Monday 28 December 2015

Greatest Soul Hits - Vol. 2 (1972) & Vol. 3 (1973)

Well... I don't have an end-of-year mix per se. But I do have a dedicated Christmas gift for one of our keenest supporters—Manzo—who has patiently waited for these two compilations since I mentioned them in a Teenage Lovers' discography in January 2015. Perhaps therefor it is fitting to end this year with these two sets featuring a wonderful selection of mostly organ-infused soul tracks on the RPM label.

Merry Christmas, Manzo... Chris, Matt, Nick... and all our dedicated supporters!!!
Looking forward to an amazing new year!

Various Artists, RPM (RPM 7012), 1972

01) Teenage Lovers - Trinity
02) Moon Brothers - Beautiful Sunday
03) Teenage Lovers - Enemy No.1
04) Teenage Lovers - TX 15 (Playboys)
05) Teenage Lovers - Slaza's Inn
06) The Knights - Song of the Engine
07) Ben Ntoi and Tortoise - Candy
08) All Rounders - Sala Emma
09) Soul Kids - Breakfast Time
10) Teenage Lovers - Sofasonke
11) Teenage Lovers - Toto at Sis' B
12) Teenage Lovers - Victor's Money Belt
13) Teenage Lovers - Botany 700
14) All Rounders - I'm Sorry About That

Various Artists, RPM (RPM 7014), 1973

01) The Hurricanes - Expression of Love
02) The Hurricanes - I Can Feel It
03) Teenage Lovers - Let it Be
04) Teenage Lovers - Last Hope
05) Freddie Letsewene and the Young Titles - Cry For My Love
06) The Hurricanes - Love, Peace and Goodwill
07) Question Marks - Mister Moonlight
08) Teenage Lovers - Unfaithful Woman
09) Question Marks - I Won't Sleep No More
10) The Thorns - Celebration
11) Question Marks - Julia
12) The Thorns - Seteng Sediba

Monday 21 December 2015

Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 5

Happy holidays! Electric Jive welcomes in Christmas week with a brand new volume of our popular Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups series, delving into the music of South Africa's female groups of the 1960s and 1970s. In Volume 5 we take a look at the music of the Mahotella Queens, Mthunzini Girls, Jabavu Queens, Dima Sisters, Izintombi Zomoya, Manzini Girls, Dark City Sisters, Amagugu, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje and other solid female ensembles from the mbaqanga era. What better way to celebrate the festivities? 

Our first song is "Mphemphe Yalapisa", a recording credited to the Dima Sisters but actually recorded by the pool of singers who toured live as the Mahotella Queens. Talent scout and producer Rupert Bopape usually devised several group names with the intention of creating a number of successful girl bands. From 1964, he had a team of session singers record under a variety of different 'band names' for Gallo's Mavuthela Music division, and after two massively successful singles released under the name Mahotella Queens, Bopape spend his time carefully building up a public profile and image for the group. Key to the publicity were close relationships with the influential African announcers on the SABC's Radio Bantu service: K.E. Masinga, Hubert Sishi and Winnie Mahlangu. The line-up of the Queens solidified for impending tour dates, but Bopape continued to recruit more singers to the group before splitting it into two distinct sections around 1967 - the first continued to tour and record with Mahlathini under the name Mahotella Queens (as well as recording under several other pseudonyms), and the other (newer) section recording and touring as the Mthunzini Girls with vocalist John Moriri. In 1968, Bopape took another of the Queens' recording names - the Dima Sisters - and built it into a fully fledged group, and on the practice continued for several more years. It was a shrewd, cunning move designed not only to fill the Mavuthela roster with a selection of top girl groups, but to keep a steady supply of singers flowing through the Gallo building when the walkouts occurred: Bopape would recruit singers in their late teens or early twenties - they were young, naive and easily led by a father figure. A master A&R man, producer and songwriter, Bopape was also a hugely corrupting force who kept his artists ensconced in what could be best described as cheap labour. As the young ladies grew up, they became aware that they were working hard for essentially nothing, so they quit - only for Bopape to replace them with younger, more naive singers.

Talk of harsh pay, busy schedules and strict leadership is associated with almost all of the African music producers, who besides Bopape included Strike Vilakazi of Trutone Records; Cuthbert Matumba of Troubadour Records; then later Hamilton Nzimande of GRC's Isibaya Esikhulu Music; David Thekwane of Teal Records; and West Nkosi of Mavuthela Music to name just some. Exploitation was part and parcel of the industry, especially where young, vulnerable women were concerned. Depending on a producer's personal preference, they were either daughter figures or lovers, and any money doled out from the boss was certainly kept to an absolute minimum. Occasionally producers would succeed in poaching musical stars from their rivals with promises of healthy pay packets and better working conditions - and of course, neither prospect actually materialised. The huge irony is that the sounds that these ensembles made constitute some of the most delightful, energetic and exuberant music ever put down on record. Repetitive cycles of electrifying, lilting guitar hooks; superb female harmonies that danced between smooth blended chorus to brazen wailing; and a solo lead male assuredly bellowing his way through the tunes. Girl groups and mbaqanga music were synonymous with each other as the genre became South Africa's own answer to the Motown sound for a period of nearly twenty years.

Though producers liked to stick to recording mbaqanga tunes in the languages that sold the best - isiZulu and Sesotho, the two languages that the lion's share of African consumers spoke - songs were sometimes composed in Pedi (Sesotho sa Leboa), Tswana and Venda to ensure quotas were met. "Ka Tatampela" by the Sweet Home Dames - actually the Mthunzini Girls featuring Virginia Teffo on lead vocal - is a fun, upbeat tune categorised as 'Pedi Vocal Jive' on the 45rpm label; "Emarabini" by the Mthunzini Girls - actually Izingane zo Mgqashiyo led by Beauty Radebe - is labelled as 'Swazi Vocal Jive'. "Emarabini" is more or less a straight cover (without a credit for the original composer!) of "Siyo Ba Bamba" by Joseph Mthimkhulu and The Space Queens. The latter tune - included on Ingwe Idla Ngamabala (CBS LAB 4005) which can be found here - was a huge hit of 1967 for Isibaya Esikhulu, the African division of Gramophone Record Company. Though Rupert Bopape was certainly one of the most successful and influential producers on the scene at the time, he was not the only one. By the 1970s, Hamilton Nzimande stood as the only other producer who actively challenged Mavuthela's crown.

At Isibaya Esikhulu, Nzimande carefully cultivated a hugely successful roster of excellent female vocalists, instrumental players, composers and arrangers. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje was Nzimande's first major success. The girl group, which eventually became a vehicle for the raspy crooning of lead singer Sannah Mnguni, rose so high in prominence that the popularity battle was dominated only by two groups - itself and the Mahotella Queens. Both groups were capable of attracting a staggeringly phenomenal amount of fans who clamoured to township halls, theatres and football stadiums just to see the beautiful voices in person. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje was supported by the excellent Saul Tshabalala as their groaner and Abafana Bentuthuko, the backing band led by the highly innovative lead guitarist Hansford Mthembu. Nzimande's Isibaya Esikhulu operation was so successful that it became the next port of call for artists who resigned from Mavuthela. The original Mthunzini Girls quit Mavuthela to become Izintombi Zentuthuko for Isibaya in 1969, but it wasn't the fairytale move that they had imagined, and pretty soon the act disintegrated. One of the singers, Windy Sibeko, stayed on for a while, multi-tracking her vocals for certain numbers such as "Mmona Oaka", released as the S'modern Girls. In 1972, most of the original Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje members (as well as Hansford Mthembu) suddenly quit the Isibaya stable. Sibeko followed them to EMI, where they started up a new, even greater chapter of their musical career as Amagugu Esimanje Manje.
Under the orchestration of producer Bopape and flanked by a team of ingenious songwriters, musical arrangers and instrumentalists, the Mahotella Queens produced a long, wonderful stream of high quality vocal jive singles from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. The Queens, easily the country's leading mbaqanga group of the era, perhaps benefitted from three distinct elements. The first was Mahlathini, hailed in the townships as 'Indoda Mahlathini' ('Mahlathini the main man'), a thoroughly decent and humble personality who possessed a showstopping stage persona and impressive vocal rawness. The second was Hilda Tloubatla, who Bopape positioned as the main lead singer of the Queens during its early days in 1964. Tloubatla possessed a reassuringly smooth, deeply resonant and thick vibrato-heavy vocal, a beautiful sound that clearly screamed 'Mahotella Queens' to every Radio Bantu listener. The third was the Makgona Tsohle Band. Marks Mankwane was not only the group's acclaimed lead guitarist, he was also the principal musical arranger of the Queens' music. He applied hundreds of melodies, all of them fresh and new and not one like another, to the lyrics written by the group's members, ensuring every Mahotella release was crafted to perfection. "Shaluza Max", recorded by the Queens in 1969, is a contorted celebration of Marks' talent. In 1973's sublime "Abaculi Bethu", the guitar wizard's abilities (as well as the talents of the other Makgona Tsohle Band members) are celebrated more openly. Queens' alto vocalist Juliet Mazamisa is the composer of "Madulo", recorded alongside "Shaluza Max" in 1969 and later covered by the legendary Letta Mbulu for her album Culani Nami.

It's obvious that with the success of these big groups, young women were influenced into forming their own groups and moving up to Johannesburg to try out their luck. The Temptation Kids were a group of singers trained by vocalist, producer and impresario Roxy Jila who brought them up to Johannesburg from Durban around 1970 to record for Mavuthela. Inevitably, the lure of a luxury lifestyle, big pay-packets and plenty of public appearances sent the Kids on their merry way to a rival producer, a move that both left Jila miffed and the Kids completely empty handed. One of the gems from their shortlived career was "Mamezala", a strident up-tempo vocal jive describing the emotions felt by all when a young bride leaves her home after she is married.

“Kumnandi Ezayoni”, recorded by The Pride in 1976, is an odd one. From a musical perspective, the tune is not a traditional masterpiece but deserves inclusion simply because of its intriguing all-star line-up: the groaner is Mthunzi Malinga from Isibaya Esikhulu; the lead guitarist and arranger is Hansford Mthembu from EMI; the backing band is Mthembu's troupe Intuthuko Brothers from EMI; and the vocalists are a mixture of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje and Amagugu members. All of these artists were under contract to their respective companies during the recording of this and other songs for Mavuthela's Smanje Manje label (the name ‘The Pride’ references the English translation of ‘Amagugu’). So-called ‘underground’ sessions for rival producers and companies were actually commonplace in the industry during this era - the artists had to eke out a living somehow - but it's unusual that both Malinga, Mthembu and manager/arranger Titus Masikane are all given open and honest credit on the 45rpm label rather than fictional pseudonyms as would be the norm. One wonders if they were reprimanded by their EMI bosses. Amagugu continued to record for the company for another four more years before they moved over to WEA, then back to EMI, then disbanded for good.

Four tracks in this compilation are from Izintombi Zomoya, one of Mavuthela's junior female ensembles arguably used by the bosses as a 'testing ground' for new vocalists. But during the early 1970s, the group - backed by the Zwino Zwino Boys, 'Zwino Zwino' being Venda for 'now now!' - began to develop some real attention for the first time. Thandi Nkosi was the face of the group for a while until she was promoted to the Mahotella Queens in 1972. She was replaced by Irene Mawela, whose voice glides sweetly and gracefully over the groans of Robert 'Mbazo' Mkhize and the other singers in "Siphum' Enyakatho" and "Igama Lami (Libizw'emoyeni)". In 1975, the line-up was reshuffled again and Irene began to make recordings under her own name for the first name. Her position in Izintombi Zomoya was taken by Julia Yende, who had recently returned to Mavuthela after several years (she had been the original lead singer of the Mthunzini Girls until 1969). "Sponono Ngiyeke" highlights her mournful, bittersweet lead voice.
After Yende and the other Mthunzini Girls walked out in 1969, Mavuthela replaced them with an entirely new line-up. The same pattern repeated itself in 1971 as a new third incarnation led by Beatrice Ngcobo started recording under the name. That third incarnation quit in 1972 after being denied their touring fees and found a new recording home at Satbel Record Company in 1973. Under producer C.B. Matiwane, John Moriri and the newly-named Manzini Girls set to work recreating the magic they had worked up in the Gallo studios, complete with lead guitarist George Mangxola and the renamed Soweto Boys. For some of their recordings, they were joined by former Mahotella Queens singer Juliet Mazamisa, whose creative compositions gave Moriri and the Manzini Girls some golden hits including "Baqhubi Bezimoto". Things seemed rosy for a while - Moriri and the Manzini Girls' 1975 single "Isikhova" sold four gold discs and two platinums - but astonishing sales figures do not necessarily translate into fortune for the music makers, and by 1976 they had had enough of Satbel and quit to join WEA's new African operation led by guitarist-producer Almon Memela. It was around this time that the popularity of vocal jive groups began to decline for the very first time. In desperate attempts to keep their groups relevant, producers reworked the mbaqanga format by introducing a keyboard into the band and changing the rhythm patterns to create a new sort of 'disco jive' sound. "Basali Basejoale Joale" by Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje represents a sort of 'last gasp' of the original sound, featuring two guitars - lead and rhythm - competing for the spotlight along with the obligatory organ. "Otla Ntswarela" by the Mahotella Queens is even more distinctly soul-infused, but strangely manages to create that new feel without even a trace of organ or electric piano. If one must choose a favourite from this strange era, "Woza Ungilande" by Izintombi Zomoya - complete with yet another new line-up led by Joana Thango - would have to be mine. It carries an effervescent arrangement seemingly at odds with the solemn lyrical themes of prayer and church.

Mbaqanga girl groups continued to enjoy relevance and popularity for several more years until they were finally eclipsed, first by all-male mbaqanga line-ups, then the solo stars of bubblegum music in the early 1980s. The joyous sounds of mbaqanga music vanished from the pop scene without trace. But the memorable music still exists, buried under the rubble, waiting to be fished out, cleaned up and preserved for eternity. Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 5 presents a selection of 30 female mbaqanga vocal classics from the era when the genre ruled the airwaves. Hit the download link and be prepared to do some serious jiving. YEBO! :-)


Monday 14 December 2015

Strange Things: Electric Jive Office Party 2015

Some strange things have afflicted us all this year - though we can't say they were wholly unexpected. South Africa faces some very serious challenges with corruption and leadership. It has been a year of  despair and at times feeling hopeless as we watch people of the world drift apart and resort to bombing and fighting each other. As if such behavior is ever going to solve anything! Time for healing, time for love!

As we approach the holidays I am hopeful that we can all find the time and motivation to step back, step aside, and find that happy musical space where thinking is suspended, time stands still, and your dancing feet switch into automatic pilot mode.

I invite you to groove to some timeless and rare funky disco soul produced during those tough times in South Africa. No matter the trauma on our door-steps, we took care to feed our souls and dance among those we loved, always feeling re-inspired!

So, enough venting and sermonising, let me share the Electric Jive Durban Office Party 2015 menu with you.
We kick off with the S.A. Supremes in 1973 chasing a funky rhythm guitar and organ-led groove, singing "Strange Things":  Oh, these strange things in my life, Why, they do go to me, Oh I need someone to save me, Oh, somebody come and help me. These Strange Things, they worry me so!".

We then slide off into 1977 for a beautiful funky and emergent disco anthem recorded by "The Drive", their last recording, just two weeks before Henry Sithole (that's him in Ian Huntley's picture above) and Bunny Luthuli (guitar) were taken from us in a car accident. Stretching out at over 16 minutes, the shimmering guitar, soothing brass, and rock-solid bass-lines of "Thando's Mood" will transport you to that  place where you slowly peel away those troubles, and decide it is OK just to let go, and go with the flow.

We slip back into 1976, with the wonderful collaboration between the members of the pop band "Rabbit" Trevor Rabin and Neil Cloud, along with Malcolm Watson, John Galanakis, Mike Makhalemele, Thomas Masemola and The Jo'Burg Strings. Written by Patrick Van Blerk and Trevor Rabin, "For you Only" is an extended 14-minute laid back disco-funk groove.

"Spirits Rejoice" hardly need an introduction, though not everyone knows they were the core of "Dr Rhythm", backing Paul Petersen's guitar upfront. Recorded in 1981, and written by keyboard player Mervyn Africa, "Hook It Up" offers up more than eight minutes of upbeat funky disco, with the likes of Duke Makasi blowing up a brass storm, underlined by Sipho Gumede on bass, and Gilbert Matthews on drums,

Rounding it all off for this Office Party is the full sixteen minute version of the 1978 hit by the "Nzimande All Stars", "Sporo Disco". Not yet featured on Electric Jive!

I wish all visitors to Electric Jive lots of love and peace over this holiday period - whenever, it finally gets to come your way.

My hands are a little too full to find the time to be able to put up two downloads - one with separated tracks, along with the tradtional mix-tape. So, please bare with with me and understand - I promise, in the New Year,  I will share the full albums that feature the tracks in the office party mix. Enjoy!

And just when you thought that was all! No wait, there is more! Thanks to an anonymous person with a big heart, there is now a site where you can hear South African and African music recordings that you did not know existed. Taken from master tapes and sound-desk recordings of live shows over the twenty five years, you can hear the likes of Tananas, Oliver Mtukudzi, Marcus Wyatt, Toumani Diabate, Gito Baloi, Kesivan Naidoo, and more to come. Phew! 

Monday 7 December 2015

2015 - Dancing at the End of Time Mixtape

Tracks of fancy, persistence and resilience. A random lucky dip of personal favourites from Global Warming to Atlantis and beyond...including amongst others:
Lenine - Castanho
Wodem - Mowa
Matthew Halsall - Longshan Temple
Bassekous Kouyate and Ngoni Ba - Bassekouni
Amadou Balake - Naaba
Orchestre du Boabab -Ma Penda
Dieuf Dieul de Thues - Jirim
Mara Toure - Lamento Cubano
Omar Souleyman - Leil El Bareh
Mbongwana Star - Suzanna
Arthur Russell - Hiding Your Present from You
Franciso - Wache
Out of Addis - Yisare Hinena
Mamman Sani - Samari Da Yan Matan
John Grant - Global Warming
Kamasi washington - The Rhythm Changes
John Zorn - Atlantis
Mary Afi Usuah - Ima Mma Uyem
Greg Foat - Dancers at teh End of Time
Sacri Cuori - La Marabina
Nigerian Union Rhythm Group - Abeni
Marcus Miller - We Were There
Tribo Massahi - Madrugada

Enjoy the holidays! All the best for 2016!

Download link: MF

Sunday 22 November 2015

Shomi the Way - Beyond Borders (1953-1956)

Late the other night I was digitising a number of 78 rpm records from the Johannesburg-based Bantu Batho or BB label and came across six curious, up-tempo band recordings that had been ascribed to Nyanja. Nyanja or Chewa is the national language of Malawi but is also spoken in Eastern Zambia, Northern Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe.

Many South African recording companies with trans-African commercial aspirations (not that dissimilar from their European counterparts such as Columbia and Gramophone Company), employed scouts or experts—Hugh Tracey at Gallo for example—to travel north beyond the borders and acquire indigenous recordings that would then be marketed back to consumers in those countries of origin. Though I would be curious to examine the ratio of discs made for the export market versus those retained for local consumption in South Africa. Were these recordings from many countries in Africa, marketed and distributed ‘evenly’ across Africa or was each market established primarily to connect local artists with local consumers?

Historical Papers, University of Witswatersrand Library
This 1954 advertisement in the newspaper Bwalo La Nyasaland, published in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), showcases records produced by three South African companies—Trutone, Troubadour and Record Industries—with artists from Nyasaland (Malawi), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Bechuanaland (Botswana), available from shops in Blantyre and Lilongwe, Nyasaland.

One often reads about the stylistic influence of Ndebele guitarists, such as Josaya Hadebe and George Sibanda, on any number of Zulu maskanda artists through the distribution of their recordings rather than access to live performances. Certainly it would be interesting to explore the role commercial companies played in the spread of musical influences across regions of Africa. In another thought, I also wonder what or who Josaya Hadebe may have been listening to?

BB Records advert (Drum, March 1955)
Returning to the recordings at hand. The BB label owned by Record Industries Limited (RI) in Johannesburg employed a catalogue system to categorise the music thematically by language or style. So for example the BB 100 series was dedicated to popular tunes or "Special Hits!"; African jazz was represented in the BB 150 block; the BB 400 series for recordings in Sotho; BB 450 for Venda; BB 500 for Zulu; BB 600 for jive; BB 750 for Shangaan and so on. (Many thanks to Rob Allingham for these details.) Without too many discs to refer to, It is my guess that the BB 850 block was dedicated to recordings from Nyasaland (Malawi) and possibly Tanganyika (Tanzania).

Perhaps ironically, this indexing of languages to a numbering system is not that far off from a more complex approach employed by ethnomusicologist, Hugh Tracey. His system is (partly) depicted in the map above used as the cover for this selection of music. Black borders containing names of countries are superimposed with red borders surrounding numbers denoting language groups. Incidentally, Tracey’s number for South Eastern Africa is 52 and within that, Nyanja would be classified as 52/3/1.

This is pure speculation, but it is probable that Tracey may have made the first recordings of G. Chimpele, one of the artists featured in this selection. Meta-data for the track Mwanakadzi in the ILAM Digital Archive dates that recording to February 21, 1952 with a matrix number of XYZ 7198 and issued on the Trek label as DC 238. The XYZ prefix was assigned to acetates cut from Tracey’s field recordings made across Sub-Saharan Africa. (Allingham) Tracey’s meta-data in the ILAM Archive also suggests that the Trek recording was made in Zomba, a city in Southern Nyasaland. Zomba was the capital of Nyasaland, and then Malawi, until 1974 before it was superseded by Lilongwe. 

G. Chimpele and Company is represented by four tracks on this compilation, all from the BB label, recorded sometime in 1953. My further speculation is that the Trek recordings proved popular enough for a competing record company—Record Industries—to send out a recording unit to Nyasaland the following year… but it is more likely that they brought the musicians down to recording studios in Salisbury, Rhodesia or Johannesburg. Rob Allingham ruminates in a note on another group featured in this selection—the Ziphondo Band—that he could not recall if the tracks featured on BB 860 were recorded in Rhodesia or Johannesburg. (Allingham). Unlike the standard BB matrices that include an N prefix, some of the Nyanja recordings have an additional matrix number with the prefix MTS in front of the N number (for example MTS 53A/N 1682).

G. Chimpele employs what sounds like an accordion, which for me, gives this music a distinctly Creole flavor. While Elias Ziphondo includes at least two guitars, one strummed at great speed to almost sound like a banjo. Notably on his track Cheleka he introduces a whistle reminiscent of those used by mine dance groups in South Africa. All tracks are backed by an infectious up-tempo drum rhythm making them more than suitable for dancing.

Ziphondo’s Shomi is a grammatical contraction of “Show me the Way” which, I assume, could be derived from a Western popular and/or religious tune. It is also the inspiration for the title of this compilation: Shomi the Way!

Blackie Selolwane, a notable composer and saxophone player originally from Francistown, in Eastern Bechuanaland (Botswana) near the border with Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), introduces the second part of this compilation which drifts towards a distinctly majuba or African jazz sound.

The region around Francistown became the site of “Africa’s first gold rush” when the precious metal was discovered there in 1869. Subsequently, the town was also included in Cecil John Rhodes’ epic plan to build a railway from Cape Town to Cairo. During the great depression of the 1930s, the mining industry went into decline but the economy of the town was sustained as it became a transportation hub for companies that recruited workers from a number of African countries to work on the South African mines. Through mining interests and subsequent cross-border trade with Zimbabwe, Francistown grew into Botswana’s second largest city. Incidentally, Francistown was the location of Botwana’s first tarred road, a curious but significant anecdote, given that Blackie Selowane was a driver for Bailey’s Transportation. 

Having said that, Todd Matshikiza in his August 1953 Drum review of the Trutone XU 254 disc does say that the Selolwane Swing Stars were from Bulawayo in Rhodesia, so it is more than likely that Selolwane moved around. This is confirmed when Matshikiza adds that the group actually travelled to Johannesburg to record Marabi Ka 1953 and Baba Mkulu. Unfortunately their pianist did not make it and Sol Klaaste stepped in. An aside, Selolwane, is the father of renowned guitarist John Selolwane who performs with Paul Simon on the classic Graceland.

As I was preparing this compilation, I initially focussed on the six BB tracks, their country of origin and why a South African company had chosen to market them. As research drifted from languages to borders, geography and styles, other tracks seemed relevant to the discussion and the selection grew.

The music on the first half of this compilation retains a kind of raw, 'indigenous' quality. While the majuba tracks on the second half represent a shift towards urbanisation through the language of American swing and its transformation into African jazz. For me, however, these tracks still retain a raw, perhaps local, 'indigenous' flavor reminiscent of the marabi sounds of the 1930s or tsaba-tsaba of the 1940s. The thumping rhythm section of Temba Tswara's Salisbury Hot Shots Band is a great example or simply the title Marabi Ka 1953 by the Selolwane Swing Stars says it all.

By 1953 the majuba or African jazz sound was peaking in South Africa with groups like the African Quavers from East London. As I listen to the last six tracks here, recorded between 1953 and 1956, and compiled chronologically, I can hear a shift towards that jazz refinement, most notable in the final tracks by the Harari Hot Shots. It makes me wonder what records these guys were listening to? Where did they buy their records? And in turn, who was listening to their discs? How did styles travel? What role did commerce, mining, transportation and urbanisation play in the spread of this sound?

Incidentally Salisbury, the capital of Rhodesia, was renamed Harari, after its largest Township, in 1982. I wonder if the Salisbury Hot Shots have any relation to the Harari Hot Shots… and if so, whether this name change was a prefiguration of the coming post-colonial shift.

In closing, these anecdotes around geography and economics lead me to rethink the function of the discs. In as much as South African recording companies were exporting records to foreign markets, South African mining companies were importing labor from many of these same countries. It could be argued that another possible function of the music produced by these companies was to target home-sick foreign laborers, turning them into ‘domestic’ consumers by providing them with a taste of home in a distant land.

Compiled from the flatinternational archive for Electric Jive

01) G. Chimpele and Company — Akazi Akahala — BB 859 — c1953
02) G. Chimpele and Company — Ayana — BB 870 — c1953
03) G. Chimpele and Company — Ainda Kaziwaselo — BB 870 — c1953
04) G. Chimpele and Company — Five-Five — BB 859 — c1953
05) Ziphondo Band — Cheleka — BB 871 — c1953
06) Ziphondo Band — Shomi — BB 871 — c1953
07) Selolwane Swing Stars — Baba Mkulu — Trutone — XU 254 — 1953
08) Selolwane Swing Stars — Marabi Ka 1953 — Trutone — XU 254 — 1953
09) Salisbury Hot Shots Band — My Girl Nellie — Trutone — XU 254 — 1954
10) Salisbury Hot Shots Band — Joyce Wakanaka — Trutone — XU 254 — 1954
11) Harari Hot Shots — Muchatizera — Troubadour — AFC 325 — 1956
12) Harari Hot Shots — Hatifunge — Troubadour — AFC 325 — 1956

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Classic mbaqanga: Sishong Sa Melodi (1969)

A special treat for EJ readers today: a compilation LP featuring 12 of the best hit vocal jive tunes of the past year, Sishong Sa Melodi, released on the Gumba Gumba label in 1969.

The single format was more or less the preferred choice for the African consumer during that bygone era of Radio Bantu, the days when mbaqanga music blasted through transistors and filled the air across the South African townships. Although the first African 45 rpms were produced from the mid-1960s, 78 rpm singles remained in production until around 1969. The story goes that the country's African population simply couldn't afford the expensive hi-fi systems needed to play the more durable 45 rpm, so gramophones continued to rule the roost for years onwards. Record companies later collected some of the highest selling singles (and often those that weren't shifting as many copies) on 33 rpm format to produce (at best, excellent, and at worst, interesting) compilation LPs. Sishong Sa Melodi was but one of several LPs issued in 1969 by Gallo's Mavuthela Music division and arguably features some of the finest mbaqanga recordings put down on 78 and 45 rpm in the late sixties. Despite the... questionable condition of the LP jacket, the disc itself is in remarkably strong condition with unobtrusive surface noise. All the better for hearing the music then!

Inevitably, the African girl group features prominently, with cuts from no less than four ensembles - Dima Sisters, Izingane zo Mgqashiyo (a.k.a. the Mthunzini Girls), Izintombi zo Moya, and Marula Boom Stars (a.k.a. the Mahotella Queens). "Taba Tsela" is a great if somewhat sober introductory tune from the Dima Sisters featuring some solid harmony work and easygoing guitars. Though track number 2 is listed on the jacket and the disc label as being "Esale Ke Ngola" by the Dima Sisters, the track on the LP is actually "Sponono" by the Jabavu Queens. Weird! Similarly, track 4 is listed as being "Sekoloto" by the Marula Boom Stars, but is - for now - an unidentifiable 'African jazz' instrumental. No matter though... they're both cool tunes.

One of my favourites on this LP is "Kajebane" by Izingane zo Mgqashiyo. Such a fun number, complete with catchy late '60s organ soul beat! The very next tune is pretty much a similar affair but by no means a repetition of what came before - "Mojiko Wa Soul" by Izintombi zo Moya. Gorgeously fat, warm organ sound. That sound carries over onto side 2 in the excellent "Matlare" by the equally excellent Mahotella Queens. For those of you who care for nerdy details like I do, you'll be interested to know "Matlare" was later re-recorded by the Queens in 1988 as "Mme Ngwana Walla" for the album Melodi Yalla. Nothing beats the original though.

Izingane zo Mgqashiyo returns for two classic Sotho vocal jive hits, "Dikuku" and "Sophie". The former is based on a popular wedding song pointing out the juxtaposition between the delicious taste of wedding cakes and the sourness that marriage can sometimes produce.

The closer is "Tshiwanyana" by the Marula Boom Stars - excellent up-tempo beat from the Makgona Tsohle Band combined with the tightly layered vocals of the Queens at their youthful best. Just delightful!!

Now all you have to do is download Sishong Sa Melodi, have yourselves an mbaqanga party and play these MP3s at full volume. Enjoy!

produced by Rupert Bopape
Gumba Gumba LMGG 4
Sotho Vocal Jive

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Lafayette Afro Rock Band: 'Voodounon' (1974)

Time for something a little different – hard-grooving funk from an African-American group that migrated in 1971 to Paris’ African-migrant melting pot, the Barbesse district.

Originally formed as the "Bobby Boyd Congress" in New York, the band morphed into the Lafayette Afro Rock Band, and became the house session band at the ParisSound studio of Pierre Jaubert.

This 1974 recording made in Paris was originally entitled ‘Soul Makossa’, but it was issued in the USA by Roger Francis at the African Record Centre in Brooklyn, New York as “Movin & Groovin”. Breaks from the track ‘Hihache’ having been frequently sampled, including by Janet Jackson.

Roger Francis started the Makossa label and issued, for his USA market, records by the likes of Fela Kuti, Franco and Manu Dibango,among others, going on to organise US tours by some African artists.

The Lafayette Afro-Rock Band band included: Michael McEwan – composer arranger and acoustic guitar, Lafayette Hudson –bass guitar, Frank Abel – keyboard, Arthur Young – horns and percussion, Donny Donable – drums, Keno Speller – percussion, Bobby Boyd – vocals, Rony James Buttacavoli – horns.
Download link here

Friday 30 October 2015

The Fragile: Reggae Bump

The more regular visitors among you might have noticed less frequent posts lately. Not to worry, we still have plenty of out of print and deleted material that we would like to document and share by means of this blog. It is just that all four of us have recently found our "other" lives demanding lots of our time.

While the recording shared today is well worth a listen, this post also addresses an oppressive issue that many South African musicians in the 60s and 70s were faced with - feeling forced to "allow" producers to claim they wrote songs that were actually written by band members. Some say similar dynamics still happen with the DJs and producers of today?

Not only did producers active during the 1960s to the 1980s falsely claim compositions in their own name, these producers then registered copyright and pocketed all subsequent composer royalties. In the sound-clip below you can hear Johnny Sello Mothopeng of Batsumi telling it like it is .... "David Thekwane, Hamilton Nzimande, West Nkosi, Strike Vilakazi, Rupert Bopape, they all stole songs". This sound-clip was recorded when I visited Johnny Mothopeng in Johannesburg earlier this year, and is shared with his permission.

Back to the music shared here. As a producer for the small independent record label "Meritone". Naftali Dali is credited with writing these three chilled out South African "Manenburg-inspired" 70s bump-style tunes. These particular tunes have a little extra with an mbaqanga and blues influence.

It is again a pity that the session musicians gathered for this recording are not credited - they are pretty good. I particularly like the tone and approach of the saxophonist, the solo runs providing ample evidence of this likely being a well known musician moonlighting for an extra flat fee payment. 

  A quick search of my digitised records shows that Naftali Dali is credited with more than fifty tracks in the 1960s and 1970s, often associated with the Meritone label, On 78rpm he features for "Hi-Fi Big Beat". Dali dabbled in soul, bump and mbqanga. He is credited with writing many tracks for "Dudu and the Bigtime Boys". "The Moonlight Expressions" and even had a band, "Dali's Beauty Queens". I have no evidence to suggest that Naftali Dali was among those producers who "stole" songs.

Download link here

Monday 26 October 2015

Huntley Archive to be housed at ILAM

I am excited to announce an important milestone in preserving and making Ian Bruce Huntley's extraordinary archive of jazz audio and images accessible.

In celebrating this deposit agreement Electric Jive shares some recordings from the archive that have been re-mastered by Miloš Latislav as a voluntary contribution to demonstrate how such recordings can be enhanced. Thanks again Miloš.

Ian has preserved around 1500 images of jazz performance from all over South Africa, and also in Lesotho when Dizzy Gillespie visited. Ian selected 120 of these images to be presented in the book "Keeping Time" - click on the cover image to the right of this post if you have not yet visited the Huntley Archive on Electric Jive website. In addition to freely accessing 58 hours of music, you can also download a free copy of the book there.

Ian has now agreed that his original reel-to-reel tapes will become deposited and preserved at the International Library of African Music. The Director of ILAM, Prof Diane Thram, has also agreed to upload the full audio files to the ILAM website and make them freely available for anyone wishing to download these. It is agreed that "ILAM will make no sale or commercial use of the audio archive or its contents nor will it allow anyone else to make sale or commercial use of the audio archive".

In addition to committing staff time to processing the archive and making it accessible, ILAM has committed a sizable sum of money for "professional re-touching of a further 350 images selected by Ian for the purposes of re-sale via editorial e-commerce". Africa Media Online have already scanned these images and are in the process getting them ready to go online. Ian will benefit from some of the income generated from any sales of these images.

The enhanced audio shared here today is three tracks recorded on the occasion of the very last time that Johnny Dyani and Dudu Pukwana performed in South Africa, days before going into exile with Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes via the Antibes Jazz Festival in July 1964. Captured at “The Room At The Top” in Cape Town by Ian Bruce Huntley, this live gig represents a poignant last union and “point of fracture” from which six very talented artists struck out to seek their respective musical fortunes.

Also shared are four tracks recorded by the Jazz Disciples in the same year.

Before Dudu Pukwana joins in for the last two tracks, Ronnie Beer demonstrates his class with the band rendering his own upbeat composition, ‘Immediately’. Bra Tete does his own bit of vocal scatting following his fingers in joyful moments of letting go.

The towering Dudu Pukwana summonses attention in the opening of ‘Green Dolphin Street’ before the conversation meanders comfortably along, providing spaces for exploratory solos. It is an historical sadness that a beautiful Pukwana solo is abruptly interrupted for what was the end of one side of Ian’s reel-to-reel tape.
Each listening of Dudu Pukwana’s plaintive alto sax on the essentially gloomy final track, “Close Your Eyes” sparks my own imagining of emotional turmoil and uncertainty. Introduced by Dennis Mpale on trumpet over an ever-swinging Dyani-Dayimani rhythm, and preceded by Ronnie Beer on tenor sax, Pukwana enters in the seventh minute in muted protest, which unwinds over ten minutes of exquisite contemplation. But then, approaching seventeen minutes in, the ever playful Tete Mbambisa (piano) starts to swing with Dyani and Dayimani, letting out yelps and whoops of appreciation in the music’s moment. Following a brief Dyani solo, Ronnie Beer interjects on tenor sax in the 21st minute to ‘hayibo’ shouts of appreciation, followed by Dennis Mpale’s uplifting trumpet. Somehow, after that Pukwana’s final and brief closing re-entry sounds more resolute.
Johnny Dyani - Bass; Dudu Pukwana - Alto Saxophone (tracks three and four only); Ronnie Beer - Tenor Saxophone; Dennis Mpale - Trumpet; Tete Mbambisa - Piano; Max Dayimani - Drums
1. Immediately – (Ronnie Beer) (15:46)
2. Green Dolphin Street (16:01)
3. Close Your Eyes – Bernice Patkere (23:55)
Download HERE
The Jazz Disciples: Thibault Square Recording Studio, Cape Town - 1964
In May 1964 "The Jazz Disciples" went into Cape Town's SABC studios to record for Radio Bantu, without Ronnie Beer. In "Black Composers of Southern Africa", Yvonne Huskisson documents the SABC recording as being made by Tete Mbambisa (piano), Sammy Maritz (bass), Max 'Diamond' Dayimani (drums), Dennis Mpale (trumpet) and "Bunny" (Barney) Rachabane (sax). Ronnie Beer was also considered a member of the Jazz Disciples. We can only speculate as to why he was not included in that particular Radio Bantu recording session. Perhaps it was to do with the SABC's own racial policies at the time?
Shortly thereafter, Ronnie Beer rented the Thibault Square recording studio in Cape Town for an hour and he and the Jazz Disciples laid down four tight tracks - one of which we need some help in identifying. Ian Huntley happened to tag along and plugged his reel-to-reel into the sound desk, and here, nearly fifty years later the recording comes to light. We do not know what Ronnie Beer did with the recording he made of that session. Maybe he wanted to press an LP - four songs, thirty minutes - but it just never worked out?
Of all Ian's recordings, this is the only one capturing Sammy Maritz on bass. Maritz played in the Dollar Brand trio in the early 1960s, and then in early incarnations of Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes. He subsequently played most frequently with Tete Mbambisa and Max 'Diamond' Dayimani. Ronnie Beer and Sammy Maritz played in Chris McGregor's band at the 1962 Moroka-Jabavu Jazz Festival in Soweto, while Dennis Mpale and a seventeen-year-old Barney Rachabane joined them all on the legendary 1963 recording, Jazz: The African Sound.
Ronnie Beer and Tete Mbambisa at Thibault Square 1964
Pic by Ian Bruce Huntley
Ronnie Beer (saxophone); Barney Rachabane (saxophone - age 18); Dennis Mpale (trumpet); Tete Mbambisa (piano); Max 'Diamond' Dayimani (drums); Sammy Maritz (bass).

1. Billie's Bounce - (Charlie Parker) (7:11)
2. Leads Dwana (Tete Mbambisa) (8:13)
3. Immediately (Ronnie Beer) (7:55)
4. Green Dolphin Street (7:20)
Download HERE

Monday 19 October 2015

Atte (aka Dudu Pukwana and Friends) - Sondela (1977)

Following our post last week featuring exiled South African bassist Harry Miller here is another long forgotten gem from Dudu Pukwana's catalogue, named the album Sondela which is credited to the group Atte - The Sound of South Africa. Released on the Irish label Claddagh Records back in 1977 this features the likes of Dudu Pukwana (keyboards, alto sax), Churchill Jolobe (drums, percussion), Ernest Mothle (bass), Sello Josh Makhene (convos), Frank Roberts (keyboards) and vocals from Sonia Lekhela, sisters Lindiwe and Tiny Conco and Mphiwa Yengwa.

An impressive discography of Dudu Pukwana can be found at the Wall of Sound blog here.

Atte - Sondela (1977, Claddagh Records)
01. Suganga
02. Malaika
03. Suliram
04. Nome
05. Seth Gaza
06. Sondela
07. Ngomso
08. Soon One Morning
09. Siphamandla
10. Saduva
Produced by John Wood

Listen via MF

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Harry Miller - Children at Play (1974)

Today's share comes from the back catalogue of the mighty Ogun label and features label co-founder  Harry Miller on double bass, flute, percussion and effects. For those that love the sound of solo bass this is a lovely South African tinged recording. Sadly most of South African jazz bassist Harry Miller's recorded output is no longer in print, although if you are resourceful you may be able to track down original vinyl and some of the CDs. (Try the discog's site for a view of Harry Miller's impressive and near complete discography with some items for sale).

Miller was born in Cape Town and in his youth played in rock and pop bands such as the Vikings and Manfred Mann. In the early 1960s he left to settle in England and soon became an established part of the South African exile jazz community that re-invigourated British jazz in the sixties and seventies. He recorded with the likes of Mike Westbrook, Chris McGregor, John Surman, Mike Cooper, Louis Mofolo, Keith Tippett and Elton Dean. Towards the end of the seventies he moved to the Netherlands before tragically passing away in 1983.

His widow Hazel Miller still runs the Ogun record label today. If you can get hold of a copy then the 1999 compilation and retrospective "The Collection" is well worth seeking out. Until then try this vinyl transfer that we're sharing today. 

Harry Miller - Children at Play (Ogun OG200, 1974)
1. H and H
2. Children at Play (Phase I and II)
3. Homeboy
4. Foregone Conclusion
5. Children at Play (Phase III)

Multi-track recorded, mixed and edited by Keith Beal in Hastings
Produced by Harry Miller and Keith Beal
Cover drawing by Gerard Eaves
Cover design by John Eaves
Photography by George Hallett
All compositions by Harry Miller and published by Ogun Recordings Ltd.

LINK (Updated 16/10/15)  MF

Monday 28 September 2015

Indoda Mahlatini Na Madodana (1979)

Today's share is a 1979 album by the legendary mbaqanga groaner himself - Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde.

Mahlathini's 1970s career had been decorated with a series of hits and misses. In late 1972, the groaner left the Mahotella Queens and joined a new group formed by some of the same ladies called Amakhosazana. A two-year period saw immense success, unsigned, but ended abruptly after the members were ripped off and cheated by aspiring impresario Piet Ntuli. Mahlathini and Amakhosazana ended up at Satbel under the careful production of C.B. Matiwane, this time recording as Mahlathini and The Queens. The gutsy, tough and raw music produced during this era can be found on the excellent Earthworks compilations The Lion of Soweto and King of the Groaners, as well here on Electric Jive. Matiwane's involvement in Satbel eventually waned and the company disintegrated around 1977. Mahlathini and The Queens moved over to CCP (a local subsidiary of EMI) under the production of none other than Piet Ntuli. Two LPs were produced (one of which can be found here) until Ntuli's corrupt ways finally dissolved the band. The Queens disintegrated but Mahlathini and Ndlondlo Bashise stayed on at EMI, this time under the production of the groaner's friend, sax jiver and occasional vocalist Bra Sello Mmutung.

By the time Indoda Mahlatini Na Madodana was recorded, mbaqanga had already started its sharp decline after a 15-year period as the preferred sound of the townships. In many ways this album is a pure oddity, combining the raw Satbel-era sound with some rather gaudy electric keyboard and - on one track - disco drums. Nonetheless, there are some goodies here. "Siyabuza" is fiery Mahlathini at his best, duetting with longtime musical associate Lazarus 'Boy Nze' Magatole. "Akekho" is another tune in the same great vein. Mahlathini, Boy Nze and Bra Sello handle most of the vocals, although they are joined by the Mahlathini Girls - Lindiwe Gamedi, Gugu Sithole and Hilda Tausi - on three of the tracks.

A strange one... but definitely worth a listen. Enjoy!


produced by Bra Sello
Goli GOL (E) 307
Zulu Vocal

Monday 14 September 2015

Atlantic City Soul Step (1969-74)

Anyone for a little call and response? I was racking my brains on what to post today and found myself drifting towards Chris' wonderful Young Lovers post from last week. I have recently digitized a great deal of the flatinternational archive and thought the time was ripe to visit some 45 RPMs issued on the electrifying Atlantic City label.

Perhaps with the exception of City Special no other label captures the sheer vitality of the 1970s soul jive scene in South Africa. With David Thekwane as producer this Teal label hosted some of the brightest, craziest organ infected dance music of the day. Notables artists include the Flaming Souls, the Young Lovers and the VIPs. The music is raw, repetitive and intoxicating and at moments I find it drawing me back to some classic live Velvet Underground recordings. I would recommend mega-bass if your amplifier allows for it!

Compiled by flatint for Electric Jive

01) The Young Lovers - Organ A Go-Go - Atlantic City - AYB 1050 - 1969
02) The Flaming Souls - Soul Underground - Atlantic City - AYB 1066 - 1969
03) The Yupps - Yupps A Go-Go - Atlantic City - AYB 1083 - 1970
04) The Daffodils - Organ Tornado - Atlantic City - AYB 1089 - 1970
05) The Soul Crusaders - Simply Sweet - Atlantic City - AYB 1096 - 1970
06) The Yupps - Ikageng Soul - Atlantic City - AYB 1083 - 1970
07) Long John - True Monkey Soul - Atlantic City - AYB 1054 - 1969
08) The Young Lovers - Soul Ma Java-Java - Atlantic City - AYB 1100 - 1970
09) The Young Lovers - Fire Works - Atlantic City - AYB 1100 - 1970
10) Soul Explosions - Shiela - Atlantic City - AYB 1109 - 1971
11) The Brights - Soul on Soul - Atlantic City - AYB 1110 - 1971
12) The VIPs - Scare Them - Atlantic City - AYB 1132 - 1972
13) The VIPs - Spin Out - Atlantic City - AYB 1132 - 1972
14) The VIPs - Uncle Champ - Atlantic City - AYB 1135 - 1972
15) The Strollers - Sweet Ruth - Atlas City - ATB 703 - 1974
16) The Strollers - Congo's Corner - Atlas City - ATB 703 - 1974