Monday 30 April 2012

Xoliso: Shangaan Afro Jazz (1974)

Shangaan Afro Jazz - I had not thought of the concept until I found this 1974 album produced by the inimitable Cambridge Matiwane. Two excellent tracks of "Shangaan Afro Jazz" and a mixed bag of three songs in English. I do know Doug Schulkind of "Give theDrummer Some" fame at WFMU radio will want the rocking "Something in My Head" for his collection of songs of people singing of their own instabilities - its a great song, in the mould of Paul Ngozi and Zamrock, replete with fuzz guitar solos.

To the main course though - "Shingwanyana" and "Shando" are two excellent Afro-jazz tracks that sit comfortably on the same shelf somewhere between Batsumi and Malombo. Driving African percussion and bass joined by rock-influenced guitar and keyboards, with Malombo-esque flute work, and an OK but less accomplished saxophone.
Very little information about this band can be found. The only member of the band apparently still visible as a musician is drummer Johnny Motuba who has recorded plenty with Vusi Mahlasela. Vusi Mahlasela and Angelique Kidjo are touring Europe right now doing a show celebrating Miriam Makeba.

From Cambridge Matiwane's liner notes:

"XOLISA - Here is a new dynamic group with a new unique indigenous African Jazz sound.
XOLISA (Peace Makers) hail from Pretoria and have become a household word on the whole reef. It is through this magnificant recording that the entire world is going to appreciate what brilliant and well treated African Jazz sound can do to one's soul.
It is by no mistake that they are acclaimed the best group since thee MALOMBOS.
The first track "Shingwinyana" (little boy) is a typlical example of a real African happening - it really turns you on.
Brothers! dig this cool peaceful sound."

If anyone has more information on Xoliso - please do let us know.

Mediafire link here
Rapidshare link here

Friday 27 April 2012

Awesome Cassette from Africa (1977)

ATFA, I hope you don't mind!

I couldn't resist making a mid-week post continuing the thread from earlier this week featuring pioneering maskandi performer John Bhengu better known as Phuzushukela. For more background see the earlier post here.

In many ways this was the album I was looking to post on Monday, but the source, an original cassette from 1977 (literally 35 years old) had unfortunately seen better days. The album is excellent, and I have tried to clean it up as best I can, though imperfections remain, primarily on the first track and a bit on the second. Still, this is a classic album and like the one posted earlier this week is produced by Hamilton Nzimande and also features Noise Khanyile on violin.

I hope you enjoy!

Asambeni Siye Kwelakithi
50 14
(original LP, LZG 14)

Monday 23 April 2012

Phuzushukela - Sehlule Umkhomazi (1982)

Today we feature the very last album by maskanda pioneer John Bhengu, better known as Phuzushukela. Bhengu who, with his distinctive guitar finger-picking style, is largely responsible for the popularisation of this Zulu, neo-traditional style in South Africa. For more background check out our earlier post Maskanda Roots here at Electric Jive.

According to Rob Allingham’s detailed account in the liner notes of the excellent compilation CD Singing in an Open Space, “John Bhengu was the first South African rural recording artist to come to prominence. He was born at Nkandla in Southern Zululand on March 24, 1930. By the late 1940s he had migrated to Durban where he achieved a measure of local fame in street music competitions. The audience would judge these informal affairs on how skillfully a musician integrated a traditional song with guitar, the technique and originality employed in the izihlabo — the introductory instrumental flourish — and the rendering of the ukubonga, the declamatory centerpiece which might praise family, clan, chief and fame, not money. Bhengu’s success at these contests must have been partially due to his mastery of these elements. They remained an integral part of his style for the rest of his career, not to mention that of practically every other Zulu traditional musician who followed after him.” (Allingham)

Bulawayo omasiganda, Josaya Hadebe is said to have been an influence on the young Bhengu who’s unique finger-picking style or ukupika set him apart from other contemporary Zulu performers who strummed or vamped their guitars. Bhengu claimed to have originated the finger-picking style though some accounts have it that he “copied the style after hearing it in a Durban beer hall frequented by a group of amateur musicians from the Umkomaas district.” (Allingham)

On a visit to Johannesburg around 1955, Bhengu met producer Cuthbert Mathumba and recorded his first tune Ilanga Libalela ("The Blazing Sun") with Troubadour Records (David Coplan). As Allingham reveals, after Mathumba’s death, Bhengu moved to Trutone in 1968 and then worked for a short period with producer Cambridge Matiwane, who may have been instrumental in getting him to perform with a backing band, a notable departure for maskanda music at the time. (Coplan suggests that it was Mathumba at Troubadour that initiated this urbanisation process.) The Trutone recordings were also Bhengu’s first to use the name Phuzushukela (or "Sugar Drinker") and the rest is history!

As Phuzushukela, Bhengu moved to GRC in 1971, where producer Hamilton Nzimande electrified his sound with a full mbaqanga backing band and dancers. The combination of traditional maskanda with the heavy bass lines of mbaqanga produced a product that was irresistible and a formulae that remained for the next 30 years.

Coplan elaborates on Bengu’s appeal in his book In Township Tonight: “The amplified instrumentation provided Phuzushukela’s music with compelling, danceable rhythms and improved its appeal to African working-class audiences. Though his playing and singing retained their original integrity, Phuzushukela’s stage appearances and recordings clearly represented an artistic compromise with commercial appeal. Significantly, his dancers did not reproduce but rather broadly satirized traditional dance, and acrobatic turns by male dancers in warrior dress greeted by screams of laughter from the appreciative audience.” (Coplan)

Produced by Hamilton Nzimande at GRC in 1982, this album was Bhengu’s last before his death on February 22, 1985. Tracks three through six are particularly excellent and thought the album has no liner notes, Bhengu’s ukubonga, on track four give’s a shout-out to the brilliant Noise Khanyile on violin.

Phuzushukela is of course not to be confused with Phuzekhemisi, another hugely popular but contemporary exponent of the maskanda tradition.

Sehlule Umkhomazi
NZL 88

Monday 16 April 2012

Disco Soul - 20 grooves from 1970s and 1980s South Africa

The influence of America – in particular black America – on the popular music of South Africa can never be underestimated. The marabi sounds of the 1930s shebeens had their roots in ragtime music – the shebeen itself evokes memories of the US prohibition era. The unique African jazz sounds (both instrumental and vocal) that developed afterwards – peaking at its highest during the 1950s – were a home-grown take on that flavoursome mixture played by the likes of Duke and Ella. Stompie Manana and Hugh Masekela (to name but two) credit Louis Armstrong as one of their strongest influences in the early days of their careers. Then, the mbaqanga music that came into being into the 1960s was developed and popularised on electric instruments that had emerged in the US. The Shirelles, The Supremes and Martha and The Vandellas were an influence on the girl groups that sprung up in Johannesburg and Durban. And so the story goes on.

After the infamous riots of 1976, the opinion that the popular township sound of the time – mbaqanga – was oppressive radio music that only served to keep the blacks in their place was becoming more and more widespread among the dissenting youth of the country. Where did the youngsters turn to for something a bit more new? The US. Elements of mbaqanga slowly merged with the pop sounds of the States to create a synth-led, unique South African disco/soul/pop fusion that enjoyed immense popularity in the townships from the mid-to-late 1970s to the mid-1980s. It is this sound that we highlight today on EJ, with a special mix of 20 tracks originally released between 1978 and 1982. The title of this mix… as well as the cover!... is inspired by one of the many record labels churning out this music at the time.

Jacob “Mpharanyana” Radebe was perhaps one of the most successful and well-known soul singers in South Africa in the 1970s. A music lover from childhood, he became interested in soul and pop music and sang his way into a recording contract. The Wavelets were replaced by The Cannibals who were then in turn replaced by The Peddlars. His biggest hits were with the latter two bands, among the successes he scored were “Hlotse”, “Khotso”, “Uyazicabangela”, “Morena Re Thuse Kaofela”, “Ramasedi” and “Freak Out With Botsotso”. But the captivating sound remained of the highest quality all the way through Radebe’s career, no matter the backing team. “Hela Ngwanana”, recorded in 1979 shortly before his untimely death at the age of 29 in August of that year, is one of his best tracks. That searing smooth voice glides across the on-time accompaniment of The Peddlers with utter style. Radebe harmonises with himself effortlessly (there are three or four “Mpharanyanas” on this song!)

Radebe was the biggest-selling singer of this era. It is impossible to reiterate his stardom with the black public, but you may get a clue with “Dithoko Tsa Mpharanyana”, a tune recorded in 1979 after Radebe’s death. This oddity is a tribute put together by rival producer David Thekwane, who chants (and coughs) about the late star with a session team providing a subdued backing accompaniment. A truly peculiar song but interesting nonetheless and possibly an indication of how deep Radebe’s talent sank into the consciousness of the mass, including those in musical opposition!

The Cannibals, led by lead guitarist Ray Phiri, changed gears and joined the wing of producer Marks Mankwane in later 1979. Their sound mixed that famous soul brew with disco, creating a unique new post-Mpharanyana sound that found favour with the public. Joining the team on vocals were Paul Ndlovu and Anna Sikwane. Their first LP with this line-up was Get Funky (available here). Another notable LP included Put Your Dancing Shoes On, released in 1981 – see Afro-Synth for some info about that release. Four of The Cannibals’ tracks from this Mankwane era – two from their 1980 LP Tired Of The Past and the other two from their 1981 LP Total Rejection – are included in this mix.

After Mpharanyana, a wealth of male vocalists attempted to take his place. The Cannibals introduced Paul Ndlovu… The Peddlars moved forward with A. B. Lechuti… Marks Mankwane produced the likes of Walter Dlamini, Morgan Mokgopa and Jacob Khoza… but one of those male vocalists who had a greater degree of success was Duke Ndlovu. Ndlovu perhaps scored success because he wasn’t emulating Mpharanyana – he did his own thing, at times with a dash of Percy Sledge thrown into the mix! It isn’t clear how or when Ndlovu entered the industry, but the team of West Nkosi and Marks Mankwane produced some of his early (to our knowledge) recordings in 1976 under the name The Herbalist, released on the Soul Jazz Pop label. After some years flitting from producer to producer and from pseudonym to pseudonym, Ndlovu settled under the production of Joseph Makwela from 1982, using the recording name Black Duke. His material, released mostly on the Majavajava label, was perhaps “mbaqanga gone badass” (if you’ll excuse the language). I have included four of Black Duke’s numbers in this mix purely because I love his thick, treacle-like singing style combined with the heavy Western-influenced sound.

There are two great mbaqanga-flavoured numbers by Patience Africa that I could not resist including in this mix. Patience’s wonderfully strong and impassioned vocals on these two tracks – taken from her 1982 LP Ebang Le Mohau – are captivating, particularly “Monna Waka”, an ode from a woman to her lover. After a subdued musical start and then a long period of family life, Patience joined West Nkosi in around 1976 and spent some six or seven years under his production recording successful solo material, backed by West’s various soul teams including The U-Vees, The Shoe Laces and (most successfully) The Peddlars. She was awarded “Best Female Vocalist” numerous times by the SABC in its unnamed blacks-only version of the SARIE Awards. Though these ceremonies were more or less shambolic and by and large insulting to the musicians they were supposedly rewarding, Patience really was a top talent deserving – like all her contemporaries, no matter the style of music – of so much more. If any EJ readers out there own any of her older material from the ‘70s and ‘80s, please do drop us a line… we’d love to hear.

There are many more artists and songs I have neglected to mention in full, but all of them are goodies. The famous and fabulous Steve Kekana, complete with his smooth, slinky harmonies, is present with one of his popular early ‘80s numbers; the duo Willie & Paul (Willie Motala and Paul Hlatshwayo) pop up with a lovey-dovey tune; Walter and The Beggers insist that “Disco Jive” is for the young and the old; the Mahotella Queens give us one uncharacteristically hot soul-fuelled rendition; soul band Marumo is represented by two slow ballads; Sunset’s one offering is an appropriately hot tune; and Teaspoon Ndelu – through his sax and his resonating voice – tells the story of men abandoning their wives and families to seek solace in alcohol. The recordings here were released on various labels, the most notable being: Disco Soul, MSE, One Way, Soul Jazz Pop, Majavajava, Soul Soul, Hit Special, and Music Machine.

This isn’t often a period of South African music that we focus on here at EJ. It is also something of a departure from the mbaqanga sounds that I proffer your way. Those who are into that sound can relax – normal service will be well and truly resumed with my next post next month! But I couldn’t resist the temptation to share such a collection of tunes so far away from the norm. I hope some of you out there will enjoy listening to these grooving tunes as much as I have done. Dig it, man!


11. MODIEHI – MARUMO (1982)



Friday 13 April 2012

Zulu Vocal Jive (1976)

Following up on the Zulu and jive theme, herewith a 1976 compilation of mostly mbaqanga, featuring three bands: John Makhatini and the Phi Queens, Amalanda Amahlope, Abamakoti.

Two songs featured by John Makhatini talk to South Africa's biggest derby football rivalry, between that of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. Chiefs fans, even if they have just fired their coach and don't look like winning any trophies this year, will be happy to have the jiving song of praise for their founder, Kaizer Motaung. Pirates fans wont be disappointed either, especially as they are currently top of the league.

And for those of you who read this far - I can't help myself in letting you know of a find of some previously unheard and unreleased reel to reel recordings that will excite South African jazz fanatics. Think 1965 - Nick Moyake, Duku Makassi, Tete Mbambisa, Dennis Mpale, Psyche Big T Ntsele - a live gig at the Ambassadors in Woodstock, Cape Town. And that's not all. Talk to you next month. Cheers.

Rapidshare Link here
Mediafire Link here

Monday 9 April 2012

Mine Jive Special (1975)

I have recently heard laments by a number of isiZulu-speaking people saying that the youth of today are disrespectful with their ugly public displays of swearing. Explore a little further and the complainants do admit that in their day, the youth of course used a few choice words, but go on to emphasise that respect (hlonipha) and subordination were shown when social context required it. In today's post there is a 1975 example which at least proves the existence of an exception to this memory.

In some ways, South Africa’s 1970's urban-based mbaqanga sub-culture mirrored the Jamaican rude-boy sub-culture. While apartheid’s machinery did, for a time, control the influx of black rural people to contained townships, the late 60s and early seventies certainly had its fair share of street-corner hoodlums with their own underground economies. If ska and rocksteady were the soundtracks to the first youth subculture of Trenchtown, what role did mbaqanga music play in 70's South African  township expressions of subculture and style?

Certainly, the Okapi knife was to many young South Africans what the ratchet knife was to the rudie. Talk to some of the older men today and they will tell 70s township leisure-time tales of dressing up “smart like gangstas", drinking hard, dancing, gambling, fighting and womanising. These original machismo ‘mapantsulas’ developed a larger-than-life expression of style with which to mock convention and those more powerful than themselves. From what I have heard, mbaqanga music was the dominant soundtrack. But I don't think the expression and experience of mbaqanga was a singular sub-cultural one, whatever its original breeding grounds. The woman who worked in my childhood home could not get enough of mbaqanga, and she was no gangsta.
'Sondela' in isiZulu means 'come closer'

Mbaqanga was also a huge ethnic and language cross-over success. Migrant mine workers from all over South and southern Africa certainly sent money back home. They also took home heaps of urban attitude, music and style that caused all sorts of disturbances and excitements. Sometimes, the more succesful mbaqanga groups would tour these countries too.

In my rare chances to dig for records on my working travels, I have found old 70s mbaqanga records in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Some owners of these records have stories of their times, or their brothers’ times on the mines in Johannesburg and elsewhere in South Africa. If the mood is right, they will also tell fantastic tales of those ‘let it all hang out’ parties, and of the pimps and crooks that fed off the inebriated. Deep in the fabric of these stories of conquer and calamity is a felt experience of young, often migrant and dislocated, people exploring new identities and boundaries in relation to authority.
Which brings me to today’s offering, produced by the ever consummate Almon Memela. One track in particular got me thinking along this swearing and respect diversion. Do have a listen to the 1975 45rpm release of “Badonse Memela” first. The same song appears on the album, but the highly unusual “fuck you” verbal exchange near the beginning is absent on the LP. The few lines of isiZulu talk conjour up a street scene where a youngster remarks with attitude that an “umfundisi” (clergyman or learned one) is passing by. The older umfundisi replies with a friendly greeting, asking how “his son” is doing and then invites him to shine his shoes. To which the youth replies, “hau, fuck you man”. The umfundisi expresses shock at the youth having lost his sense of respect and addressing him with such language, and then says, “what’s with this fuck you business? If its like that, then ... fuck you man!”.
Abafana Bomjovo (The Jiving Boys) are an above-average, tight and grooving instrumental outfit with  strong organ, accordion, guitar and sax line-ups. Enjoy!

LP Rapidshare link
LP Mediafire link
45rpm Badonse Memela link

Friday 6 April 2012

Thomas Mapfumo - more early singles from the Lion of Zimbabwe

A very special treat today. We return to the very popular sounds of pre-(and just post-) independence Zimbabwe to listen to some early and rare singles from the Lion of Zimbabwe, Thomas Mapfumo and his various backing bands during this time. A number of his early singles were compiled onto three highly recommended albums: Hokoyo!, Gwindingwe Rine Shumba (both recently reissued by Water records on CD) and the Chimurenga Singles (now out of print). The five singles being shared today are from this same period - a time when the style was being defined by Mapfumo and his guitarist Jonah Sithole. For a comprehensive overview of Thomas Mapfumo I suggest the following article at Zambuko. This details Mapfumo's career progression from rock music in a number of early combos to his time with the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band and then with the Acid Band, the Pied Pipers, Black Spirits and Blacks Unlimited.

Thomas Mapfumo and the Acid Band

Afro Soul AS1055
A. Pamuromo Chete (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo and the Acid Band
B. Njiva (Gweshe) - Thomas Mapfumo and the Acid Band (lead vocal Albert Gweshe)
The first "chimurenga single" where Thomas Mapfumo responds directly to the then white ruler Ian Smith's declaration that Zimbabwe will never be ruled by Africans. His response - Pamuromo Chete - "this is just mere talk".

Afro Soul AS1058
Pasi Pani Nhamo (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo and the Pied Pipers
Dindingwe (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo and the Pied Pipers
Mapfumo played for a while with the afro-rock outfit the Pied Pipers who were later famous for their reggae infused "You Can't Stop the Revolution". A later version of Dindingwe appears on the Hokoyo LP.

Afro Soul AS1088
A. Matiregerera Mambo (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo
B. Zvandiviringa (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo
Both tracks were compiled to the Hokoyo LP.

Afro Soul AS1104
A. Nyarai (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited
B. Nyati (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited<
Nyarai appears on the Chimurenga singles album.

Afro Soul AS1110
A. Rita (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited
B. Chitima Cherusununguku (Mapfumo) - Thomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited
These tracks appear on the Gwindingwe Rine Shumba LP which is for me the most complete and satisfying album of Mapfumo's long career.


A strictly work in progress Thomas Mapfumo singles discography
AS 103 Mutoridodo/Hodi
AS 104 Alikulila/Mazhlamini
AS 105 Ngoma Yarira/Murembo
AS 1031 Ndiwudze Kwakainda Vamwe / Yarira
AS 1039 Pfumo Rinobva Mudziva / Vanopenga
AS 1055 Pamuromo Chete / Njiva
AS 1056 Ndoziva Ripi Zano / Imbwa Yangu
AS 1057 Chaminuka / Shungu Dzinondibaya
AS 1058 Pasi Pane Nhamo / Dindingwe
AS 1063 Chaive Chinyakare / Chiiko Chinotinetsa
AS 1075 Zai Ona Zai Ona / Sebenza Utshona
AS 1078 Tonga Nyaya Dzino Netsa / Teererai Mitemo
AS 1082 Ndobuda Pachena / Wa Zvione Ra
AS 1088 Zvandiviringa / Matiregerera Mambo
AS 1094 Kwa Gutu / Tamba Wakachenjere
AS 1102 Handidadirwe / Mugara Ndega
AS 1104 Nyarai / Nyati
AS 1108 Madhebhura / Monday Zuva Guru
AS 1109 Shumba / Hwahwa
AS 1110 Rita / Chitima Cherusununguko
AS 1111 Musandizonde / Joyce
AS 1113 Tsuvuuramuromo / Chiwayawaya
AS 1114 Pidigori / Ruva Rangu
AS 1117 Makandiwa/Chii Chato Go-o
AS 1119 Nhamo Yapera / Zambuko
AS 1122 Kure Kwemeso Part 1 / Kure Kwemeso Part 2

Monday 2 April 2012

The Roots of Shangaan Electro

If you travel to the sub-tropical town of Tzaneen in Limpopo province and spend time on the shopping strip you will bump into any number of street traders selling the latest music DVDs of local music stars. I was surprised and encouraged by the high proportion of local artists available compared to the likes of Jay Z. Rihanna, Madonna and other imported music celebrities. Music from this region caught the the attention of dance floors around the world through the Honest Jons compilation Shangaan Electro in 2010. Engaged by the hectic pace (150 beats per minute PLUS) and glorious dances moves Honest Jons has been issuing a number of remixed tunes from the original album.

Lizzy Mercier in Soweto for the Zulu Rock recordings (1983)

But at electricjive we're always interested in the precendents and the roots that come to inform the present. And so we take a step back to the late seventies to highlight what we understand to be the first compilation of what was previously called Shangaan disco. Some of the artists featured on this compilation would go on to get international exposure with Lizzy Mercier, Paul Simon and the whole world music phenomena of the mid eighties. ENJOY!

Nkulungwani Wa Nwalungu Vol 1 (Fast Move BFLP85002, 1977)
01 Sapota: M.D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters
02 Pfukani Rishile: Samson Mthombeni and the Gazankulu Girls
03 Ndzi Khumbula Vaka Hina: G.S. Chauke
04 Angelinah Nkata: Star Flying Gazankulu
05 Miyela N'whanyana: Samson Mthombeni and the Gazankulu Girls
06 Pfuka N'wavolo: M.D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters
07 He Mdjadji: M.D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters
08 Bombo Ratika: Samson Mthombeni and the Gazankulu Girls
09 Salani Va Chiawelo: James Makhubelo and the Nhlalukweni Sisters
10 Ha Kunene: M.D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters
11 Shinengana: Samson Mthombeni and the Gazankulu Girls
12 Xiniyengile: M.D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters