Monday 27 August 2012

Maskanda from Nganeziyamfisa No Khamba Lomvaleliso

Today’s post returns to the maskanda sound that we spotlighted late last year, but here we present a 1980s recording by one of the genre’s successful artists.

Nganeziyamfisa No Khamba Lomvaleliso was one of the more popular “Zulu traditional” groups of 1980s South Africa. Unfortunately – as with so many artists who specialise in maskanda music – there is little to no information about the group, and particular details remains scant indeed, even though the band was still seemingly active in the 1990s and well into the 2000s. (Their most recent album Lelo Gazi was released in 2007.) The only information to be gleaned is from the band name – Nganeziyamfisa and Khamba Lomvaleliso are, obviously enough, the two primary (male) members of the group.

The 1984 album Laduma is a nice representation of N.N.K.L.’s sound. Electric Jive’s copy of the album is from an original cassette, but thankfully the tape is in excellent condition and required very little cleaning up. The title track begins with a meticulous concertina introduction, before the other instruments gradually enter the song to create a lovely atmospheric melody. The busy acoustic guitar fiddles around the melody, alongside the plucked electric bass and determined trap set. The concertina remains calm and unremitting. The laidback lead vocalist appears on all ten tracks, often in conjunction with the harmonies of male backing singers. The vocals that can be found on tracks such as “Lwangena Udidi” and “Phendukani Nonke” put me in mind of traditional Zulu war singing. The chanting that appears intermittently also helps to create that feel.

There is not a lot in terms of musical variety on the cassette, but the continuous recurring sounds are quite relaxing and are perhaps perfect to play on a warm summer’s day. Most of the tracks (with the exception of the first and the last) begin with the same familiar guitar introduction. Perhaps this is a particular cadenza for the group, part of the identity of the band’s sound – much in the same way that isicathamiya groups end almost all their songs with the same familiar “tag line”. I would point here to the songs of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who utilise several of these “tag lines” but the most familiar to listeners would be: “Hhayi… he… kumnandi kwela kith’ eMnambithi” (It's nice to come from Mnambithi).

Lovely maskanda from Nganeziyamfisa No Khamba Lomvaleliso… enjoy!

LADUMA (Nganeziyamfisa No Khamba Lomvaleliso)
Teal Sound IAC 4032



Thursday 23 August 2012

Electric Jive's Top Ten

As someone fascinated by statistics I get a kick out of trying to understand trends and preferences of the readership of this blog. Regular visitors know that we share out of print, mostly South African recordings of mbaqanga, soul, jazz, jive and pop from the thirty-year period between 1950 to 1980.

After more than three years and 234 posts on Electric Jive we still sometimes ask ourselves questions for which the answers remain unclear – what is it that makes some posts much more popular than others? And then, for who, and why? While we are often quite personally random in our own choice of what to ‘archive’ in the public domain, we do notice what music is well-liked, and often are surprised at the lack of popularity of some important and rare recordings.

Much like life, visitor preferences are influenced by a complex set of variables, not always easily explainable or visible to the observer. Random external interventions can suddenly change what seemed to be established patterns. If a newspaper, magazine, or another popular blog references Electric Jive there is a sudden surge in visitors and downloads.
Today’s music share is in response to the consequences of a June 28th posting on the Kleptones blog post, Hectic City 15: Paths to Graceland. The very readable post and excellent mix references some tracks shared on Electric Jive, particularly the Greatest Accordion Jive Hits Volume III post. The post is about looking for that legendary tape which inspired Paul Simon to do the Graceland album. Consequently, the Accordion Jive Hits Vol III record that was posted on EJ June 2010, suddenly shot up out of obscurity in the popularity stakes to take number five spot in the all-time list of 234 posts, displacing Gideon Nxumalo’s Jazz Fantasia. 
The end result is that a whole lot of music lovers around the world have become turned on to South Africa accordion jive, and quite a few are asking for more. I am pretty sure we can come up with an interesting ‘boeremusiek’ concertina / accordion compilation that is not too distant from the kwela and mbaqanga stuff usually featured here. For now, I offer this 1983 instrumental recording with Pondoland roots, sounding just like it did in the early 70s. All songs composed by one Vailet Ntsewu.
As for the other interest groups that visit Electric Jive, you may be surprised to learn that by far and away the most popular page visited is the Kings’ Messengers Quartet. These guys are HUGE amongst Africans of the Christian faith, stretching across South Africa and all the way through Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi.
Number two on the EJ all time popular list is the Miriam Makeba tracks less travelled posting. At number three we have the In Exile compilation. At number four is the posting announcing Ian Bruce Huntley’s hidden jazz archive, with the Accordion Jive post coming in at number five. Gideon Nxumalo’s seminal and ground-breaking Jazz Fantasia is next with a selection of Mozambique’s music coming in at number seven. A mega posting on African jazz 78rpm’s from the 1950s, ‘Majuba Jazz’ is next, followed by the Roots of Shangaan Electro at nine. The number ten spot changes most regularly – alternating between the Disco Soul compilation, the 70s sax jive compilation, and is currently the Timmy Thomas live in Africa album.

Conclusions I can draw from the above list is that the Electric Jive team should continue with the diverse selection and spread of sounds we share, promote and archive. We are always very open and happy to receive comments, feedback and requests from you.

Umtata Boys - 4 Pairs of White Shoes (1983) GAL 107
Produced by S. Ndimande
All songs written by Vailet Ntsewu

Mediafire here
Rapidshare here

Monday 20 August 2012

Funny Thing: Ensemble of Rhythm and Art (1977)

Now here’s a ‘Funny Thing’ ... top-drawer musicians, whose core was no doubt drawn from Soweto’s Pelican Club House Band – playing up a funky 70s afro-jazz storm on Mavuthela’s Soul Jazz Pop label, produced by the legendary West Nkosi, but absolutely no band credits, other than to composer Simon Serakoeng aka Baba Themba Mokoena, the lead guitarist featured on Dick Khoza's "Chapita".

Themba Mokoena at the
Rainbow Restaurant, Pinetown - 2011
Take the banks of layered horns and tight rhythms from “Chapita”, the intricate keyboard and arranging sensibilities of “The Drive” and “Abacothozi,” sprinkle a little dash of “The Movers” tending only ever so slightly towards disco, put in a blender, hit the switch, and voila, you have “Ensemble of Rhythm and Art” – an 'ensemble' who seems only to have existed to produce this once-off gem of a record.

In addition to his strong afro-jazz guitar pedigree at the Pelican Club, Mokoena  is referenced as one of South Africa's finest mbaqanga guitar players by Calabash. Calabash go on to say the following:
"Simon Baba Mokoena was born at Umkumbane in Durban in the late '40. He started making music at the age of 12, playing a home-made guitar made from a five-liter oil container. At 17, he picked up his brother's acoustic guitar and has never looked back. Baba's first gig was with a group called Mhlathi and His Comets, whom he stayed with for four years. Next he met Dick Khoza, a jazz drummer. They formed a small jazz group with Pat Matshikiza on piano and Victor Gaba on bass, playing gigs around Durban.

After two years Baba left the group and went to Johannesburg to play mbaqanga, because he had always wanted to play African music. He played for a group called Izintombi Zamangwane. This was followed by guitar work on Gibson Kente's musicals Sikhalo and How Long.
Yours truly with Themba Mokoena at the
Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown last year -
Getting an autograph on "Chapita" -
pic by Cedric Nunn
Baba joined the resident band at the Pelican Night Club, playing with Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi and Khaya Mahlangu, to name but a few. This stint at the Pelican was a chance to explore different kinds of music — mbaqanga, jazz and rhythm and blues — and to meet names like American jazz organ player Jimmy Smith and U.S. group The Realistic." Calabash go on to describe how Mokoena toured Europe with "Township Fever" and continued to enrich the music of artists such as Mbongeni Ngema and Madala Kunene.

In addition to Baba Mokoena on lead guitar, as to who else is actually’ playing on this great album, we cannot say with certainty – but the Electric Jive team members have had fun listening and tossing ideas around. We all agree, “Pelican regulars ..”. Matt and Nick are pretty sure that West Nkosi’s sax is to be heard, along with Dennis Mpale’s trumpet. Nick wonders about one or both the Piliso brothers, pointing out they were “certainly very active in soul-jazz-pop sessions at the time"? Anyone have any other suggestions?

 For those album cover lovers among you – another Zulu Bidi artwork – see and listen also here for "Night at Pelican". As the ace bass player for Batsumi, Zulu Bidi also did the Batsumi cover, at least two for the Makhona Zonke Band, and one Mpharanyana and the Cannibals (Zion), as well as this 1975 “Reggae Man” cover.

Matt has put up excerpts from the BBC doccie on Zulu Bidi here - “Life and Death in Soweto” here.

Funny Thing: Ensemble of Rhythm and Art
Soul-Jazz-Pop BL110
Recorded 25th July 1977.
Produced by West Nkosi
Engineer: Glen Pearce
Side 1
The Dustbin
Funny Thing
Side 2
Pelican Fantasy
Hello There

Rapidshare here
Mediafire here

Monday 13 August 2012

Saitana - Baby Don't Go (1976)

Saitana (Monty Mdimande) was an original member of the "monkey jive" or "Soweto soul" group The Beaters. He is pictured above in an early publicity shot with Selby Ntuli, Alec Khaoli and Sipho Mabuse. Some examples of their early organ-led material can be found on this earlier posting.

1976 saw the band achieve overwhelming popular appeal in the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and as a result the band changed their name to Harari - after the "blacks-only" township of Harare. But tensions in the group were rising. This saw Saitana depart Harari during 1976 and record the album Baby Don't Go followed by Jenakuru a few years later. With clear reference to their success in Zimbabwe the lead track on the Baby Don't Go album is Rufaro - a suburb of Harare. But the full story of his departure is still not clear.

This YouTube clip interviewing Masike "Funky" Mohapi explores the early days of Harari.

Rashid Vally recalls the recriminations between the members of Harari and Saitana's desire to follow his own dream of stardom. And so today we share with you his first solo album. His second and arguably stronger album - Jenakuru - mines his love of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. A proper commercial reissue of Jerankuru has been under discussion from a long time but without any clear indication of a release date as yet.

Saitana - Baby Don't Go (JAS Pride BL98)
1. Rufaro
2. Baby Don't Go
3. My Pretty Thing
4. Soweto
5. The Disco
6. So Lucky
7. Maroaches Are Back

Sunday 5 August 2012

The Brothers - Khwezi Station No.7 (1976)

Today I am having a lazy afternoon watching the sunset over Johannesburg and listening to The Brothers perform Khwezi Station No.7. This is one of those albums that has sat on my "current" record shelf in a stash of interesting items for the better part of two years.

This great 1976 recording features four extended up-tempo tracks produced by David Thekwane that most definitely come out of the bump jive tradition. Certainly the opening track, Special Job, has glimpses of Abdullah Ibrahim's 1974 classic Mannenburg.

It is not clear to me whether The Brothers have any relation to the later group of the same name featuring Tete Mbambisa, Duke Makasi and Victor Ntoni, that recorded for Rashid Vally's Roots label fourteen years later in 1990. Having not heard the later I can't say, but if you recognize a connection drop us a line.

Put this album in your car... this is great road music!

Khwezi Station No.7
Up Up Up
UPL 5012