Monday 28 January 2013

Makgona Tsohle Reggi (1970)

Electric Jive here presents an LP filled with what one might call “the good stuff”. Makgona Tsohle Reggi, featuring some exquisite instrumental mbaqanga music performed by the top teams of the day, was released on the Inkonkoni label in 1970.

The term “reggi” undoubtedly refers to reggae, which does put the LP title at odds with the music contained in the first side of the record. The first six tracks are certainly not straightforward sax jives, but rather seem fuse that tried-and-tested style with elements of ska and soul rather than reggae. The sugary guitars and rowdy bass of the Mavuthela instrumental section are joined not by screaming alto saxes, but by an organ that – rather delightfully – manages to create both very soft and very strident melodies on different numbers. It makes for very pleasant and interesting listening, and one wonders whether or not more of this gold still exists on wax somewhere in the world. “Marks Reggi” is a particular favourite of mine, just because of the lovely combination of instruments working together to create a lively, chirpy tune. “Soul Track” is another personal gem – it is forthright, minimalist and just plain great.

The second side of the LP takes the listener straight back to base, with five tracks of sax jive goodness (and one lovely track, “Somewhere”, that sounds as if it could sit right at home on side 1). Lead guitarist Marks Mankwane’s 1969 tune “Marks Special” was so popular that it spawned several follow-up songs, the first of which kicks off side 2 with a bang. “Marks Special No. 2” is credited to Marks Mankwane and His Alto Sax, as is the delectably-busy “Shaluza Marks No. 3”, but both tracks feature the virtuoso doing what he does best – sending the listener into a tizzy with beautiful guitar melodies. West Nkosi plays the alto sax on both of these tunes, in addition to a third number closing this LP. Fellow alto saxophonist Elias Lerole is present with an instrumental tribute to radio personality K.E. Masinga, while Wilson ‘King Force’ Silgee offers “Vulani Munango”.

As with many LPs released by Gallo Africa during this era, the word “STEREO” appears in the top right-hand corner underneath the record label name and the LP catalogue number. To my ear, none of the tracks sounded stereo in the slightest with the possible exception of “Somewhere”, which I avoided performing a mono mixdown on during the clean-up process. The word “Tsohle” is misspelt almost everywhere on the jacket and on the disc labels as “Tshole”, but not on the signs hanging on the band equipment in the fantastic cover photograph. Left to right, the photo features the ace members of the Makgona Tsohle Band: Joseph Makwela (bass), Marks Mankwane (lead guitar), Lucky Monama (drums) and Vivian Ngubane (rhythm guitar).

In short, Makgona Tsohle Reggi features twelve of the best single tunes recorded during 1969 and early 1970. It’s a veritable goody bag of sounds, so please download and enjoy!

produced by Rupert Bopape
Inkonkoni LNKO 2001


Thursday 24 January 2013

Free Jazz Experiments at Selwyn's Room (1966)

Selwyn Lissack - back in the day.
Picture by Ian Bruce Huntley
In a 1985 interview Sheila Wallis asks Winston Mankunku Ngozi about the mid 1960s: "Do you remember Selwyn Lissack? He said you used to have great jam sessions together at a house in Bantry Bay". Winston: "Ooh boy, we had a quartet, a beautiful group, those guys were really together. Selwyn on drums, Chris Schilder, Midge Pike, and at times with Merton Barrow. We would rehearse the whole night, play, play, play and play. We were doing the Art Centre then. I met a friend who was really into music - Ian Huntley. He had a lot of records, a photographer, a beautiful guy, he was in love with musicians. He bought me another saxophone."  (April 1985 edition of 'Think Jazz').

In talking to Selwyn Lissack this week, he emphasised the important and generous role played by Ian: "Ian, played a very important part in my comprehension of how to approach playing Jazz. I would go to Ian’s flat to listen to the tapes after a concert. They say the tapes never lie and this was a perfect way to learn and understand the music of that time." (see below for more).

Another gift that Ian gave to us all was to keep and preserve these recordings and share them with us now. In this previously unreleased fascinating ninety-minute experimental session Chris Schilder and Selwyn Lissack stand-out most often in their technically tight exploratory forays. Winston Manunku delights and surprises more in the second half.
In listening for the first time I had the experience of being seized in recognising snippets of music, and then being taken for a compelling diversionary ride, gripped in waiting to hear what comes next, and then occasionlly being brought back to familiar territory that I could not quite identify. The more I listen to these recordings the more I get to know and appreciate them as a product of talented jazz musicians at the top of their game.
Selwyn Lissack left South Africa in 1966, not long after these recordings were made. In 1969 after a three-year sojourn in England he recorded his only album as leader: "Friendship Next of Kin" with Mongezi Feza (trumpet), Harry Miller (bass), Mike Osborn (alto sax), Kenneth Terroade (tenor sax), Earl Freeman (bass and piano), and Louis Moholo (additional percussion). After contributing to another ground-breaking free jazz album in 1970, Lissack quit music, disgusted at feeling ripped off. Read more here. Lissack re-mastered and re-issued "Friendship Next of Kin" in 2006 - look out for it, it is becoming difficult to find again. It is not for nothing that Lissack was rated in a list of a top ten from the free jazz underground.
Ever pushing boundaries Lissack teamed up in a five-year collaborative relationship with Salvador Dali in the 1970s to produce ten holographic works of art. Watch a video of Lissack describing what they did here. Visit Selwyn Lissack's own website here.
Very close friends at the time, Selwyn and Ian recently re-connected via telephone - Selwyn in Tucson, Arizona, and Ian in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. I invited Selwyn to share a few words on his recollections of those times.

"In the early 1950’s it was not yet possible, to pursue a Jazz musical career, through the local school curriculum, in South Africa. Some schools could teach the basic classical fundamentals of music. It was difficult to find a teacher who enjoyed and under-stood the intricacy of Jazz music.

"Another set back was, as I had chosen the drums as an instrument, it was nearly impossible to find a space to practice, in a suburban area.

"In order to play without disturbing anyone, I would rent an office space in the city of Cape Town and soundproof the walls and ceiling. After some years of this activity, I was able to find a garage close to my home, where many, many hours were spent in the pursuit of learning how to play, Jazz music.   
"Chris, Midge and Winston would usually come to ‘Selwyn’s room’ to rehearse, for the Sunday concerts at the Art Center on the Green Point common. It was at this venue that Ian Huntley recorded a lot of the music that has been preserved to this day.

"Ian, played a very important part in my comprehension of how to approach playing Jazz. I would go to Ian’s flat, to listen to the tapes, after a concert. They say the tapes never lie and this was a perfect way to learn and understand the music of that time.  
"I had a choice selection of the best east-coast jazz musicians, to study and learn from.

"Learning to play perfect straight ahead time was hard enough but my ultimate goal was to find a different and original approach to playing time. Like a pulse. This was eventually was achieved, in future recordings, 'Friendship Next of Kin' and the 'Sun Is Coming Up.'

"All the time that was dedicated to ‘Selwyn's Room’ and other urban  recordings, is an important historical documentation, of the legacy of Ian’s love and devotion to the jazz world and the musicians of Cape Town.
I would like to thank him, for always being there to catch the moment, making it possible for me to advance and perfect my concept of playing Jazz."

Ian is hoping to make contact with Chris Schilder (Ebrahim Kalil Shihab) again too. In searching the web, I did manage to find this March 2012 video clip of the master still at work! He released a solo piano CD in 2010 and it appears to be already sold out. It is possible download it from itunes here and Amazon here, and for a very reasonable price from Look and Listen here.
Experiments At Selwyn's Room - Part One
Rapidshare here
Zippyshare here
If you have not yet listened to the earlier postings from Ian’s archive, you can find them here:

1. Winston Mankunku gem 

2. Love for Free: Hidden South African Jazz Archive revealed

3. The Blue Notes: A Journey of Faith

4. Chris McGregor Quintet Live in Geneva

5. Becoming Free In Cape Town

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

7. Kippie Moeketsi: The album he never made

8. Mankunku and Goldberg Go Free In Cape Town

Sunday 20 January 2013

Associated Sounds Part 3: O.K. Jazz on ASL

While the Democratic Republic of Congo might not win the African Cup of Nations Football tournament currently being contested here in South Africa, they would be among the hot favourites if the competition was about music.

A continental gathering such as this should be cause for celebration, but there are a few matters that leave me less enthusiastic than I might be: for example, FIFA has presented evidence that four of South Africa's World Cup warm-up matches were fixed with betting syndicates. The inquiry has been postponed. Host cities in South Africa are using tens of millions of dollars of citizen-funded service delivery budgets to pay for staging the tournament, while private investors and sponsors are being guaranteed returns.

On the bright side, there is chance for fostering continental goodwill among millions of Africa's football supporters, and for chipping away at the scourge of xenophobia that still exists in pockets in South Africa. Fifteen of the continent's best football teams are visiting, and no matter what the circumstances, African hospitality is legend for welcoming and sharing with visitors.

Today, Congo take on Ghana in a group B match. So, what better time to honour what is perhaps the greatest African band ever, one that endured just over 37 years. Part three of the Associated Sounds thread dishes up fifty minutes of O.K. Jazz in five-minute slices squeezed from clean ASL 45rpm singles. You can find the background to the ASL label and postings of Parts one and Two of ASL Congo singles here and here.

Talking of match-fixing, it is not a big leap to arrive at the subject of being unfaithful and the suffering it produces: a 45rpm version Franco's 1971 classic "Mado" is included here. Also included are some popular and some lesser known tracks fronting Mose Se Fan Fan, Simaro, Bitshou, and Youlou Mabialo.

The history and music of this really phenomenal band has been extensively documented. A good related read would be the book "Rumba on the River". Muzikifan's web page on Congo Classics is another good place to start. If you only have five minutes, the wikipedia page will whet your appetite.
Tim Clifford's East African discography site has a growing reference to the extensive ASL catalogue - have a look at it here.

ADDENDUM: In spite of all the difficulties it is facing, Mali blessed South Africa yesterday in more ways than one. They were the first to win a match in this year's AFCON tournament (1 - 0 against Niger) ... and Vieux Farka Toure and his band played a wonderful gig at the legendary Rainbow Restaurant in Pinetown, Durban. Here is a clip of him giving one of his father's numbers the 'Hendrix' treatment.

O.K. Jazz
Listed in order of ASL number:
1. Franco L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Mona Opusi – ASL 7-3073
2. Franco L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Le Verite De Franco – ASL 7-3073
3. Youlou et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Bolingo Nouveate – ASL 7– 3159
4. Simaro et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Pardon Ami – ASL 7-3159

5. Franco et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Mado – ASL 7-3103

6. Franco et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Socomeubles – ASL 7-3103

7. Bitshou et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Papi Zala Reconnaisant – ASL 7-3127

8. Simarro et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Catho Ya Poupee – ASL 7-3127

9. Fan-Fan et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Ba Conseils Ya Cherie – ASL 7-3128

10. Fan-Fan et L’Orchestre O.K. Jazz – Bolingo Esuki Na Maloba – ASL 7-3128
Download link here (updated Nov 2016)

Thursday 17 January 2013

Usizwe Namatshitshi: Yithi Sifikile (1971)

On hearing the opening bars of the first track you will be forgiven for thinking that this was recorded at the wrong speed. And just as you sit back, realising that this is how it is meant to sound, you might  find your feet saying, 'hey, we want to move to this slowed-up, elastic and catchy mbaqanga beat'.

Another good way to start off the new year from an album that justifies its title of Yithi Sifikile:  "We say we have arrived". The first track "Ufikile Unyaka Omusha" literally means "A new year has begun". "Usizwe Namatshitshi" translates approximately to "even the young girls heard us" - 'itshitshi' meaning adolescent girl.

In a previous post of another slightly earlier 1971 recording of this same band here, Nick is spot-on in describing the music as a blend of traditional and mbaqanga. Today's album perhaps veers just a little more towards mbaqanga, still with the popular mix of male groaner and female vocal group.
Musical Director: H. Vala Nzimande
I encourage you to read Nick Lotay's background on this band and the rivalry between Hamilton Vala Nzimande's Isibaya Esikhulu Music and Rupert Bopape's Mavuthela Music here. As with the previous record, most compositions are Nzimande's, there are also tracks credited to Absolom Mkhwanazi and Albert Motha, who both became the core of the band Amaswazi Emvelo. The lead female singer Busi Dlamini also contributes two tracks.
Male vocal: Sizwe Mkhwanazi
Female vocal: Busisiwe Dlamini; Dudu Hlophe; Sarah Gwebu; Johannah Mdlalose.
There are five women featured on the record cover, but only four are credited on the back-cover.

The band (Amataitai):
Mntima Dube - Lead Guitar;
Thomas Motshwane - Rhythm Guitar;
Lameck Moloi - Bass;
Dan Van Wyk - Drums

Usizwe Namatshitshi: Yithi Sifikile

CBS LAB.4029

1. Ufikile Unyaka Omusha (Nzimande) - 'A New Year Has Started';
2. Sihamba Nonana Chiliza (Nzimande) - 'We are going with Nana Chiliza'
3. Yithi Sibaphethe (Absolom Mkhwanazi) - 'We say we have got them'
4. Thatha Ezakho (Albert Motha) - 'Take your things (and go)'
5. Baythalaza Abantu (Nzimande) - 'The people are waving'
6. Ungamthembi Umuntu (Nzimande) - 'Don't trust people'
7. Amandla Endoda Awapheli (Busi Dlamini) - 'That man cannot be brought down, his energy or power is endless'
8. Lishonile Ngofika Nini (Busi Dlamini) - A question that is asked by a traveller about travel time: will I make it there by sunset?
9. Sithunyiwe Bakithi (Nzimande) - 'We sent'
10. Siyobohla Manyosi (Nzimande) - an idiom which effectively means that harm you did to me will come back to you. What goes around comes around.
Rapidshare: here
Zippyshare: here

Monday 14 January 2013

Mankunku and Goldberg Go Free in Cape Town

Morris Goldberg, Chris Schilder and Midge Pike at the Art Centre, Cape Town  (1966).
Pic by Ian Bruce Huntley
Best wishes to you from us here at Electric Jive for 2013. Before sharing another previously unheard gem from the Ian Bruce Huntley jazz archive, an update on Electric Jive for the year ahead.
When comparing burn-out symptoms at the end of 2012, the four of us who run this blog agreed that something had to change. In addition to our own working lives we have other voluntary projects besides Electric Jive that we are also committed to. So, we plan to slow down and publish less frequently this year. We are also more likely to mix up the post format, length, and content. Each contributor will have a two-week slot in which at least one post will be shared. Sometimes we may post more often within that two-week slot than in other times. All of us are committed to keeping this blog going for as long as our energies enable us to.
We kick of this year with an eighth instalment from the Ian Huntley Jazz archive. Ian has often pointed out to me that ‘free jazz’ was a lot more popular amongst South Africa’s 1960s jazz musicians than we realise.
My friend Max Annas reckons that much of the written history of jazz in South Africa has been shaped largely by the evidence of relatively few studio recordings. He agrees with Ian in pointing out that the narrative of jazz history in South Africa has little to say of the enthusiastic embrace by  important musicians of the Free Jazz movement.
There is still quite a bit of ‘free jazz’ to share from Ian’s archive, including a number of private sessions of “Experiments in Selwyn’s Garage”, with Winston Mankunku Ngozi and Chris Schilder  mixing their own musical chemistry. There are also a number of sessions at the Art Centre in particular which are most certainly ‘free’ in character. Perhaps Cape Town audiences were more receptive and just as enthusiastic in wanting to break with convention at that time? 
Today’s session was recorded at The Art Centre on 20th August 1966. While a bop idiom provides  lyrical foundation, and there is a meter that keeps the likes of me interested, huge spaces are created for the musicians to express their own voice in the moment. The opening track “Free Thing” features fairly frequently on Ian’s tapes. The second track “Ole” is the Coltrane composition that featured on the introductory post to this archive. The outstanding third track “Poor” was previously unknown to me and showcases Mankunku and Goldberg taking their instruments to new places. Does anyone recognise "Poor"? Can you tell us more about it?

 In addition to having Morris Goldberg and Winston Mankunku Ngozi to hand on saxophones, there is a double-up in having Midge Pike and Philly Schilder on double-bass. Chris Schilder’s brilliance shines through on piano, while Selwyn Lissack's drumming is clearly happy ‘out there’ in the experiment.

Please – if any of you has anything you could add by way of information or have a reaction to this music, we would very much welcome a few words in the comments section below.
Mankunku and Goldberg Go Free in Cape Town
Zippyshare here
Rapidshare here
If you have not yet listened to the earlier postings from Ian’s archive, you can find them here:

7. Kippie Moeketsi: The album he never made