Monday 12 January 2015

Slow Drive to Soweto (1974)

Following our focus on seventies soul, groove and fusion it would be remiss not to repost this classic from seminal seventies band The Drive, established in 1971 by Henry Sithole and Bunny Luthuli. 

From the original post at matsuli:
Now some people really don't like it when African musicians make "non-African" music. This cuts close to the debate on authenticity, tradition and modernity. It has political dimensions and can get people very worked up. Witness the recent conversations on the WorldService blog when the writer expressed his dislike for - amongst others - the emphasis placed on the western aspects of African music. I don't want to get involved too far in this debate but I would like to briefly illustrate how jazz, soul and fusion in South Africa came to represent a declaration of independence and freedom from the constrictions that the Apartheid government had made regarding cultural and political expression.  

In the 1960s Apartheid social engineering in South Africa resulted in the promotion by the government of indigenous cultural styles. Nine different radio services were created along language lines. This was in line with the government's political strategy of eradicating an urban black population. The aim was to ensure that the black workers required for mining and manufacture were temporary sojourners in the urban areas with traditional homes in the rural countryside (the so-called bantustans, or independent homelands in government parlance).

Within this context playing or at the very least making a passing reference to non-indigenous styles such as jazz, soul and rock was subversive and understood and read to be a declaration of freedom from the government straitjacket. But this political act decreased the avenues available for musicians to make money. Finding and playing to audiences without radio exposure was difficult. Added to this were more and more restrictions and licensing requirements that mean playing to urban audiences in the seventies was inherently problematic. Not many nightclubs existed in urban areas and promoter often took risky decisions to put on live shows.  

The Drive (L-R): Bunny Luthuli, Temba (?), Tony Soali, Nelson Magwaza, Lucky Mbatha, Mavis Maseku, Stanley Sithole, Danny Sithole & Henry Sithole.(Photo © David Marks, Orlando, Soweto)

The Drive, along with The Movers, were South Africa's premier soul jazz band and represented an articulate black urban vision of a future at odds with Apartheid's engineers. Despite the political statement inherent in playing jazz or soul the music had a mixed reception. If you listen to the LP being shared today some tracks work better than others and some are probably best left on the cutting floor. 

Slow Drive to Soweto (1974, AYL 1009)
1. Sweet Lips
2. Do It Again 
3. Let It Be Me 
4. Spinning Wheel feat Lucky Mbatha 
5. Yesterday feat. Lucky Mbatha 
6. Whats On Your Mind feat. Lucky Mbatha
7. Love and Peace
8. For Friends 
9. Howl 
10. Slow Drive to Soweto

DOWNLOAD: Mediafire


  1. Thanks for reposting this (what I assume to be a gem). Don't know if anyone else is experiencing this, but many of the tracks in the Mediafire archive are corrupt so don't play properly :( Is it just me? Will try re-downloading in the mean time...

  2. Weird. Seems like the archive has been updated and is working now. Thanks guys. I assume someone else reported it as well. Keep up the great work!!!!! :) :) :)

  3. That was my initial experience too, Anon, but after a re-download I can almost drive fast to Soweto:-)
    Thanks stacks, Matt, for a great post. Here I have tuned in to reinterpretations of timeless standards that I didn't know existed - e.g. Let It Be Me, What's On Your Mind and The Beatles' Yesterday. Even that of The Jazz Crusaders' classic Love & Peace I picked up for the first time only through Chris's December upload. You guys are turning back the hands of time!!!


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