatinternational, Electric Jive, FXEJ 8)

(traditional; African Sun, Spectator, SL 1025, Denmark)

A solo record by Abdullah Ibrahim recorded from May 9th to 10th, 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This track is somewhat unique in that it is not very often that you hear Ibrahim singing let alone playing the drum. Certainly a beautifully, strained version of Hush, the almost gospel tune, made famous by Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks in 1958. According to Lars Rasmussen, African Sun is one of the rarest Ibrahim albums as a fire at the Spectator Studios destroyed the original master tapes as well all remaining copies of the LP.

2) BROTHERHOOD OF BREATH – Uqonda – 1981
(McGregor; Yes Please, In and Out, IaO 1001, France)

After planning to avoid Brotherhood of Breath tracks on this compilation (especially the Ogun material that has all recently been re-issued), I could not resist including this lugubrius tune from one of their more obscure, later LPs: Yes Please. Recorded June 1st and 2nd 1981, in Angoulême, France, my only gripe with this wonderful piece is that the recording of Peter Segone’s trumpet is way too loud and piercing — it can really hurt your ears! To some extent I have tried to remedy this, but I suppose conceptually there is something interesting about listening to a track so beautiful and yet at moments so physically painful.

The Brotherhood of Breath, formed by Chris McGregor in London, June 1970, in many ways was an attempt to reconstitute in exile a type of Castle Lager Big Band. Made up of South African exiles drawn from the Blue Notes and a number of leading London free-jazz performers, the group recorded their first LP in 1971 on RCA’s Neon label. From there they continued with at least six more records spread over RCA, Ogun, then later this record on In and Out and finally Virgin’s Venture label. Since then a number of live and bootleg recordings have been issued posthumously on CD.

On Yes Please only McGregor is present from the original Blue Notes line up, though the group at this point does also include South Africans: Ernest Mothle on bass, and Brian Abrahams on drums and percussion. McGregor would later perform with Abraham's group District Six (see Volume 1 above).

3) DYANI / TEMIZ / FEZA – Dear Africa – 1972
(Dyani; Music For Xaba Vol. 2, Sonet, SNTF 824, UK)

The session that was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on November 2nd, 1972 produced two fantastic albums that were issued eight years apart. Remarkably some of my favorite tracks like Dear Africa and Mighty Blues were not included on the first installment. The trio consisted of Johnny Dyani on bass and piano, Mongezi Feza on trumpet and Okay Temiz, a classically trained percussionist from Turkey, on drums. Both Dyani and Feza left South Africa with the Blue Notes in 1964.

4) JOE MALINGA QUINTET – Zadibana – 1981
(Malinga; One For Dudu, Meteor, MOR 32018, Switzerland)

A tribute album to Dudu Pukwana, this recording was made in Innsbruk, Austria on November 7th 1981. The line-up here includes Malinga on alto sax, congas and shakers; René Widmer on tenor sax and oboe; Johnny Taylor on piano; Hami Hämmerli on bass; and Churchill Jolobe on drums and claves. For a discography of Joe Malinga check out Matsuli.

5) AUTHORITY – Bayabaleka – 1987
(Authority; Against Again Apartheid in South Africa, Suisa/Nuke’s Presence, A 97, Switzerland)

A really well arranged and well recorded, late anti-apartheid album featuring classic protest songs like Mello Yellow, Shosholoza and Oliver Tambo. There are moments in the instrumentation on this record that for me hint at a future BLK JKS. One has to hunt for the name of the group on the LP but eventually you discover that it includes Aubrey Molefe, Smal Ndaba, Aubrey Radebe, all on vocals; Gabriel Magos on keyboards and guitar; Jürg Planta on drums; Hopi Hopkins on percussion; Christian Ostermeyer on saxes and flutes; and Hilary Williams on bass. The lyrics for Bayabaleka or Running Away translate as:

Running Away
Towards the South
In fear of the spear (Mkonto)
Let them all leave

6) AMANDLA – Ekhaya Bakulindile – 1980
(traditional, Amandla; First Tour Live, Afrogram, AGIS 002, Sweden)

This track is one of my favorites of the whole compilation. It opens with a vocal introduction reminiscent of the many soul jive sounds of the Movers and other groups of the mid 1970s. Though the content here, in contrast, is bleak and political. The song then moves into a hymn that builds towards what I would describe as an ecstatic moment.

The track comes off Amandla’s third LP First Tour Live recorded in Stockholm, October 1980 and issued on the Afrogram label in Sweden in 1983. Amandla as mentioned earlier developed out of the cultural arm of the ANC in exile and follows to some extent the project of the earlier group, Mayibuye. Though uncredited it is possible that Jonas Gwangwa may have been responsible for arrangements on this album. For more information on both these groups, I would highly recommend Shirli Gilbert’s excellent essay “Singing Against Apartheid” in Composing Apartheid, edited by Grant Olwage.

7) DUDU PUKWANA AND SPEAR – Flute Music 1+2 – 1974
(Mongezi Feza; Flute Music, Caroline, CA 2005, UK)

Simply a classic! Though I recognize that Mongezi Feza’s Flute Music opens (part 1) and ends (part 2) the album in a manner that approaches a concept album, the split tracks also reminded me of the way many long-form bump jive tracks were broken up to meet the shorter requirements of a 45 rpm single. Thus I could not resist splicing together both parts of this amazing tune to make one long thirteen minute experience.

Recorded between 14th / 15th October 1974, and issued on Virgin’s Caroline label, Pukwana’s 3rd album with his group Spear includes himself on alto sax, flute, percussion and voice; Feza on trumpet, flute congas, percussion and voice; Victor Williams on piano, electric piano and voice; Pete Cowling on bass; and John Stevens on drums.

8) LOUIS MOHOLO OCTET – You Ain’t Gonna Know Me Cause You Think You Know Me – 1978
(Mongezi Feza; Spirits Rejoice, Ogun, OG 520, UK)

Louis Moholo is the last remaining of the six Blue Notes that left South Africa in 1964 – all others have died in exile. Remarkably, though recording on countless albums including those with the Chris McGregor Group, Brotherhood of Breath and many other collaborations, Spirits Rejoice is his first as band leader. Recorded in London on January 24th 1978, the line-up includes Moholo on drums; Evan Parker on tenor sax; Kenny Wheeler on trumpet; Nick Evans on trombone; Radu Malfatti on trombone; Keith Tippet on piano; Johnny Dyani and Harry Miller on bass. A classic Mongezi Feza tune!

9) NDIKHO XABA AND THE AFRICAN ECHOES – Zulu Lunchbag – c1970s
(Gideon Nxumalo; 45 rpm, Shange, #2005, USA)

Ndikho Xaba and the African Echoes do a wonderful example of Gideon Nxumalo’s Zulu Lunchbag on this hard-to-find single.

Multi-instrumentalist and actor, Douglas Ndikho Xaba, was born in Natal in 1934. In 1964 Xaba came to the US as part of Alan Paton’s play Sponono which opened at the Cort Theatre in New York on April 2nd. Directed by Krishna Shah, the play included musical arrangements by Gideon Nxumalo and the cast featured amongst others Philemon Hou as Ha’ Penny, Xaba as an imbongi or praise singer, Caiphus Semenya as one of the reformatory Boys and Margaret Mcingana (Singana) as a member of the choir. After the show closed much of the cast returned to South Africa, but some of the artists including Semenya and Xaba, remained. Miriam Makeba assisted them in finding scholarships to study music and an apartment in New York. In many ways their arrival in New York gave Makeba and Hugh Masekela a vital community away from home.

Xaba is possibly most well known for his tune Emavungwini popularized by Miriam Makeba on her 1968 album Makeba!, but first featured on Hugh Masekela’s 1965 album Grrr. Xaba and his group the Natives are also responsible for the super rare, spiritual jazz LP, Ndikho and the Natives, issued on the Trilyte label in 1969.

10) OKAY TEMIZ / JOHNNY DYANI – I’m Muslim Man – 1976
(Dyani; Witchdoctor’s Son, Yonka, YCSLP 5013, Turkey)

This hard-to-find, middle-eastern flavored LP features some really excellent collaborations between, Turkish percussionist, Okay Temiz and, bassist, Johnny Dyani. The album is split evenly with compositions by Temiz on side A and those by Dyani on side B. Others on the recording include Saffet on clarinet and violin; Gunnar on saxophone; and Oguz on electric bass. Listen to the full album here.

11) DUDU PUKWANA AND ZILA – Ziyekelani – 1983
(Mervyn Africa, Pukwana; Life in Bracknell and Willisau, Jika, ZL 2, UK)

In 1978 Pukwana founded the record label Jika and put out at least three albums with his newly formed group Zila. Ziyekelani is from their second album and features Pinise Saul on vocals. The album consists of live recordings from the Bracknell and Willisau Jazz Festivals in 1983. The Zila line-up on these occasions included: Pukwana on alto, soprano sax and whistle; Pinise Saul on vocals and cabassa; Harry Beckett on trumpet, flugelhorn; Django Bates on keyboards; Eric Richards on electric bass; Paul Gamblin on guitar; Churchill Jolobe on drums; and Thebe Lipere on congas and percussion.

12) THE MANHATTAN BROTHERS - Gumboot – 1963
(Manhattan Brothers; Concert of Zulu Folk Songs, Tropitone, CP 27, UK)

The Manhattan Brothers left South Africa with the cast of the international production of King Kong in February 1961. After the show ended, Nathan Mdledle, Joe Mogotsi and Rufus Khoza decided to remain in the UK. There they continued recording as the Manhattan Brothers but with Walter Loate replacing Ronnie Sehume. Recorded at Cecil Sharpe House, this album appears to be the only live recording of the group and features Sol Klaaste on piano. An edited version of the album was re-issued on CD as Freedom Songs and accompanies Joe Mogotsi’s autobiography, Matindane, edited by Lars Rasmussen. Their 1950s vocal style seems somewhat out of place in the context of London at this time, which reinforces a strange sense of displacement on this LP. My favorite track, which is quite unusual, finds them performing a gumboot dance at the close of the concert.

13) GERARD SEKOTO – Sing Low – late 1950s
(traditional; Negro Spirituals EP, La Voix De L’Esperence, France)

This rare and unusual piece of art history features a number of spirituals by South African painter, Gerard Sekoto, who went into exile to France in 1947. Joe Mogotsi in his autobiography has this account of first meeting the artist in Paris:

“When we saw him, he was living alone in a dilapidated flat with very few creature comforts. Paintings were strewn all over the floor, and he was in a disorganized state. Although his health was failing, he still made an effort to welcome us, and questioned us intently about whether things had changed at home and if there had been any improvement. We went out and bought wine and food which we shared with him while we talked about old times. It was a very heart warming experience.”

Unable to make a living from his painting he survived by performing. According to Wikipedia he composed at least 29 songs that were published between 1956 and 1960 by Les Editions Musicales. Sekoto died outside Paris in March 1993. Today his paintings are some of the most expensive and it is no surprise that this particular EP sold for £2,880 at auction recently — the most I have ever seen any South African related record go for!

Monday 19 March 2012

Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups – Vol. 2

The black South African music scene of the 1960s and ‘70s was dominated by a unique electric jive sound that was later christened mbaqanga. For almost its entire near-twenty year rule over the country, mbaqanga’s most distinctive feature was the all-female close harmony sound, sometimes augmented by the booming bass vocals of a gruff male singer. The girl group of South Africa was partly modelled on the girl group of the USA. The smooth arrangements of The Andrews Sisters, the tight harmonies of The Shirelles and the sex appeal of The Supremes – combined with a modern African twist – helped to create such memorable groups such as the Dark City Sisters, the Mahotella Queens, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, and countless others that still sit fondly in the memories and minds of many today, young and old. Today, Electric Jive presents another special mix of tunes: Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups – Vol. 2.

In our first installment, we elaborated extensively on the histories of these wonderful groups, so we shall not repeat ourselves. Vol. 2 contains recordings from the artists mentioned above (and many more), released between 1962 and 1981. This mix is bookended by the ladies who started it all – the Dark City Sisters, with two wonderful ballads from 1968 and 1962 (the latter recorded under one of their other pseudonyms, the Killingstone Stars) sandwiching this mbaqanga feast. The Sisters also bring us a tune from 1981, by which time they had conformed to the mbaqanga sound of that particular era – but the golden voices of Joyce Mogatusi, Doris Ntuli and Grace Moeketsi still shine through wonderfully.

The ones who took the torch from the Sisters and kept it burning brightly throughout mbaqanga’s heyday, the Mahotella Queens, are represented generously here with several classic numbers, all of them sublime – and three of them recorded using their other pseudonyms: Soweto Stars, Izintombi Zomqashiyo and Dima Sisters, spotlighting the voices of various members including Olive Masinga, Hilda Tloubatla, Ethel Mngomezulu and Thoko Mdlalose. The Mahlathini Girls are here as well with two numbers fronted by male singer Joe Mdluli (something of an irony considering the group’s name…), as are Mahlathini’s wonderful backing group The Queens (led by Mildred Mangxola), with a small selection of enjoyable tunes. Irene Mawela, that saccharine-voiced sweetheart of the 1970s, features in our mix with something of a diversion: her voice may well be the only female presence in the line-up The Zebras, but it is a wonderful number well worthy of inclusion, and in any case, Mawela herself was a massive contributor to the ‘70s girl group. She also appears on two classic 1973 recordings made with the Mgababa Queens, contained in this mix and categorised “Soul Vocal Jazz” on the original label.

So… let’s hear it for the girls. More biographical information on these (and associated) artists can be found elsewhere on Electric Jive… but feel free to post any thoughts or queries in the comments section. All that remains to be said is... enjoy! YEBO!!

Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 2


Friday 16 March 2012

Ghana Highlife rarity from Janet Osei

Information on Janet Osei is hard to find, except to learn that this album is pretty rare. The fantastic highlife blogspot Osibisaba has the following to say about the few women who were highlife singers:
"I am rather fascinated by old-time highlife music featuring female singers, perhaps because these recordings are so difficult to come across. Female highlife singers in Ghana were largely marginalized through the first half of the 20th century due to social taboos and public perceptions of sexual promiscuity and impropriety. To quote concert party pioneer Bob Johnson, "A girl on stage would be branded a girl without morals." So, male actors took on the role of the female impersonator in the concert parties, while male "treble singers" strained to reach high, female-like vocal ranges. The few female singers who did make successful careers for themselves in the 1950s, '60s and '70s included Julie Okine, Charlotte Dada, Adwoa Badu, and Janet Osei, and these women surely faced some tremendous adversities".
The songs featured on this album were all written by Osei. The backing band members were all stars in their own right, and here they provide some truly stretched out mid-tempo 70s electric and sometimes wah-wah guitar highlife that occasionally ventures into shades of afro-beat.

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Wednesday 14 March 2012

Rambling to a different time in Ghana

Our Ghana highlife detour week continues with a rich and exotic afro-latin tropical highlife buffet -  a unique 1971 offering from the Ramblers Band International. As an added bonus, do come back this weekend to enjoy a rare album from one the few and most successful women singer-songwriters of Ghanaian highlife,  backed up by the fine musicianship of Pat Thomas, Papa Yanson, Eddie Donkor and Eric Ageyman.
For today: the Ramblers’ “Doin our own thing” is a wonderfully diverse album with twelve tracks in multiply different tempos that invite you to find a comfortable shady spot and allow yourself to be transported by the many possibilities and timings of the big band brass and mesmerising congas on offer. 
The Ramblers Dance band was formed in 1962 and thrived into the 1980s. In the 1950s tenor saxophonist Jerry Hansen was a key member of the Black Beats, featured in earlier postings here and here, before taking nine band members with him in 1962 to form the Ramblers. This 15-piece big dance band was highly successful for more than twenty years.
"If one finds some similarity (however remote) in rhythm style to the music of Soul, Jazz and Afro-Cuban artists one needs to remember they were weaned from the same breast as the music of The Ramblers” (writes Frank Hayfron in the sleevenotes).
For my tastes, this album offers up the best version of “Grazin in the Grass” that I have heard - moody and rich in texture. And if you thought Afro-Cuban music climaxed with Africando, give the two Puente compositions on this album a listen. In-between, band-leader, arranger extraordinaire and saxophonist Jerry Hansen treats us to four of his compositions. If I was forced to keep only one Ghanaian record in my current collection - this would probably be it.

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Monday 12 March 2012

Ghana Highlife 78rpm Special

In January this year my working life gave me the all-too-brief pleasure of spending an afternoon digging for records in Accra, Ghana. My collecting ‘bug’ was satisfied, and so it is my pleasure this week to share some of these delicious discoveries – starting with early fifties highlife, and then migrating later this week to the more electric 70s.
Ghana’s early highlife music is a captivating blend of local tradition embracing the roots of ragtime, swing, afro-cuban, rhumba, and calypso – with trap drums, bongos and the double bass providing a foundation for guitars and/or banks of brass. 

Professor John Collins recounts a very readable history of various African musics. Much of the text in this post either quotes Collins, or is informed by various articles he has written. See here for an example. Collins  describes early twentieth century tradition in Ghana leading to the formation of big dance orchestras that played foxtrots and ballroom music for the coastal elites in ‘high-class dancing clubs’. “The earliest was the 1914 Excelsior Orchestras of Ghana and by the 1920’s these included the Jazz Kings and Cape Coast Sugar Babies of Ghana ...  it was during the 1920's, when the prestigious dance groups began to orchestrate local melodies, that the term ‘highlife’ (i.e. high-class) was coined.”

After the second world war the ‘huge’ orchestras were trimmed down to swing-combo size, which blended afro-cuban percussion, calypso and swing-jazz with highlife. E.T. Mensah’s Tempos were the pioneers who influenced the bands whose recordings are being shared here.  In 1947 Decca established a recording studio in Accra.

Another influential band, The Black Beats were formed in 1952 by King Bruce and Saka Acquaye. Check out our earlier special posting on the Black Beats here. This music has strong influences from swing and the Trinidadian calypso musician Lord Kitchener. In amongst the pile of 78s I came across in Accra, I did find two records by Lord Kitchener and one by female calypso singer Marie Bryant.

Collins mentions another strand of small highlife groups that, after world war two, became ‘guitar-bands’. In 1952 E.K.’s Band (named after E.K. Nyame) fused the guitar bands with the concert party, creating a comic highlife-opera format. The ‘concert parties’ were vaudeville black-face minstrel acts whose first performers came from the U.S. and Liberia as early as 1924. The likes of Nyame and Onyina’s Guitar Band Africanised and appropriated or ‘hi-jacked’ the genre from the elites and took it to the villages.

1.      Black Beats Band: De Ehuo - Decca WA904
2.      Black Beats Band: Mikuu Mise Mibaa Don- Decca WA904
3.      Black Beats Band: Agoogyi - Decca WA917
4.      Black Beats Band: Anokwa Edomi - Decca WA917
5.      Black Beats Band: Essie Mercy  - Senaphone FAO1527
6.      Black Beats Band: Maye Maye - Senaphone FAO1527
7.      E.K.'s Band: Mambo Mambo - Queenophone QP245
8.      E.K.'s Band : Mani Agyina Wo - Queenophone QP245
9.      E.K.'s Band: Ta Me Na Mu Awurade - Queenophone QP280
10.  E.K.'s Band: Kaa Bi Reba - Queenophone QP280
11.  E.K.'s Band: Sunkwa - Queenophone QP352
12.  E.K.'s Band: Taxi Oreko - Queenophone QP352
13.  E.K.'s Band: Me Beyar Mo - Queenophone HH/PH014
14.  E.K.'s Band: Otan Bebrebe Yi - Queenophone HH/PH014
15.  Golden Stars Band: Me Nko Meye Mmobo - Queenophone HH/PH021
16.  Golden Stars Band: Obra Ahyease - Queenophone HH/PH021
17.  Happy Stars: Mado Ama Moa Adi - Kotoko DKL001
18.  Happy Stars: Mefre No - Kotoko DKL001
19.  H.K. Williams: Mene Wobeko Tamate - Parlophone UTC16
20.  H.K. Williams: Ye Nim No - Parlophone UTC16
21.  Onyina's Guitar Band: Akakoa Ayeb Agu - Decca GWA4105
22.  Onyina's Guitar Band: Obiara Ne Ne Nkrabia - Decca GWA4105
23.  Onyina's Guitar Band: Ayeyi Se Owusu - Decca WA909
24.  Onyina's Guitar Band: Maye Baako Foo - Decca WA909
25.  Rakers Dance Band: Gold Coast Farewell Call - Senaphone FAO1514
26.  Rakers Dance Band: San Bra Fie - Senaphone FAO1514

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Monday 5 March 2012

Roots (HSH 8000, 1975)

Roots were a short-lived band comprising Barney Rachabane (alto), Dennis Mpale (trumpet), Duke Makasi (tenor), Sipho Gumede (bass), Peter Morake (drums) and Jabu Nkosi (organ). Replace Jabu Nkosi with Abdullah Ibrahim, add Basil Coetzee on sax and you have the group that recorded the seminal African Herbs LP under the direction of Abdullah Ibrahim.

Roots are often cited as a key strand in the development of an indigenous afro jazz sound that links the Drive, the Pelican Club house band under Dick Khoza, Spirits Rejoice and later Sakhile. The liner notes (repeated below) make reference to the public performance diffculties of the times, something well noted by David Coplan in "In Township Tonight". There was nowhere left to perform this kind of music in the late seventies.

From the original liner notes: "Within two months of its formation, the group has already got down to composing and recording this LP. Barney Rachabane on the alto and Dennis Mpale the trumpet master are the backbone of Roots. These two have played with the greats, such as Mackay Davashe and Gordon Mfanda who were both nipped in their buds by an untimely death. Duke Makasi plays the tenor sax, Sipho Gumede is on bass, Peter Morake on the drums and Jabu Nkosi on the organ, The group plays Rock Jazz with a local sound. Their music takes one back to Dorkay House jam session days which are now no more. They play in private homes and intend making more recordings."

For a long time no recordings of the Roots were thought to exist but slowly we uncover the past through the artefacts we are fortunate to find. We hope you enjoy today's recovery. Highly recommended.

Roots (HSH 8000, 1975)
1. Jabu
2. Roots
3. School Girl
4. Emakhaya
5. Poor Mother
6. Barney’s Shoes
Prod by Almon Memela