Monday 8 April 2013

Music and Rhythms of Africa Vol. 2 (c1958)

Today we continue the series on interesting EPs. I recently came across this double disc gatefold 45 and was struck by how eclectic the eight tracks were on the compilation. The first four cover what has been termed "traditional" music and the remaining are a number of vocal jive and kwela hits from around 1958. It is the "traditional" music that I found most striking, especially the tracks by Veshna Dinaka which, to my ear, come across as quite dissonant and sound remarkably contemporary and almost avant-garde. Likewise the two tunes featuring autoharp or dipela are equally arresting.

The second disc couldn't be more of a contrast opening with the jazzy vocal number, Thimela, composed by Elijah Nkwanyane and performed by Philemon Mokgosi and his Inkspots. (I believe Nkwanyane is on trumpet.)  What follows must be one of the first recordings by the Dark City Sisters, Bra-Cabbage, penned by Rupert Bopape and accompanied by the pennywhistle group Black Mambazo (not LBM). Interestingly the liner notes reveal that the Dark City Sisters recorded this tune "spontaneously" after they just happened to come with their "boy-friends", the members of Black Mambazo, to the studio that day.

Below are some excerpts from the rather dry liner notes:

[...] "MADIKOTI and PHALA BORWA are played on an unusual instrument known as "Dipela", which is an African traditional piano or autoharp. It is made of beaten wire which is flattened and fitted on to a wooden board and sometimes this is placed in a large calabash (gourd) or tin, to make it sound louder. The instrument is played only with the tips of the fingers. WILLIAM MALAETSE, who plays PHALA BORWA besides playing the autoharp, also wears "Mathotsi" on his legs and dances around while he is playing. (Mathotsi are similar to maracas.)"

[...] "THE AFRICAN INKSPOTS are one of the best vocal groups in the country. Their leader PHILEMON MOKGOSI is the driving force behind the group, he is a born artist, and has appeared on stage, screen and radio in South Africa. He has a voice very similar to that of our old friend Nat "King" Cole. Philemon is an extremely talented composer, with many song hits to his credit. Given the opportunity he could develop into one of the world's finest "pop" vocalists. THE AFRICAN INKSPOTS with PHILEMON MOKGOSI do a terrific job on this disc with "THIMLELA"."

"The DARK CITY SISTERS, a group of young girls who came with their boy-friends, a penny whistle flute group called the Black Mambazo, to our Recording Studio, just to look on, and unable to resist themselves they spontaneously burst into song to the accompaniment of the flutes and BRA-CABBAGE is the result. A happy little tune about the fun they have at the Zoo on a Sunday afternoon." [...]

Music and Rhythms of Africa Vol. 2
HMV, EYJ 103/104 (c1958)

1) Vesha Dinaka
Lexowa (traditional)

2) Dipela Tsabapedi
Madikoti (traditional)

3) William Malaetse
Phala Borwa (traditional)

4) Vesha Dinaka
Lexalani (traditional)

5) Philemon Mokgosi and the African Inkspots
Thimela (E. Nkwanyane)

6) Dark City Sisters acc. Black Mambazo
Bra-Cabbage (R. Bopape)

7) Thandi Kumalo
Ithemba Lami (T. Kumalo)

8) Midnite Harmoneers
Isangoma (J. Nhlapo)


  1. thx siemon. equal parts joyous + mesmeric

  2. Thanks Siemon - most interesting. Lexalani gives me a deeper appreciation of the roots of the vuvuzela

  3. Wonderful post and much appreciated! And Chris Albertyn's vuvuzela comment is spot on. I always thought there was more musical significance to the vuvuzela than it is sometimes given credit for.

  4. Great! Where is volume 1? Thanks!

  5. Many thanks for all the comments!

    When I mentioned "almost avant-garde", I had in mind Tony Conrad or John Cale or some other drone material, but Chris, since you mention the vuvuzela, this be a more apt!
    I still can't get away from the difference between disc one and two.

    Warlock, I believe I have volume 1 and will post it this coming week. It looks almost identical but the title is slightly different and it is issued on Columbia rather than HMV, hence some doubts over whether it is from the same series. Nevertheless, the matrix numbers all line up nicely, so I am almost confident that it is volume 1.

  6. Very true what you said about "Lexilani" and "Madikoti." Strange and arresting songs. These two sare what half the bands in "The Wire" (a magazine that I have great respect for, by the way) are trying to sound like. Thanks for the post.

  7. You know when I first heard this record, "Wire" magazine was the first thing that came to mind! I was thinking nice candidate for the "Boomerang"... The fact that the music was made in 1958 or earlier and we are having this wire conversation is poignant!

    I wouldn't be surprised if the vuvuzela has its roots in this Bapedi traditional horn.


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