Friday 31 July 2015

Zulu violin dance from the mountains

A Friday tribute dedicated to all my friends from the 1980s who were also excited by the Shifty Records release of the Noise Khanyile and Joburg City Stars number Grooving Jive Number One. That infectious violin-led 12-inch track received many a spin at many a party.

The track shared today traces one root of "Zulu Violin Dance" back to Durban Harbour circa 1960. A simple, pure and equally infectious violin and guitar duet composed by one V. Gumede for the "Point Docks String Combo". The title "Ezintabeni" can be translated as "to the mountains" or "from the mountains".

This track along with a number of others will be made available via Electric Jive in due course. For now:

Check out this link here.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Heartbreaker: The G. Kente Voices (1977)

OK, so there is an appetite for Gibson Kente's music, thanks for the comments and feedback. Here is another Gibson Kente production, recorded 29th August 1977, ten weeks after "Can You Take It". The eight-piece band remains intact, while the vocal ensemble is reduced to eight female voices, led again by Olive Masinga. Produced by Ray Nkwe on the Jazz Appreciation Society (JAS) Pride label.

A notable addition among the voices is that of a young Mandisa Dlanga who went on to make a name for herself in the theatre world, as a session singer, and has since 1986 been the longest serving band member in Johnny Clegg's regular line-up. Mandisa Dlanga is still performing live, and has recent recordings with the Soweto Gospel Choir, and also on Vusi Mahlasela's 2011 "Say Africa". You can check out and purchase CDs on which Ms Dlanga is featured here.

Kente (1932 – 2004) is remembered as the father of South Africa’s Black Theatre. In the 1950s he was a talent scout for the Gallo music company. Inspired by King Kong, he founded a theater business in the early 1960s His first play was Manana, the Jazz Prophet (1963). The second, Sikalo  is featured earlier on Electric Jive here. I have made a note to digitise and share Kente's 1973 offering "How Long" sometime in the future, stay tuned.

Kente is credited with training more than 400 artists and producing 30 plays and three television dramas before his death from Aids in 2004.

Download link here

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Can You Take It (1977)

 The 'father of township drama' Gibson Kente was not only remarkably prolific, he could assemble some seriously talented musicians to present his many offerings. This 1977 recording was produced by the inimitable Ray Nkwe through the "Jazz Appreciation Society" - in the days when such societies released recordings.
Olive Masinga and cast
 Let's start with a 13-piece vocal ensemble led by Mahotella Queens stalwart Olive Masinga, accompanied by an eight-piece brass-heavy band comprised of the likes of Dennis Mpale and the guitar wizardry of Themba Mokoena.

In his liner notes, Aggrey Klaaste highlights the music: "Long before I saw TAKE IT I heard a rendition of "JIKI JIKI", I was driven almost to tears by the deep nostalgia andand unmistakable Township bounce. I know some Black Americans are driven to such emotional transport by the Blues or spiritual songs. What makes the impact greater is the universality of their effect. You don't have to be a Black American to be stirred by their spirituals, or by the Blues. In a like manner you don't have to be moved by a song like JIKI JIKI. The effect is more emotional if you are part of the township environment and this is what Mr Kente exploits. Some men are blessed with the gift of churning out songs that live in memory for years. If Gibson Kente does not stand among such Black men in our history, the History will have gravely wronged him. The effect his songs have is more, much more than sentimental, they live. That's the trouble with them."
Recorded in Johannesburg on 6th June 1977.
Click on the photo below to see the artists' details and track listing.

Link here

Monday 20 July 2015

Soultime With the Flaming Souls (1969)

Here is another important (and great) record in the slowly emerging picture of South Africa's under-documented "Soul" history. Nineteen Sixty-Nine was the year where it all ignited - with at least five locally produced LPs - two from the Flaming Souls (and another in 1970), two from The Beaters, and one from Almon Memela ... and we are still counting.

"The Anchors"  and "Almon Memela" appear to have got the ball rolling, with both their recordings being the either the first or second vinyls pressed by the subsequently successful City Special and Giant labels respectively.

If it is correct that the demise of The Anchors saw Simon Twala, Philip Malela and Herman Fox going on to form "The Flaming Souls", then these musicians recorded at least three albums in 1969. Pepsi Rapoo might be another, as he was a member of the Anchors, and is credited with writing five of the ten tunes on this album.

The Flaming Souls also feature  on four different record labels in 1969, with "Soultime" being released on both Colombia and then, within the same year, on budget label Music for Pleasure (MFP) - thanks Eddie at Soul Safari. for the MfP cover. The Colombia pressing is a pristine vinyl, but unfortunately does not possess a cover.

"She's Gone" by The Flaming Souls was released on the "Atlantic City" and "Up,Up, Up" labels in 1969. While I do not have any hard evidence to support me, my guess is that "She's Gone" was the second of the two recordings - being a vocal album and a little more expansively produced.

So - in all, it is fair to conclude that 1969 was a great vintage for Soul music in South Africa.You can find the third album from the Flaming Souls, the 1970 "Alex Soul Menu"  here.

Soul Time with the Flaming Souls
Colombia 33YE 1005 (1969)


Monday 6 July 2015

Josaya Hadebe on 78 rpm (c1947-1954)

Some years ago I published a compilation here at EJ titled Maskanda Roots, that traced the history of this, often guitar-based, Zulu traditional music. In that article I mentioned Zimbabwean omisaganda, Josaya Hadebe as one of the major influences of this style of music, though at that time I had no examples of his work. Today we feature ten tracks recorded for Trutone roughly between 1947 and 1954.

Both David Coplan and Joyce Makwenda point to the Ndebele (with their close roots to Zulu) styles in southern Zimbabwe, notably Bulawayo, as an early significant influence on maskanda with artists such as Josaya Hadebe, George Sibanda and Sabelo Mathe.

Josaya Hadebe from Makwende's book
Interestingly these Bulawayo guitarists were referred to as omasiganda and had a distinctive country western influence modeled after the singing cowboy in American films of the time. Omisaganga like maskanda is derived from the Afrikaans musikant. The omisaganda were one-man band troubadours strolling the township streets of Bulawayo, basically busking for money. Often they were in demand as entertainers at functions such as “tea-parties”, shebeens or at venues like the Stanley Hall built in 1935.

Makwenda, in her book Zimbabwe Township Music, actually credits Hadebe, as having introduced the ukuvamba (vamping) style in the late 1940s when he would come to South African towns, and draw huge crowds while busking on street corners. Significantly, Hadebe’s songs, as Makwende points out, were “about the deteriorating social values, which were a reflection of emerging city life: drunkeness, prostitution and crime”. (Makwende)

Makwende also suggests that Hadebe recorded fifteen songs with Eric Gallo, through Hugh Tracey’s AMR unit, in 1948 but I have found no examples of these. Tracks by Hadebe that I have located from this period seem to have been recorded for Trutone and I suspect that it is these that she may have been referring to.

The XU prefix on these Trutone discs is a hold-over from Llewelynn Hughes’ Better label (La Fayette Recording Studios) that was acquired by Arthur Harris around 1945. Harris was able to improve the quality of his recordings by hiring a professional sound engineer and building a new studio. Towards the end of the 1940s he changed the name of his business to Trutone. (Allingham / Meintjes)

Much of Hadebe’s material featured below was recorded in the late 1940s and early to mid 1950s. Based on the matrix number of XU 93 (2119) and the transitions at Trutone my guess is that Hadebe could have been recording for the company as early as 1947. What I suspect are the earliest known recordings by Hadebe — Langa Shona and Sitwande Same (XU 89) — can be found in the ILAM archive and heard at SAMAP. Jonathan Ward's compilation, Opika Pende, also features a later track recorded by Hadebe around 1957: Yini Wena Funa (Quality, TJ 6020, matrix T  6647-1)

Finding additional background information on Hadebe has proven to be difficult but a paper by S.J. Mhlabi titled An African Troubadour: The Music of Josaya Hadebe has been cited in a number of publications. If anyone has a copy of this text please let us know.

JOSAYA HADEBE ON 78 RPM (c1947-1954)
(flatinternational, Electric Jive, FXEJ 18)

01) Batatazela (c1947, Trutone, XU 93, 2120-D)
02) Ma Sheet Bed (c1947, Trutone, XU 93, 2119-D)
03) Diana (c1948, Trutone, XU 125, 2928)
04) Elina (c1948, Trutone, XU 125, T 2937)
05) Cigarette (c1953, Trutone, XU 145, T 3429)
06) iDlulamithi (c1953, Trutone, XU 145, T 3435)
07) Hlanganisa (1954, Trutone, XU 222, T 3654)
08) Sithandwa Same (1954, Trutone, XU 222, T 3656)
09) iWatch Lika Baba Ligugile (1954, Trutone, XU 244, T 3666)
10) Wazi Bamab Emarabeni (1954, Trutone, XU 244, T 3671)