Tuesday 18 August 2015

Malombo - 1984 Live from the Old Main Hall, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Gabriel 'Mabi' Thobejane and Philip Tabane, Market Café 1976 (Photo: David Marks)

Today another repost from the old matsuli blog:
Philip Tabane is the founder of the group Malombo, a Venda word for spirit. Today he is known as Dr Malombo and whilst the group has been through many iterations over the past 45 years they are still performing and astounding audiences worldwide. 

My introduction to Malombo was at University in 1982 when a friend passed on a dubbed cassette copy of The Indigenous Afro-Jazz Sounds of Philip Tabane and his Malombo Jazzman. Later I saw him play at the Rainbow Jazz Club in Durban and at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. In 1984 I worked in a team to put on a series of concerts by Malombo under the auspices of the United Democratic Front - a non-racial coalition of about 400 civic, church, students', workers' and other organisations. We organised three concerts including one at the University's Old Main Hall from where the live recording being shared today comes from. 

Guitar scorcerer Philip Tabane at the Old Main Hall, University of Natal Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 1984 (Photo: Natal Witness) 

I find it difficult to express the power and beauty that comes from his performances. So I will leave it to a sleeve note writer to paint a picture: "Malombo's music is a blend of the sophisticated and the primeval, of electric and traditional instrumentation, of tone poems about the natural world and its close link to human communities. Malombo has strong roots in traditional African music but they draw from such a broad spectrum of influences as to render categorizations difficult. If you can imagine an African Chuck Berry who plays six flutes at one time awhile humming and singing, you're beginning to visualise the persona of Philip Tabane - leader of the group." (from the sleeve notes to the Kaya self-titled release)

For a long time I've lamented the fact that the Malombo back catalogue has fallen into disarray. Currently only five from a total of 13 releases are commercially in print. And of these five there is one obscure release - SIlent Beauty - not even credited to Phiip Tabane or Malombo. Recently Francis Gooding compiled an anthology of featuring the Julian Bahula branch stream of Malombo. You can find that here.

A (near) comprehensive discography is available at FlatInternational

The recording being shared was taped directed from the mixing desk but unfortunately has been through a few generations of dubbing before being digitised. I hope you enjoy it!


  1. Today is a beautiful day.
    Thank you SO much for this, and everything else..but especially this.

  2. Chiquilicuatre y ZappaTuesday, August 18, 2015

    many thanks

  3. Truly wonderful. Many thanks. Interestingly the other Malombo seems to get a bit more recognition in the wider world - very nice double CD collection last year (maybe because Julian Bahula lived outside SA for a long time?). I love both branches of the band, but there's something about Tabane's work that is just like nothing else...

  4. Thank you. Looking forward to hearing this.


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