Monday 10 December 2012

Kippie Moeketsi: The LP he never made (1971)

Kippie Moeketsi, Victor Ntoni and Danayi Dlova in their one-off practise jam at the Langa Community Centre, Cape Town 1971. Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
Morolong, musical genius, unchallenged as the foremost South African jazz musician of his generation, the “Charlie Parker of South Africa”.  Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand) pays homage on the sleeve notes of his 1971 recording Peace - Dollar Brand + 2:  “It was Kippie Moeketsi, the father of us all, an alto player, the first person who made us aware of the riches inside South Africa, who convinced me to devote my entire life to music.”

In a 1980 interview Hugh Masekela laments the fact that Kippie never made an LP of his own: “It is amazing that Kippie Moeketsi has been around for a long time and has never made an LP on his own. It is only when Pat Matshikiza or Dollar Brand calls him that he’s been able to do something. There’s an image hanging around him that he is a drunkard. Truth is he has been frustrated in his attempts to set things straight for Black artists. Bra Kippie is among the most brilliant musicians we’ve ever had and also a champion for the rights of his colleagues. Even militants use to call him a trouble-maker”(Umhlaba Wethu, edited by Mutloase Mothobi – Skotaville Publishers, 1980).

This live concert recording of Kippie Moeketsi, made and preserved by Ian Bruce Huntley, is special in that it is a recording with Moeketsi as leader - the LP he never made. In fact, at ninety minutes long it would have to be a double LP. This recording contains tracks we believe were composed by Moeketsi and are not recorded anywhere else. I use the word “believe” advisedly as jazz buffs more knowledgeable than me cannot identify seven of the nine tracks from this concert. Ian is of the opinion that some of these tracks are Kippie’s own creations that he never gave names to. Does anyone recognise these from elsewhere?
Today’s previously unreleased recording is also special in that ten days after this once-off concert at the Art Centre in Cape Town, Dollar Brand sent Moeketsi, Victor Ntoni and Nelson Magwaza a telegram asking them to come to Johannesburg and join him in making what were his first commercial recordings in South Africa since 1960. Produced by Rashid Vally, those records are now lauded as classics:  Dollar Brand + 2 with Victor Ntoni and Nelson Magwaza (Gallo-Soultown KRS110) and “Dollar Brand + 3 with Kippie Moeketsi” - with Ntoni and Magwaza as well. (Gallo-Soultown KRS113).
This concert at the Art Centre in Cape Town also flags the emergence of "the sad man of South African jazz" from a number of years where he did not record or perform much in public. Kippie went on to make major contributions to two of Pat Matshikiza's recordings, and also recorded with Hal Singer: see Matsuli's As-Shams discography which includes Dollar Brand +2Dollar Brand + 3, Tshona (1975), Sikiza Matshikiza (1976), and Kippie Moeketsi-Hal Singer (1977).

When the plan to bring Kippie to Cape Town was originally hatched, Ian Huntley agreed to pay for the airticket - what was  then a 'substantial' sum of fifty rand. When Danayi Dlova (sax), Victor Ntoni (bass) and Nelson Magwaza (drums) went with Ian to Cape town airport in Ian’s Renault 4L, they found Kippie with a small tog bag in his right hand - no saxophone.

Kippie spent that night at Ian’s flat on Main Road in Rondebosch listening to music from Ian’s already legendary collection of vinyl. Duke Ellington’s big band recordings propelled Kippie to prolonged tears of emotion and appreciation. The next day was spent trying to find a saxophone that Kippie could use for the concert. In the end, Ian made a plan and persuaded his friends Lawrence and Sherlaine Koonen at The Record Centre to give him a loan (Ian would normally spend every spare cent of his modest mapmaker’s salary on buying jazz LP's from them). So, it came to be that Ian bought Kippie a brand new Selmer Mark 6 alto saxophone.  
Victor Ntoni: Pic by Ian Bruce Huntley
Kippie then took up temporary lodging with a Mrs George in Langa, and spent time hanging out with the band members. When I asked Ian how much the band practised together before this Art Centre concert he laughed. “I could never find them at the Langa Community Centre practising, I got quite worried.  They played precisely one jam of a gig at the Langa Community Centre, and then just got up that night at the Art Centre and let this concert just happen.”

As a live recording there are one or two brief moments where Danayi Dlova and Kippie Moeketsi’s saxophones feel around to find each other. There are however sustained flashes of brilliance from Kippie and all of the band members. Sometimes you have to listen carefully to distinguish if it is Kippie Moeketsi or Danayi Dlova playing solo. Kwa-Mashu, Durban-born Nelson Magwaza’s drumming and Victor Ntoni’s bass are really top class.

Less than two weeks later Kippie Moeketsi, Nelson Magwaza and Victor Ntoni took the  train from Cape Town to Johannesburg to make those recordings with Dollar Brand. It is understood that the train ride was quite a party.

It was in 1954 when Dollar Brand joined Mackay Davashe’s Shantytown Sextet when he first met Kippie Moeketsi. Together they embarked upon an epic journey exploring and experimenting with the music of the U.S. jazz and bop greats. Along with Dollar Brand, Moeketsi then went on to form the legendary Jazz Epistles with  Hugh Masekela,  Jonas Gwangwa, Johnny Gertze and Makhaya Ntshoko. Their album, Jazz Epistle Verse One, was recorded in 1960. “Scullery Department” the sixth track featured on this Art Centre recording was originally recorded on Verse One.

Kippie Moeketsi's statue outside "Kippies"
 in Newtown, Johannesburg
A discography of some of Kippie Moeketsi’s recordings can be found at Siemon’s Flat International website here. Another valuable work in progress is a discography of Dollar Brand / Abdullah Ibrahim's prolific outputs here

In September 2009 a bronze sculpture of Kippie was unveiled in tribute by the City of Johannesburg outside the Newtown jazz club bearing his name.
Kippie Moeketsi died penniless in 1983 at the age of 58.

If you have not yet listened to the earlier postings from Ian’s archive, you can find them here: 

Love for Free: Hidden South African Jazz Archive revealed

Becoming Free In Cape Town

Last Night at the Room At The Top: Dyani and Pukwana

Kippie Moeketsi: The LP he never made
Recorded Live at the Art Centre, Cape Town - in stereo - by Ian Bruce Huntley
September 1971

1. Un-named Track One (3:49)
2. Body and Soul (9:49)
3. I Remember You (14:15)
4. Lonesome Lover (Max Roach) (14:07)
5. Un-named Track Five (3:07)
6. Scullery Department (10:43) - (Moeketsi)
7. Turnaround  (Ornette Coleman) (14:16)
8. Un-named Track Eight (14:03)
9. Un-named Track Nine (7:23)

Rapidshare here
Mediafire here


  1. Nothing else to say but miraculous. I know I sound like a broken record (perish the thought), but I am so grateful.

  2. Doug your eternal words of encouragement and appreciation do the world of good for the blogosphere! Thank you

  3. This series is jaw-droppingly amazing!

    Mankunku and The Blue Notes and all the other previous shares were great already ... but KIPPIE!?!? Wow, what a find!

    Thanks so much!

  4. Thanks Ubu for the feedback and enthusiasm, it gives me energy to keep going - I was beginning to think that there was no one that really cared about these old tapes

  5. I have just heard that Victor Ntoni died earlier today. Rest In Peace Victor - thank you for the music. Victor follows another bass player, Psyhc Big-T Ntsele who went earlier this month

  6. Just played this one again ...

    #3 is the old standard "I Remember You"

    #7 is Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround"

    Rather amazing to hear Kippie do Ornette - though it's really just a blues and does not require much Ornettian stylistics ... but still!

  7. Great - thanks again Ubu. the entire discography of 56 hours is going to be included as an appendix to the book of Ian's photos due to be published at the end of this year. The more detail I can get between now and end of July, the happier I am.

  8. I've just found this site and have been blown away by the music that's on here. It is a great service to both the musicians and the listeners to make it available again. There is so little from this time available commercially - at least here in the UK.

    By the way, track four is "Lonesome Lover" by Max Roach from his album "It's Time" where it's sung by Abbey Lincoln, who wrote lyrics for ir, backed by a choir.

  9. Thank you so much Bruce for your kind words of appreciation and encouragement ... AND, for one more track identified! Great!!

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