Thursday 31 May 2012

Love for Free: Hidden South African jazz archive revealed

Chris Schilder aka Ebrahim Kalil Shihab at the Zambezi Restaurant,
Hanover Street, District Six, 1965. Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
The recorded store of South Africa’s jazz heritage just got a little bit bigger than anybody realised. If you could ask just about any jazz musician who played in Cape Town during the mid 1960s, all would remember Ian Bruce Huntley with an affectionate smile. Ian was this lovable ‘jazz fanatic’ who would be on stage setting up recording microphones from his Tandberg 6 reel-to-reel recorder at many of the live jazz gigs that were played between 1964 and 1966 and then again from 1968 to 1972. Now and then he would also be taking pictures with his Leica M3.

Ian Bruce Huntley in 1967
After more than forty-five years of privately preserving these reel-to-reel recordings, Ian has just concluded a non-profit “public good” agreement that, amongst other things, gives Electric Jive exclusive permission to archive and share this wealth of historically important and amazing music. A new adventure is in the planning stages, and there are some wonderful surprises ahead. I am starting to seek out and have discussions with some good and helpful people, to plot a path which results in a companion book of photos, articles and a full discography of the history that is stored on those reel-to-reel tapes.
Today’s posting serves to announce a jazz musical heritage and excitement which we shall be unpacking on Electric Jive once a month for many months to come. In the medium-term, I am hoping to set up a searchable sub-page archive on Electric Jive to give expression to the agreement whose purpose is “to honour the musicians and their music, to promote the recognition that they are due, and to stimulate wider public interest in and appreciation of this heritage. We do not seek profit or commercial gain in making these recordings available.”

My recent spare time has been focussed on organising and digitising and backing up recordings very few people knew existed. Acutely aware of my own deficits in jazz and musical knowledge I am just excited to keep learning further, and to be able to start sharing this important heritage more widely.

The mid 1960s was an important period of transition, and in many respects Ian’s recordings mirror how the Cape Town jazz scene absorbed, processed and re-packaged that context. While much of the rest of Africa was euphorically bathing in the inception of decolonization, the iron grip of apartheid was really beginning to take hold in South Africa. Globally, the Cold War began to make pawns of countries.
Tete Mbambisa and Psych Big T Ntsele
Pic by Ian Bruce Huntley
In the United States jazz musicians of the African diaspora celebrated Africa’s newly found freedoms, but most walked a careful line on the side of the American Empire’s project of global democratization. A whole new era of musical dialogue between Africa and America was begun.
While many Africans were charting new paths and identities, there was a diverse group of Cape Town-based South African jazz musicians improvising in finding their own meaning and inspiration, listening intently to the likes of Coltrane, Davis, Monk, Mingus, Blakey and a host of other bop musicians.

Robin D.G. Kelley sums the period up well in his recent book: “Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times” -: “African musicians did not exist to bring something ancient to African American modernism; rather, they were both creating modern music, drawing on the entire diaspora as well as the world, to do so. Indeed, perhaps with the growth of trans-Atlantic collaborations and dissemination of culture, we can no longer speak so confidently about jazz as an American art form, or render African Jazz musicians outside the pale of the music’s history. And we certainly need to go beyond listening to non-American artists for ways they incorporate “their culture” into jazz – whether we’re talking about South African or Israeli jazz musicians. Jazz reveals that, even in the search for tradition, its chains do not always bind us, and the most powerful map of the New World is in the imagination.

While he is not a musician, Ian Bruce Huntley has made a significant and until now, unrecognised contribution in recording and preserving an extremely valuable, important and invigorating legacy. Despite attentions of South Africa’s State security apparatus, it was still possible in the mid 60s for racially mixed bands to perform at select public places such as the Zambezi Restaurant in Hanover Street, District Six, The Ambassador’s Jazz Club In Woodstock, The Vortex in Upper Long Street, The Art Centre, Kings Hotel and the Grand Prix Restaurant in Sea Point, The Room At The Top. All of these venues hosted an ebb and flow of South African jazz musicians – those that stayed and those that left the country and returned occasionally.
Ian’s recordings were always made with the permission and blessing of the musicians concerned. Often, after gigs, he would head back with band members to his flat in Main Road, Mowbray, and play it all back to them, way into the early hours. Ian’s Xhosa friends gave him the name “Ka-Nini”(Gwanini?), literally meaning ‘of the night’ – or, someone who comes alive at night.

Friends saying goodbye to Ian who had to leave Cape Town in February 1967: Left to Right - top: Harold Schlensog; Peter Buchanan; Paddy Ewer; Margaret Schlensog; Selwyn Lissack; Ian Huntley; Willie Nete; Themba Matola; Martin Ngijima (with pipe); Front: left to right: Roger Khoza; Howard Sassman; Chris Schilder; Winston Mankunku Ngozi.
In 1967 Ian was suddenly transferred out of Cape Town via somewhat mysterious instructions sent to the government map-making office where he worked. At around the same time he was also evicted from his flat because he was allowing black friends to sleep over there. Ian has many stories to tell, and I look forward to sharing some of these, and his recordings and photos, on this blog.
For today’s post I have selected an introductory sample of single tracks from some of the tapes I have digitised so far. In addition to making many of his own recordings, Ian also collected an impressive legacy of local and international jazz recordings. Some of the recordings are of excellent quality and leave me in wonder of how this amateur enthusiast with minimal equipment in the 1960s was able to achieve this. Some of the tapes have not lasted as well, while the levels in others are not ideal. Once you start listening, I am sure you will agree that the minor blemishes pale into insignificance.

Kippie Moeketsi, Victor Ntoni and Dani Ndlovu - Langa Community Centre 1971
Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
I have to start with a ten-minute Kippie Moeketsi rendition of Body and Soul that just blows me away. Back in Cape Town in 1971, Ian was persuaded by friends to part with fifty rands to pay for an airticket to get Kippie Moeketsi to come down from Johannesburg and play a gig. When Ian and the band picked Kippie up at the airport in his Renault 4L, Kippie had arrived without an instrument. Ian persuaded his friends Lawrence and Sherlaine Koonen at The Record Centre to give him a loan, and bought Kippie a brand new Selmer Mark 6 alto saxophone. This concert involved Kippie Moeketsi and  Danyi Ndlovu on saxophones, a really top-of-his-game Victor Ntoni on bass and Nelson Magwaza on drums.
Body and Soul: Mediafire here Rapidshare here
Two more recordings at the Art Centre during 1966, not long before Winston Mankunku Ngozi was to catapault to national fame as 1967 Jazzman of the year for his Yakhal’ Nkomo.

First up Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi (tenor saxophone), Chris Schilder (piano), Phil Schilder (bass), Monty Weber (drums) – Love for Sale. Mediafire here Rapidshare here

Next is a striking recording of a Coltrane composition, “Ole” made at The Art Centre on 20th August 1966: Morris Goldberg (alto saxophone); Winston Ngozi (tenor saxophone); Chris Schilder (piano); Midge Pike (bass); Philly Schilder (bass); Selwyn Lissack (drums). At nearly 18 minutes long, your patience through the gathering free introduction will be rewarded.
"Ole" - Mediafire here Rapidshare here
Ronnie Beer and Tete Mbambisa
Pic: Ian Bruce Huntley
Going back further in time at The Room At The Top in 1964 we uncover a whole lot of gems, including an 18-minute rendition of “Arabia” featuring Dennis Mpale (trumpet);  Dudu Pukwana (Alto sax);  Ronnie Beer (tenor sax); Tete Mbambisa (piano); Martin Ngijima (bass); Max Dayimani (drums).
Arabia: Mediafire here Rapidshare here

Martin Ngijima. Pic by Ian Bruce Huntley
 The final track I share with you today is of Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes playing Mingus’ Boogie Stop Shuffle at Wits University on 22nd March 1963. The recording was made by Professor John Blacking. Ian just happened to transcribe this rarity onto reel-to-reel. The band: Chris McGregor (Piano); Elijah Nkwanyana - trumpet (and also a little baritone sax); Dudu Pukwana – (alto saxophone); Martin Ngijima (bass); we are not certain of the drummer, but believe it to be Early Mabuza. The tape of the full concert will become available in due course.

Boogie Stop Shuffle: Mediafire here Rapidshare here

I look forward to sharing more with you next month. Cheers!

Monday 28 May 2012

Timmy Thomas Live in Africa (1978)

It is a good time to revive that anthem that made Timmy Thomas so special to millions of South Africans. Milner Park Stadium, Johannesburg in December 1978 was an edgy place for thousands of black South Africans to sing songs like “Why Can’t We Live Together” at a live concert. The song again became a big hit on the eve of South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. For many, the song still holds relevance today, in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.

 Backing Thomas in this very funky and soulful recording are none other than one of South Africa’s most famous jazz-funk outfits, “Spirits Rejoice” with Joy bringing backing vocals:

Gilbert Matthews – Drums
Paul Petersen – Guitar
Mervyn Africa – Keyboard
Sipho Gumede – Bass
Duke Makasi – Sax
Thabo Mashishi – Trumpet
George Tyemfumani – Trumpet
Joy: Felicia Marlow; Anneline Malebu; Thoko Ndlozi.

You can find more about Spirits Rejoice on Electric Jive here and here and here. Spirits Rejoice also backed other visiting artists like Dobey Gray, Clarence Carter, Double Exposure and Leo Sayer. I am not aware of any recordings of these tours though?

 The original Why Cant We Live together album can be found over at snapcrackleandpops here.
Why Can’t We Live Together” reached number one R&B and number three Pop on Billboards singles charts in 1973. It went on to sell over six million copies, and was nominated for a Grammy award. This 1978 live recording has a great spontaneous feel to it - enjoy.
1. Why Can't We live Together (Thomas)
2. When a house got music (Dixon)
3. Rainbow Power (Thomas)
4. Sweet Brown Sugar (Wright)
5. Drown in my own tears (Glover)
6. Touch To Touch (Williams)
7. Sipho Mazibuko (Thomas)
8. Why Cant We live together (reprise)
Rapidshare here
Mediafire here

Friday 25 May 2012

Shis'umbango (1971, Quality, LTJ245)

Imagine my surprise when I walked into a favourite record shop in West London and came across this early mbaqanga compilation. Featuring lesser known artists and issued on the short lived Quality label (that also released Dudu and the Spears featured earlier at electricjive). A lovely way to liven up your Friday. Enjoy!

Various Artists - Shis'umbango (1971, Quality, LTJ245)
1. Masinga - Mandla and the Apollo Queens
2. Inhlola Mvula - Mandla and the Apollo Queens
3. Amazinyane - Bhekitshe and the Stringmasters
4. Elwandle - Bhekitshe and the Stringmasters
5. She Walked Away - G. Sebusi and the Paper Dolls
6. Silver Rand - G. Sebusi and the Paper Dolls
7. I Bhodo Lenyama - The Sweet Sixteens
8. Ngiyamkhalela - The Sweet Sixteens
9. Inkomo Zam No 2 - Bhekitshe and the Stringmasters
10. Dudu - Bhekitshe and the Stringmasters
11. Le Ntombi - Vivian and the Paper Dolls
12. Buyela 'Kapa - Vivian and the Paper Dolls

Monday 21 May 2012

Bumping, Moving and Grooving into Zone One

This one goes out to all you lovers of the jazz fusion and bump sounds of the Movers, the Drive and the Mover's organist Sankie Chounyane. I've posted previously on theses groups at matsuli as well as here at electricjive. Siemon has a detailed discography of the Movers at flatinternational and I've detailed the Drive discography in an earlier post here at electricjive.

Various Artists - Zone One (1976, SoulSoul, SSL123)
1. Zone One - The Movers
2. Don't Touch - The Movers
3. Zone No 6 (Part 1) - The Drive
4. My Dreams (Part 1) - The Drive
5. Jacaranda No 15 (Part 1) - Sankie and the New Time Boys
6. N-U-10 - The Movers
7. Traffic Ticket - The Movers
8. Help Me - The Movers
9. Zone No 6 (Part 2) - The Drive
10. My Dreams (Part 2) - The Drive
11. Jacaranda No 15 (Part 2) - Sankie and the New Time Boys
12. Spy - The Movers


Monday 14 May 2012

Jump and Jive with West Nkosi (1967)

Today we feature the very first “solo” long playing record by the legendary saxophonist, composer, producer and, later, executive for Gallo records — West Nkosi — a major figure in the South African recording industry for more than three decades.

As a member of the famed Makhona Tsohle Band in the early 1960s, Nkosi help develop the sound of sax jive and subsequently the style of mbaqanga. As a producer he signed and recorded classic groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well as Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens.

Jump and Jive with West Nkosi, completes what I like to call the early Mavuthela trilogy — the other two albums being Meet the Mahotella Queens (1966) and Let’s Move with the Makhona Tsohle Band (1967), both on the Motella label.

Issued in 1967 on Gallo’s USA label, Jump and Jive does appear to be Nkosi’s first LP record. Though, like the other Mavuthela releases mentioned above, it is a compilation of material previously issued on 78 rpm. I suspect the recordings here range in date from around 1964 to 1967. The cover image of Nksoi has been featured on a number of websites, but remarkably, the source of that image, the original album itself, has not.

In preparing this post it was more than evident to me that no one could be more qualified to talk about Nkosi that my colleague Nick Lotay, who has covered the artist extensively in a range of posts first at Matsuli and now here at Electric Jive.

For this post, Nick has kindly allowed me to sample his various texts in order to string together a narrative for Nkosi. Nick, I am indebted, many thanks!

In many ways Nick’s 2009 post Jive Motella! at Matsuli is for me the gold standard for well-researched, informative blogging and it is from his essay that we open the West Nkosi narrative:

“The vital core of Mavuthela’s roster arose as amateur musicians during the mid-1950s, and the story begins with Joseph Makwela. [...] At the age of 16, Makwela moved to Pretoria on the lookout for work. He eventually became a domestic worker in a white suburb, and encountered by chance another gardener called Lucky Monama. [...] Monama got on well with Makwela and soon they became firm friends, learning that they worked only a short distance from each other. During an off-hour at the end of the week, they spotted a pennywhistler performing at a sports ground, Johannes Hlongwane. Hlongwane was born in 1940 in eMathafeni, just outside Nelspruit. At the age of 16, after leaving school, the music-loving Hlongwane was sent to live with his grandfather in Pretoria to find work. After he gained enough money to buy a pennywhistle […] Hlongwane began to make a name for himself on the streets of Pretoria by performing outside bus stations, at bus stops, and outside stadiums, inspired by his idol Spokes Mashiyane. After seeing the animated Hlongwane, Makwela and Monama bought their own pennywhistles and sought harmony advice from him, in awe of his precision music playing (and the high amount of money that he had garnered from onlookers). Shortly afterwards, the three lads formed The Pretoria Tower Boys. Three more members were soon added and Makwela replaced his whistle with a guitar.

The [PT] Boys would, on occasion, come upon a rival pennywhistle group led by guitarist Marks Mankwane. The Boys would often marvel at his meticulous and rhythmic tunes and Hlongwane noted to himself that Mankwane was a very talented musician to look out for. […]

By the start of the 1960s, each member wanted to try their luck as professional musicians. Hlongwane decided to change his name to West Nkosi. Nkosi and Monama were the first: they moved from Pretoria to Alexandra in late 1960, where Nkosi again played pennywhistle tunes on the streets – Monama backed him up on guitar – enthusiastically waiting to be spotted. A talent scouting expedition from [Gallo] saw the two boys moving to Johannesburg and Nkosi joining Gallo’s kwela studio group: Spokes Mashiyane & His All-Star Flutes. However, [Nkosi’s] time with them was brief, as he wanted to develop his own career as an individual performer.

Monama decided to remain at Gallo as a session musician and permanently abandoned his pennywhistle, opting to become a rhythm guitarist. Nkosi once again moved on, ending up joining another studio group called the Bon Accord Boys. The fame that they acquired affected Nkosi deeply, who wanted a reputation as a brilliant soloist.

This saw a move back to Jo’burg’s city centre in 1962 and back at the famed Gallo studios, this time with Joseph Makwela, for a second try. The two lads ended up performing as a duo outside the legendary building. They had at this point switched instruments: Nkosi replaced his pennywhistle with a saxophone after realizing that the pennywhistle had quickly gone out of fashion, and Makwela […] became the first black electric bass player in South Africa. Reggie Msomi was sufficiently pleased by the performances, having seen them on his way in and out of the Gallo studios.

The two men were recruited by Msomi into his stellar marabi line-up the Hollywood Jazz Band [led by Msomi] and were subsequently reunited with Lucky Monama – who, at this point, was already the rhythm guitarist in the band. Msomi was impressed with Nkosi, and gave the performer a second role at Gallo as a solo artist. Nkosi’s professional career effectively began. Some minor success occurred before Msomi heard that Gallo was not showing good profits in their black music production. He decided to take the new lineup of the Jazz Band on a tour, this time to up north to Rhodesia, hoping that he would gain decent revenue from the live appearances and recordings of the band for the company. […]

The company took Msomi’s unexpected departure as an opportunity to replace him. They managed to entice the massively successful Rupert Bopape [from EMI] and Mavuthela was born. Msomi was furious at Gallo replacing him behind his back, but he was persuaded by management to remain at the company with promises to become a possible co-producer […] in the new Mavuthela subsidiary.

When West Nkosi, Joseph Makwela and Lucky Monama finally returned to Gallo in the middle of 1964, they found that, in the re-organisation of the company, Bopape had fired most of the old musicians. One of the new recruits to the new Mavuthela roster was none other than Marks Mankwane, who had been […] at Troubadour Records […].

West Nkosi began pleading with Bopape to let him record as a solo artist on the new Mavuthela roster, just as he had done under Msomi, but Bopape – needing new musicians and having received word from Msomi that Nkosi was one musician from the old Gallo unit that didn’t deserve to be fired – instead put him in a group of backing saxophonists (the four horn blowers in the foreground during Mavuthela’s infancy were Shadrack Piliso, Elijah Nkwanyana, Zeph Nkabinde, and Christopher Songxaka) and started churning out the necessary vocal/sax jive output he had done at EMI.

The first few Mavuthela recordings were simple instrumental sax jives with a ‘call and response’ nomenclature. Depending on the pseudonym, one of the saxophonists would call with his instrument. He would be responded with a team of saxophones played by the other horn blowers on the early roster – with all important accompaniments from Mavuthela’s house band: Mankwane’s high-pitched electric guitar skills, Makwela on his deeply-plucked bass, Monama on acoustic rhythm guitar, and Wilfred Mosebi on brushed drums. The music itself built heavily on the mbaqanga […] sound. The deep electric bass pulsation and concentrated uptempo electric guitar was an irresistible complementation and as such held the entire melody together.

West Nkosi asked Bopape if it was possible to audition now that Mavuthela was up-and-running. Bopape agreed. Nkosi, together with Mankwane, Makwela, Monama and Mosebi, performed a sax jive tune that he had composed some months prior. Bopape was impressed by this performance, and as a result, Nkosi was made a solo act – under the name West Nkosi and His Alto Sax – and recorded his first tune: “Orlando Train”, the song he had performed in his audition.

Bopape formally organised the Mavuthela house band and later penned the Sesotho name ‘Makhona Tsohle Band’ (The Band That Can Do Anything) in reference to the skills of his musicians. Bopape organised for the band to perform at local gatherings to promote the Mavuthela division, which began its fruitful productive career releasing its product on the existing “Gallo-USA” and “Gallo New Sound” labels, and the newly-formed “Motella” label. The instrumentalists were very well-received with their new “electric jive” sound and success was to follow.

A huge slice of the black public became fairly fanatical about this new musical craze and the “Motella” name soon gained currency. The easygoing Marks Mankwane was to become a key musical arranger, whilst the more open and enthusiastic West Nkosi found a mentor in Bopape. Bopape educated Nkosi, an aspiring producer, on the rigid studio system, and gave Nkosi a stable role as a solo performer. Nkosi was happy in his permanent position of employment in Johannesburg, not least because it gave him a chance to make a name for himself and at the same time remain with his beloved wife Thami and newborn baby."

"The rest of the 1970s saw some more membership changes, and promotions – Mankwane and Nkosi were now producers, as was Lucky Monama (Monama was now also Mavuthela’s Public Relations officer). Makhona Tsohle subsequently disbanded around 1979 due to producer responsibilities, though did carry on as session musicians, reuniting in 1983 for their own (highly successful) television show, Mathaka (Friends) […]."

"Nkosi’s headstrong attitude to life thrust him further and further into the spotlight as time went on [...]. When the order came from Gallo’s management to increase production, Nkosi was one of the first to be honoured by Bopape with a producing role in 1972.

Nkosi was the ultimate champ and all-round good guy in front of Bopape, the big boss of the studio. But privately, one might say West thought Bopape was ill-suited to the music business: in an interview many years after Bopape’s retirement, Nkosi spoke about sitting down with his boss in the rehearsal rooms at Gallo and watching artist after artist audition for a contract. Though Nkosi could feel the potential in these musicians and singers, Bopape was the boss and had to have the final say – and often turned down the ones who Nkosi privately felt had the talent to prosper. His promotion to producer gave him the chance to have his decisions adhered to – and, in many cases, spotlight a talented act that, under Bopape, would never have shone.

When West Nkosi came to Durban to search for a local male group whose cothoza mfana vocal styling had captivated everyone listening to Radio Zulu, he struck gold. He brought Ladysmith Black Mambazo in a Gallo minibus to the Johannesburg studios, where welcome faces and pats on the back greeted them. All except for Rupert Bopape, of course! Joseph Shabalala, the enigmatic founder and leader of the group, recalled in a late 1990s interview that Bopape was hesitant of signing the then-seven members to Gallo-Mavuthela. “He was hesitating about it,” remembered Shabalala. “He said, ‘there are groups like the King Star Brothers… we record them and black people don’t buy their music! It’ll be the same thing for these guys!’” West Nkosi insisted that these guys were so much more talented than any of the others. The hesitation continued for a while – but luckily, Bopape’s wife Irene Mawela happened to be in the studios that day and asked who these singers were. When told of the group’s name, she immediately recognised them from the constant Radio Zulu airplay – and insisted that they be signed up. West noted her approval and Bopape duly agreed. Ladysmith Black Mambazo began recording in August 1972 and, by the end of the decade, had become the biggest selling group in the country’s history.

Alongside producing several more immensely popular acts, West Nkosi continued recording instrumental hits too: in the line-up West Nkosi Nabashokobezi (which included guitarist Marubini Jagome, bassist Jabu Zulu and drummer Eddie Ndzeru), he focused mainly on peppy sax jive tunes and recording many, many numbers in the ‘mabone’ series. With his longtime musical acquaintances in the Makgona Tsohle Band (also credited as the Makhona Zonke Band on several 1970s records), Nkosi also did sax jive but that bit more extravagantly, as well as later branching out into bump jive and soul."

"In 1973, the studio group West Nkosi Nabashokobezi worked up a sensational mbaqanga beat that just had to be recorded. Released on the FGB Producers label in 1973, the hit single “Two Mabone” (two car headlights) defined that alignment with the US. The single became a huge hit within South Africa, quickly attaining gold status – the tune was so popular that Gallo Africa issued it for international release via London Records in the US. Before long, jive Mabone – referring to the headlights of the Impala – became the in-thing. A long string of recordings by various sax jivers all helped to keep the trend alive for some two or three years. […]"

"[…] Following Bopape’s 1977 semi-retirement, Nkosi carefully encouraged his own influence with Gallo’s board of directors – using the influential advice that Bopape gave to him – and not only became head of production in the stable, but the first black man to be appointed to the board of directors at Gallo Africa (in 1982)."

In August 1998, Nkosi was paralyzed in a car accident, and died from his injuries two months later, at the age of 58. 

Many thanks again to Nick Lotay for allowing me to sample his texts on Nkosi for this narrative.

West Nkosi
Jump and Jive with West Nkosi

Monday 7 May 2012

A missing piece of the puzzle from Isigqi Sesimanjemanje (1992)

(L to r: Jane Dlamini, Joana Thango, Janet Dlamini)

Ethnomusicologist Louise Meintjes undertook a fieldwork of sorts when she listened in on the rehearsals, attended the recording sessions and interviewed at length the members of the all-female mbaqanga group Isigqi Sesimanjemanje in the early 1990s. The relationship between those who were hoping to share their talents and reap the rewards from a potential overseas audience and those who had the power to make or break the act is a formidable one, particularly during that particular time period in South Africa. The other major factor was the presence of white engineers in the production of what was regularly termed "black music", or more coarsely, "black stuff". It is these relationships that Meintjes explored in her 2003 book Sound of Africa!: Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio when recounting Isigqi's preparation for their next album release Lomculo Unzima (This music is heavy).

Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje in 1976
(Clockwise from left: Lindiwe Mthembu, Jane Dlamini, Nobesuthu Shawe, Ruth Mafuxwana)
Isigqi Sesimanjemanje was formed in the late 1980s. Regular Electric Jive readers will be aware that this group was born out of one of the country's most popular mbaqanga girl groups, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje (The modern girls), who - along with the Mahotella Queens - found it hard-going to sustain their sound and popularity with the onslaught of disco and (later on) bubblegum music in the early-to-mid 1980s. Izintombi succumbed and disbanded in 1985. The central figure of the group, vocalist Jane Dlamini, took the decision to regroup with three of its former members around 1988, having witnessed the growth of the international love for South African music following releases such as Duck Rock (1983), The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (1985) and Graceland (1987). A major factor in the formation of the newly named Isigqi Sesimanjemanje (The modern sound) was the success of the Mahotella Queens, the group that Izintombi was pitted against in the battle for supremacy during the "afro" era of the 1970s. Sensing that he could give them the success that they desired, Dlamini eventually managed to convince prolific producer West Nkosi to take Isigqi under his wing. It meant a split from Hamilton Nzimande, the producer who had formed the group over twenty years prior, but Nkosi had managed to send Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens crisscrossing across the globe to much acclaim and success - and could very easily do the same for Isigqi. When it came to the studio, Nkosi promptly began rearranging their sound to fit with "modern times". That included cutting a trademark of their sound from the track "South Africa" - the 1970s Korg organ sound, replacing it with synthesised marimba - as well as revising their material to fit the wedding song genre.

Louise Meintjes' Sound of Africa! documents the making of Isigqi's 1992 album by placing it within the context of South Africa's political history and the lineage of mbaqanga music itself. The only major flaw with the book is not the text - it is the fact that a copy of Lomculo Unzima was not included with the finished work. Long out of print, this album is presented to you by Electric Jive in the hope of plugging something of a gap that has remained unfilled heretofore. Although the material here does stray quite a bit from EJ's usual focus, we are sharing this recording not only to assist the ongoing internet documentation of all South African musics, but to bring added colour to the words of Meintjes' book - and to bring the voices of Jane Dlamini, Joana Thango and Janet Dlamini... and every musician associated with them... to life.


LOMCULO UNZIMA (Isigqi Sesimanjemanje)
Africa AFRLP 029



Friday 4 May 2012

Hidden Winston Mankunku Ngozi gem found

Something unusually special today. This 1965 recording is of a live performance at the Stables in Loop Street, Cape Town. It is previously unpublished and gives a unique and surprising peep into the live Cape Town jazz scene at the time.

Recordings of saxophone legend Winston Mankunku Ngozi are few and far between.  In today's posting, lasting a little over half an hour, the twenty-two-year-old Mankunku makes magic with Dave Galloway on organ,  Midge Pike on bass and Selwyn Lissack on drums. Think Jimmy Smith in a bop fusion spiced up with Mankunku’s own special flavouring.

Selwyn Lissack went on to become a renowned, but somewhat mysterious international free jazz drummer, who made two recordings and then stopped recording and branched off into a collaborative artistic relationship with Salvador Dali. In 2006 Lissack re-mastered and re-issued his two recordings, and was listed by Thurston Moore as amongst his "Top Ten from the Free Jazz underground".  Read more about Lissack here.

Midge Pike (1967)
Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
Mankunku would often acknowledge bass player Midge Pike in the same breath as mentioning John Coltrane as being key in shaping his music. In writing the liner notes for Mankunku's Yakhal' Inkomo, Ray Nkwe describes Midge Pike as "South Africa's greatest bassist". Nkwe goes on to quote Mankunku as saying: "Midge was really the man behind my success. He really helped me a lot, I take my hat off to him." Midge left South Africa for the United States in 1973 where he continued to compose and play. He died in September 2008.

Dave Galloway was (is?) a professional musician who played trombone for the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra at the time. He was last heard of as working in Vryheid as a music educator for the provincial education department.

There are five tracks in today's share - any help in identifying them would be greatly appreciated. So far, we have:
1. "Taps Miller" (Buck Clayton)
3. "A Taste of Honey" (Bobby Scott / Ric Marlow)
4. "Well You Needn't" (Thelonius Monk).
5. "How High The Moon" (Hamilton/Lewis)

(Thanks Bob and Howard for your input)

We hope in the coming months to be able to bring you a few more Cape Town jazz gems like this one. We are working on that possibility, so please understand if we cannot say more right now. Tony McGregor does a great job in painting a picture of Mankunku and the sixties Cape Town jazz scene here.
If you have not yet heard Mankunku's recording with the Cliffs, do have a look at this 2009 electric jive posting. And futher posts available here and here.
Rapidshare here
Mediafire here

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Tete Mbambisa: Black Heroes (2012)

In celebration of the just released CD “Black Heroes” by legendary South African jazz composer and pianist Tete Mbambisa, Electric Jive is giving one away.
Jazz fundi Don Albert says that on “Black Heroes one hears his melodies, underpinned with rich chordal voicings and often a bass line that is pure African. His mix of African and American jazz is subtle. You’ll hear a tune such as “Dembese” and know the melody, now you will now know it was written by Mbambisa.”

He is not afraid to display his emotional style on slower tempos, or to call out ‘hey’ when he likes what he’s doing, as on “Masiye”. He also has a strong side, but never just pounds the keyboard. A good example is the way he plays block chords on “Thembile’s Workshop” or his ostinato bass on “Umsenge” while on “Emavundleni” he evokes a bluesy feel.”

Tony McGregor puts it this way: “.. absolutely amazing album by Tete Mbambiso ... what a joy! To add to the greatness of the music the CD is brilliantly produced with wonderful liner notes by music maven Jonathan Eato and singer Pinise Saul. I wish all producers would take a look at this CD and learn how to really put a package together. What a wonderful tribute to a great musician – and one sadly not as well recognised as he should be. Thanks Bra Tete for the music!”

If you would like to stand a chance of winning this give-away, there are two simple steps. First, leave a comment below, saying you would like a copy. Second, send an e-mail to recordforthe AT gmail dot com, telling me the names of at least two bands that Tete Mbambisa has played with.

If you would like to buy a copy of Black Heroes (all proceeds go to Bra Tete):
Rest of the World, visit Jonathan Eato's JISA site and click on the PAYPAL link. He is working on getting more stores to stock the CD.
In South Africa:
African Music Store in Long Street, Cape Town has copies available, and they will post to you. Tel: 021 426 0857 – they do not seem to answer e-mails, but you may be luckier than me: have also said they will sell it – but nothing has appeared yet.

If you would like to hear excerpts of the CD - you can do that here