Monday 16 February 2015

Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo - Dithoriso Tsa Morena (1984)


The majority of South Africa’s indigenous population identifies itself as Christian. As such, it is no surprise to learn that traditional gospel is one of the country’s most popular musical genres of all time. It is therefore fitting to follow last week’s post spotlighting the famous King’s Messengers Quartet with another album of beautiful religious harmonies. Dithoriso Tsa Morena is a 1984 release from Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo – the name under which Mahlathini and the original Mahotella Queens recorded during their first reunion – featuring 12 rearrangements of traditional Sotho hymns.

The 1980s saw fate conspiring to reunite the original stars of mbaqanga’s heyday – Mahlathini, the Mahotella Queens and the Makgona Tsohle Band, the triumvirate otherwise known as the top township act of the 1960s through the mid-1970s. Following the introduction of the first black television service in 1982, Gallo-Mavuthela producer West Nkosi regrouped the original Makgona Tsohle Band and pitched the innovative idea of a musical sitcom to the SABC. This idea was accepted and within a year, Mathaka was a hit with township audiences, providing entertainment and evoking nostalgia among a slightly older generation of fans. Later in 1982, king of the groaners Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde made his long-awaited return to Mavuthela after a ten-year period recording for other companies including GRC, Satbel and EMI.

Marks Mankwane, lead guitarist and producer of the Mahotella Queens and one of Mavuthela’s finest song arrangers, reckoned that if Makgona Tsohle and Mahlathini were back in the same recording stable, the original mgqashiyo maidens should complete the trio – but there were two problems: firstly, the Mahotella Queens of the early 1980s featured none of the original members; and secondly, this same line-up of early ’80s Queens was still fairly successful and popular with audiences. So, Mankwane went ahead and reunited the original line-up of the Queens under a different group name – Izintombi Zomgqashiyo (the girls of mgqashiyo). Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo recorded at least four LPs’ worth of material: Amaqhawe Omgqashiyo, Pheletsong Ya Lerato, a ‘Super Maxi’ 12” Zulu single, and the Sotho album Electric Jive shares today, Dithoriso Tsa Morena. By this point, the SABC had developed individual radio services for each language, so it is entirely possible that a Zulu language variant of this album exists on vinyl waiting to be discovered.

Sadly, both the Mathaka and Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo ventures ended later in 1984: the Makgona Tsohle Band members were refused a pay rise by the TV production company and ended up being replaced, then Marks Mankwane resigned from the Gallo organisation after twenty years. He took the still-popular '80s Mahotella Queens with him to a new independent label, then over to CCP. In 1985, several tracks from Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo's albums were released on the historic Earthworks compilation The Indestructible Beat of Soweto. News of the resulting explosion of interest in South African music (stirred further by the release of Paul Simon's Graceland in 1986) trickled back to the commercially astute West Nkosi, who in 1987 hurriedly reunited most of the Makgona Tsohle Band and convinced two French talent scouts to take the group overseas for the first time. Though Makgona Tsohle, Mahlathini and vocal trio Amaswazi Emvelo proved a hit in France, it was really Mahlathini combined with the original Mahotella Queens that the French scouts desired. West promptly called Marks back to Gallo. Marks abruptly disbanded the then-Mahotella Queens and replaced them with three of the 1960s Queens - Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Shawe and Mildred Mangxola - all of whom had contributed to the Indestructible tracks so loved by the international audience of afropop fans. A reunion recording was made, Thokozile, and a second French visit spotlighting Mahlathini, the Queens and Makgona Tsohle led to an international touring career that still, even 28 years later, refuses to wane.

...but let's go back to 1984 and Dithoriso Tsa Morena. The overriding and most enjoyable characteristic of African gospel music is the suitably devotional approach to the vocal patterns. The listener does not have to be Christian or even religious at all to appreciate the restrained, resilient and passionate harmonies. Most of the songs on Dithoriso Tsa Morena are collective performances ‘church-style’ with some brief solos from Hilda Tloubatla (tracks 1, 5, 7-12) as well as Nobesuthu Shawe (tracks 3, 5) and Mahlathini (roars to be found everywhere!). Standout tracks that spotlight some beautifully supreme and often emotive harmonies include “Ntate Ba Tshwarele”, “Ruri Le Nkhapile”, “Joko Ya Hao”, “Morena Ke Ya Ho Kopa” and “Sedi La Ka” (the latter track can also be found in the KMQ album shared last week) – but in all honestly, every single track is worthy of multiple listens. Hit the download link for a wonderful dose of pure gospel jive – amen! ☺

produced by Marks Mankwane
engineered by Sam Wingate and Keith Forsyth
Gumba Gumba BL 478
Sotho Religious


Wednesday 11 February 2015

Kings Messengers Quartet: Lead Kindly Light (1973)

Many regular visitors to Electric Jive may be surprised to learn that a December 2009 posting on the King's Messengers Quartet is, by a significant margin, the most popular ever posting on this blog. There have been repeated requests among the 42 comments, and in e-mails, to the original posting for the album shared here today. 

I continue to receive regular e-mails from people all across Africa - Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania - expressing excitement at being able to re-connect with this music that was special to them many years ago.

This exceptional acapella quartet was founded by Billy Mahlalela at the Bethel College in 1954 in Butterworth (Transkei, Eastern Cape). This 1973 recording features tracks in English, Zulu and Sotho. You can find the original posting with five more KMQ recordings here.

Mediafire download here

Thursday 5 February 2015

She's Gone: The Flaming Souls (1968)

James Brown certainly reached South Africa – and is found reflected in this recording in the mood, energy and Philip Mallela’s vocals to match! It really is a thrill for me to share this gem of a recording with you today, the Flaming Souls’ debut album – thanks to Electric Jive visitor and Facebook friend Kataquomb Braka for sharing. Note: a new mint copy of the album has found its way to me and has now been digitised. If you downloaded the previous version with the skip in "She's Gone" - try the new version available from the link at the bottom of this post.

Band-leader Simon Jika Twala
One flame that adds impetus to Electric Jive’s archiving energies is always the potential that someone  is going to pop up and say, “hey, did you know about this one?”

Alexandra Township – also known as Dark City – has been the fountain from which many of South Africa’s musical legends have emerged: The Piliso brothers, Zacks Nkosi, Lemmy Mabaso, Caiphus Semenya, and then as the root of soul, starting with “The Anchors” – check them out here.  The Movers also hailed from Alex.
Writing in the Sowetan newspaper (2nd November, 2012) on the occasion of band-leader  Simon "Jika" Twala’s passing, Victor Mecoamere records that this here album sold 75,000 copies in South Africa. It is further documented that the Flaming Souls played an important community building role in Alexandra, raising funds to improve local schools and clinics.

Follow-up albums are reported as “Soul Time” and “Alex Stew”. Electric Jive does have “Alex Soul Menu” which you can find hereDoes anyone out there have any other recordings?

You can  find “Soul Time” with the Flaming Souls over at Soul Safari - here

And if you have not heard it yet – “Soul Bandit” from Almon Memela’s AM Stragglers is another important milestone in this genre - here

From Ray Nkwe’s liner notes:
“It was nearly one Sunday morning when I arrived home from a whole-night jazz gig exhausted and tired and all that jazz. I asked my wife not to disturb me while I took a nap. When I work up late that afternoon she told me that The Flaming Souls had been to see me, but they did not want to disturb me while I was resting. Without saying a word I called out for my daughter, but instead of her answering to the call, her mother said “SHE’s GONE”.

“What do you mean she’s gone?”, I asked.

“Well, she left with The Flaming Souls. You know she’s in love with The Souls, now she’s gone with them to Mafolo Hall for an afternoon show,” was her answer.

“Oh I dig baby, I dig. So my girl is gone with The Flaming Souls.” I said. “I’ll see that something is done about it.”

After  a few days I met Herman Fox, The Soul’s lead guitarist. I told him what had happened the Sunday when they went to Mafolo Hall via my house, and the answer I got from my wife when I called my daughter. He laughed.

“She’s gone”, he repeated. “Well soul brother, I shall surely write a song about that. “She’s gone”, and I am sure you’ll like it,” he said.

That was the birth of this outstanding album by the Fabulous Flaming Souls. The first non-white group of southern African that introduced Soul Music in LIVE PERFORMANCES. So they can easily be referred to as Pioneers of Soul.

About the music. Surely you can feel its SOULFULNESS yet MELLONESS. Take a song like SOUL WORLD,  more especially when she’s gone. This time not my daughter but the one you so dearly LOVE. Then we move to the outskirts of town, Mexico. There we meet women in colourful dresses and men with big sombreros, dancing to the soulful music played on guitars and bongo drums. How sweet SACRAMENTO is.

About the music makers.  In the year 1964, a young man by the name of Simon Twala had a brainwave which resulted in the formation of a group called The Anchors, whose members were six other Alexandra Township lads, Herman Fox, Ezrom Kgomo, Phillip Malela, Abram Rapoo, Gerard Khoza, and Collins Mashigo.

The group played together for four years and then there was a split. Simon then formed the now known Flaming Souls. These Fabulous Flaming Souls were formed in February 1968 and, Oh Boy ... since then soul has been the talk of the town. In other words Alexandra Township is the home of soul greats a la South Africa. Today, the whole country is full of soul groups.

Ray Nkwe
President, Jazz Appreciation Society of South Africa.
Cover photo: Alf Khumalo
Liner Photos: Dave Diale
Producer: Ray Nkwe
Recorded 2nd and 10th June 1969 at the Johannesburg studios of Audio Kine Africa.

Simon Twala - Leader/ Bass Guitar; Gerard Khoza - Organ & Drums; Kenneth Mosito - Organ; Herman Fox - Lead  Guitar; Phillip Mallela – Vocals & Drums.
Mediafire NEW CLEAN download here

Monday 2 February 2015

Black Ink: Harari do the soul bump jive (1975)

Not long before an extended  tour of Swaziland and Rhodesia in 1976 where "The Beaters" become "Harari", Selby Ntuli, Alec Khaoli and Sipho Mabuse pulled together this above-average once-off soul-bump-jive recording.

Though responding to the huge mid-seventies public demand for bump-jive, the rock and soul roots of the Beaters are evident in five mellow but grooving tracks. The Beaters re-visited the bump-jive tradition with "Whats Happening" on their 1978 big-hit album "Harari" - which you can find here. You can also read more of "The Beaters" and the 1976 breakaway to form "Saitana", and hear that album here.

Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse's flute work floats melodically over unhurried base and rhythm riffs that invite you to put aside your worries and chill a little. In addition to the fore-fronted flute, the opening track, "Kugugsaothandayo" does feature some interesting snatches of vuvuzela-like interludes. "Bongo Bump" showcases guitar-led soul-rock influences, Enjoy!

1. Kugugaotahndayo (15:41)
2. Sipo's Joint (2:43)
3. Selby's Mood (5:01)
4. Our Children (2:49)
5. Bongo Bump (4:55)

Mediafire download here