Monday 4 June 2012

Abacothozi - Night in Pelican (1976)

For almost a year we had a request looking for this album in our side bar below. Finally a copy surfaced last year and today we take great pleasure in featuring it.

The title here, Night in Pelican, refers to the famed Orlando East club — the Pelican — a popular music hub and "laboratory" for a number of seminal bands of the mid 1970s. Run by Lucky Michaels, the club featured a house band led by Dick Khoza who was also employed as stage manager. In September 1976 Khoza took the Pelican house band into Rashid Vally's studios to record his classic Chapita album, issued at that time on Vally's Sun label (and recently re-issued by Matsuli). (Matt Temple)

Of course, four of the musicians featured on Chapita were drawn from the group Abacothozi, notably Bethuel Maphumulo, Mac Mathunjwa, Joe Zikhali and Negro Mathunjwa. (Note that the spelling of their names differs from album to album so I have used both versions in this text to facilitate web searches.)

Abacothozi were formed in 1973 by bassist, Berthwel Maphumulo, formerly of the Elite Swingsters. Together with Mac Mathunjwa on organ, his brother Innocent Mathunjwa on drums and Joe Zikhali on guitar, they recorded at least two albums: Thema Maboneng (Soul Jazz Pop, BL 59, December 1975) and Night in Pelican (Soul Jazz Pop, BL 66, February 1976). The two Abacothozi albums were recorded six weeks apart and predate the Chapita sessions with Dick Khoza by eight months. Mac Mathunjwa would go on to play keyboards with the Peddlers backing Mpharanyana. (The above image of the group is sampled from SoulStrut.)

Night in Pelican features two long, single-sided tracks that slip out of the bump jive groove — the style that developed from Dollar Brand's seminal Mannenburg (1974). But where the early bump jive tracks have a slower, more jazzier reference to the majuba tradition, the tracks here are fast, funky and a lot more danceable — straddling the organ jive sounds of the Movers and the disco sound that would soon follow.

In the early 1970s Gallo Mavuthela's jazz catalogue was apparently quite thin. The company that had perfected the short, highly successful mbaganga sound in the late 1960s, by 1975 was now trying to compete with Teal's lengthy, bump jive formula and subsequently recruited a number of their jazz veterans (including Ntemi Piliso, Michael Xaba and Ellison Themba) to record new material in a similar vein. The Members, the group developed out of this push, generated a number of long format tracks in the bump jive style in January and April of 1975 and were subsequently issued on Gallo's Soul Jazz Pop label. Mavuthela would continue the experiment with a number of other long format albums including The Webb by the Makhona Zonke Band and Abacothozi's Night in Pelican. But without too much success, the company soon returned to its winning mbaqanga formula with groups like Abafana Baseqhudeni. (Rob Allingham)

The cover of Night in Pelican features a drawing by Zulu Bidi, the bassist for Batsumi, who also designed the cover for their debut album. His Pelican album image features the band, presumably Abacothozi, in a somewhat psychedelic African landscape that channels the club itself with its patrons drinking and dancing to their vibe.

The title track of Abacothozi's Thema Maboneng album is featured on Kon and Amir's compilation disc Off Track Volume 2 - Queens (BBE, 2008) (Though it is incorrectly titled as Theme Maboneng).

Night in Pelican
Soul Jazz Pop
Gallo Mavuthela
Produced by West Nkosi
BL 66


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