Tuesday 30 April 2013

Jazz in District Six: The Zambezi Restaurant: part 1 - Celebrating International Jazz Day

Distric Six Cape Town (1964): Pic Ian Bruce Huntley
It is written that Cape Town's Zambezi Restaurant in Hanover Street, District Six, first became really popular as a Sunday night jazz venue in 1956 when the second Arab-Israeli war closed the Suez Canal shipping channel. Shiploads of American soldiers in transit would dock in Cape Town, with the bop jazz-lovers among them frequenting District Six, listening to racially mixed groups of South Africans of Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other faiths together creating music.

In celebrating International Jazz Day (30th April), Electric Jive is honoured to be able to share a previously unheard set of 1964 recordings made by Ian Bruce Huntley at this fabled venue.

Hanover Street, District Six (1964). The Zambezi Restaurant
was about half way down, on the right. Pic: Ian Huntley
rumpeter Syfred Woodrow Dlova describes the times to Lars Rasmussen: “The big American battleships, the aircraft carriers, they used to come here, and some of the black Americans would get off the boat and come and perform ... and have a good time!. Some of them were great musicians. That is before those people went out of their minds (the apartheid government). At one time, they stopped an aircraft carrier from docking in Cape Town because there were black pilots there. They said, No, we can’t have black pilots flying planes over a white country! They were sick, man!. (Jazz People of Cape Town, p.60)

As I continue to process and digest just over 56 hours of Ian Huntley’s recorded archive it becomes possible to notice which musicians performed regularly together. Given the increasingly oppressive racial separation enforced in the mid 1960s, Ian's archive provides strong evidence of these artists persisting with some success in being a defiant multi-racial creative pulse that coursed through the heart of Cape Town's jazz scene in the sixties and early seventies.
"Fairyland" District Six: Pic Ian Huntley

There were some complex dynamics that enabled an ongoing racial mix of South African musicians to play in public. Sammy Maritz talks about the change of name of the Jazz Disciples to the Ronnie Beer Quintet, and then when Mongezi Feza joined them, to the Ronnie Beer Sextet: “To tell the truth, because he was a white guy. So it proved opportune to have a name like that. At that stage, it was good to have a white guy with you. Especially when we had to do night clubs and things. This is the kind of things people won’t tell you. They sort of want to run down the white. White was a good thing at some times. Through this guy we could get into some clubs that we could never go in a black group altogether. The groups I played with was always mixed, there was always white guys and I didn’t see colour. If it was a black guy and we spoke the same thing as far as music that was it. That was the colour - the colour of music.” (Rasmussen p.132/3).

District Six (1964). Pic: Ian Huntley
Ian Huntley remembers the Zambezi Restaurant as a dark and difficult place to take photographs in. Owned by Abie Hurzuk (he also owned The Mermaid), the Zambezi was located on Hanover Street, the bustling ‘central business district’ of District Six. Ian recorded close on three hours of live music there. He also took some amazing pictures.

The eighty four minutes of recordings shared in this post are a testament to the diverse groupings and mix of musicians who gathered to entertain at the Zambezi.
If you have not had chance to check out the earlier posts that share Ian Huntley's unique recordings, use the SEARCH function in the right hand column of this blog - search "IBH Jazz".

Jazz at the Zambezi Restaurant
Part one (1964)
Ronnie Beer* (Tenor), Chris Schilder (Piano), Philly Schilder (Bass), Max ‘Diamond’ Dayimani (Drums), Selwyn LissackP(Drums)

1.    Billie's Bounce* (3:33)
2.    Bessies Blues (6:50)
3.    Milestones* (8:52)
4.    Misty (8:21)
5.    Saints*P(9:58)

Ronnie Beer (tenor), Bucs Chonco (Piano), Philly Schilder (Bass), Max Dayimani (Drums)
6.     Green Dolphin Street (8:04)
7.     Mr Mecca (6:39)

Ronnie Beer (tenor), Chris Schilder (Piano), Philly Schilder (Bass), Selwyn Lissack (Drums),
Mike Gibbs (Trombone), Bob Tizzard (Trombone)

8.     Bag’s Groove (11:51)
9.     Softly As a Morning Sunrise (8:57)

Tony Schilder (Piano), Basil Moses (Bass), Selwyn Lissack (Drums), Mike Gibbs (Trombone),
Bob Tizzard (Trombone), Ronnie Beer (Tenor)

10. Billie's Bounce (11:00)

Rapidshare here
Mediafire here


  1. Many, many thanks to you guys.

  2. Hi Chris,
    What another outstanding recording you put on EJ! Sadly Basil Moses solo is cut at the very end of it.
    And I think I can now recognize the sound of Zambezi piano...

  3. A pleasure Olivier, and anonymous. Thank you for visiting

  4. You guys keep doing it. I'm really enjoying this series. Sadly, I haven't had the time to sit with the music, but I'm hoping for some quiet time soon to soak it all in. Thanks.

  5. Thans funcrusha - I promise you the links for this IBH jazz series (and hopefully al other links)will still be active and available for download in the years to come. We realise that the quantity of material mens it cannot be immeidately digested. For me - it is also about ensuring it is archived and publically accessible. Cheers

  6. Isn't Track 2 "Bessie's Blues" and Track 1 the same as Track 10 – a Charlie Parker tune whose name escapes me?

  7. Fantastic, again! Big gratitude to Ian for having the sensitivity to document this scene. MB

  8. Thanks Bob for the input, I believe you are correct. Tracks 1 and 10 = Billie's Bounce (Charlie Parker), with Track 2 = Bessie's Blues. Good people, please do adjust your mp3's accordingly

  9. Words are inadequate to express how much I enjoy this blog. I have always been interested in South African music but I am receiving a first-rate education for free thanks to all of the effort and time you and the other contributors expend. The love of the music is obvious in every post. Again thank you so much, each new post enriches my day.

  10. As usual I'm way behind with my comments ... but #1 and #10 is Charlie Parker's "Au Privave".

    And I am pretty sure that #1 is actually the missing end to #10 - the interrupted bass solo goes on in #1 and then we get the theme - again presented by trombone!

  11. Very helpful Ubu - thanks again - see my previous comment on the Moyake post - all of this will be updated and become fully available early on in the new year


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