Monday 27 May 2013

Mahlabathini and Izintombi Zephepha (1976)

This gem of an mbaqanga album follows up nicely from last week’s Satbel Special. It is the first recording Victor Zulu (aka Mahlabathini) did for Satbel. Zulu certainly fits into the same category as that most famous of groaners, Mahlatini, and recorded with many of the same female singers. Mahlabathini recorded prolifically for all the big labels for at least twelve years from 1969 onwards, starting with David Thekwane and Teal, then Satbel, EMI, on to Mavuthela and Gallo.

Victor Zulu aka Mahlabatini
In 1959 while still at school in Kwambonambi on the coast about 180kms north of Durban Zulu became well known for his composing and singing. In 1968 he moved to Johannesburg and sang with the “Watermelon Kids” at the Bantu Mens’ Social Centre. In 1969 David Thekwane arranged for Victor and Izinthombi Zephepha to record and perform together. They made their first recording for Satbel in 1975.

I asked Electric Jive’s walking encyclopedia of mbqanga (aka Nick Lotay) if he could recognise any of the women on the front cover.

“I can hear former Mahotella Queens member Nunu Maseko singing prominently as part of the chorus on the LP (she's the one who also solos in the middle of tracks 8 and 9), but she isn't on the front cover, and I don't recognise those who are photographed. (Some bloody great tunes on the LP by the way! Track 7 is a cracker.)

“Nunu Maseko joined Zephepha at the same time Zephepha moved to Satbel and seemingly became their leader. Mahlabathini was at EMI in 1977, and at Mavuthela in 1980. He recorded some singles with the Mahotella Queens in late 1980. He then went to GRC/Isibaya in 1981. Not sure what happened to him after that.

“Judging by the singing patterns and vocalists present, I'd say that Izintombi Zephepha is the same girl group as Teal's Amagagu Yodumo - my guess is that they split from Mahlabathini and went back to Teal in 1976, and changed their name in the process.”

So – there you have it, thanks Nick. Do enjoy this crisp and clear recording. Thanks Geri for reconnecting me to an old friend.
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