Saturday, January 2, 2021

Mabel Mafuya on 78 rpm (1956-1960)

This compilation is sourced from original 78 rpm recordings in the Flatinternational Archive. I first posted this article and compilation at Electric Jive on July 9, 2012. You can now listen to the audio while scrolling the text via Mixcloud widgets embedded below. Note that the quality of the recordings varies due to age and, at times, heavy usage. View images of the original 78s and an extensive discography of nearly 60 discs featuring Mabel Mafuya at Flatinternational. Please enjoy!

“Don’t let this picture fool you. It is the somber, dolorous and docile portrait of a lively bubbling brook of hep cat, Mabel Mafuya. The jazzingest twenty-four inch waist I’ve seen in a recording studio. And what can you get in a wiggly waggly twenty-four inch waist that heps and jives and dashes behind partition to rehearse the next verse in the middle of the recording session? Lots. You get her Troubadour AFC 353 that paints the grim grime of a miner’s life in jumping tones.” (Drum, February 1956)

David Coplan uses this fragment of Todd Matshikiza’s 1956 review in Drum magazine to illustrate Matshikiza’s style of “word jazz”. But the text also paints a wonderful portrait of a young Mabel Mafuya, who in the mid to late 1950s was one of South Africa’s top-selling jive vocalists. At Troubadour, Mafuya was only second to Dorothy Masuka, and in the mid to late 1950s Troubadour dominated the African market with at times up to 75% of sales. (Rob Allingham, CD liner notes, Dorothy Masuka)

Mafuya in 1993 by Mike Mzileni
Remarkably very little material by this legendary artist has been available. In many ways the collection below of 26 songs spanning five years from 1956 to 1960, captures Mafuya at the peak of her singing career and is a unique and valuable window into a dynamic social period.

Mafuya’s destiny as a star seemed to be set in a fortuitous meeting, that Z.B. Molefe describes in A Common Hunger to Sing, when as a young teenager in Orlando she passed by her idol Dolly Rathebe. At that moment Rathebe happened to toss aside a half eaten apple. Mafuya picked it up and took a bite. In her interview with Molefe she recalls: “My mind and heart told me that if I bit that apple where the great Dolly had bitten, I would grow up and sing like her one day.” (Molefe)

That destiny was soon confirmed. While Mafuya was still a student at Orlando High School around late 1955 or early 1956 Cuthbert Matumba, producer and talent scout for Troubadour Records invited her to make some recordings at their studios. There she would soon rub shoulders with another of her idols, Dorothy Masuka, who would also became a mentor to her in those early days.

At Troubadour, Mafuya became one of the regular artists brought in to record not only her own compositions but also as a group and/or backing vocalist with a number of other artists including Dorothy Masuka, Dixie Kwankwa, Doris and Ruth Molifi, and Mary Thobei. The company had a roster of artists who rotated and recorded under a number of different pseudonyms and the groups Mafuya performed with included the Girl Friends, the Satchmo Serenaders, Starlight Serenaders, Starlight Boogies, the Starlight Singers, and others.

Mafuya appeared as a backing vocalist on a number of songs by Dorothy Masuka, notably one of my all-time favorite tunes, Five Bells, recorded September 3rd, 1956. But her career really took off with the hits Nomathemba and Hula Hoop recorded with her group the Green Lanterns that same year. Rob Allingham describes Nomathemba as her masterpiece in that the “song’s narrative of broken ties […] encapsulated the dislocating experience of rural-to-urban migrancy for many township residents.” (Allingham, CD liner notes, History of Township Music)

Interestingly, Nomathemba has been at the center of a recent legal battle over copyright between Sting Music and Gallo Records. A song called Nomathemba was used in the stage production Umoja. Gallo claimed that it was originally released by Ladysmith Black Mambazo on their debut LP in 1973. The plaintiff claimed that the song was traditional, free of copyright and pointed to a number of earlier examples including Mafuya’s 1956 version. That version was written by Zachariah Moloi, one of the Green Lanterns, but is not clear to me whether the song is the same as that composed by Joseph Shabalala. Read more about the court case in the Sowetan.

The social references in Mafuya’s Nomathemba were typical of a number of her songs from this period. In fact, where other record companies shied away from political or social content, Troubadour openly embraced it. Matumba often encouraged critical or topical commentary in the recordings during this period, and despite visits by the Police "Special Branch," remarkably the owners of Troubadour did not temper the activity. (Allingham, CD liner notes, Dorothy Masuka)

Troubadour was initially founded in 1951 by three and then later two Jewish businessmen, Morris Fagan and Israel Katz. Their approach was to focus on material that appealed to working class urban blacks, a market that was going through quite a renaissance in the 1950s. (Allingham) Still, the political environment in South Africa at this time was particularly turbulent. Sophiatown, one of the key centers of cultural production for a multi-racial community, had just been dismantled in February 1955 by the apartheid government, making way for a new white area soon to be called Triopf. The Treason Trial had begun after 156 people including Nelson Mandela were arrested in December of 1956. Nevertheless, music that carried a political message was able to get through to the public, either by record sales or less frequently by way of the rediffusion service, a cable based radio system available to blacks in some townships. This of course was the case until the Sharpeville massacre of March 1960, which resulted in a severe increase in censorship and self-censorship of political content.

The compilation opens with a 1956 track Regina, a homage dedicated to Regina Brooks, a white woman who had been arrested under the immorality act for having a child with a black policeman. In 1955 Brooks became controversial after she asked to be re-classified as coloured (or mixed-race) in order that she could live in Orlando, Soweto (some sources have it as Dube) with her husband, Sergeant Richard Kumalo, and child. Drum photographer, Bob Gasani captures Brooks and her child, Thandi, in this 1955 image sourced from the Bailey Archives. Read more at IOL.

Regina Brooks and Thandi in 1955 by Bob Gasani (Bailey Seipel Gallery)

Mafuya’s homage to individual heroes was also not unique in the case of Regina Brooks. After the suicide of Ezekiel ‘King Kong’ Dlamini on April 3rd, 1957, Mafuya and her Troubadour colleague Mary Thobei immortalised the boxing legend in their song King Kong Oshwile Ma. Unfortunately friends and family of the boxer interpreted the song as a mockery and subsequently both Thobei and Mafuya were badly beaten by his supporters one day at the Jeppe Railway Station — an assault severe enough to land Mafuya in Johannesburg General Hospital. (Molefe, Coplan) Before his suicide, Dlamini had been sentenced to prison for murdering his girlfriend and later became the subject of the famed musical King Kong in 1959.

Thobei in 1993 by Mike Mzileni
At Troubadour, topical issues of the day were reported upon, sang about, recorded and out in the public often within 24 hours of an event. The company had a pressing plant in the same building as their recording studio and this along with some key marketing skills by Matumba (for example he used a mobile-unit to test new recordings at railway stations and other public venues), made turnover rapid and the company unrivalled by its competitors. (Allingham) In many ways Troubadour operated like a news service or as Mary Thobei refers to it: “We had our own ‘Special Branch,’ a sort of bush telegraph, and as a result we knew in advance what would happen in our communities, be it social or political.” (Molefe) This is also most apparent at the beginning of some records, which open with the announcement: “News in Record…” or “This is the Troubadour Daily News…”

Azikhwelwa (We will not ride), a kwela tune by the Alexandra Casbahs, is attributed to Mafuya and Thobei and operates as a form of news item alerting people to the bus boycott of 1957 in Alexandra. Thobei opens the tune saying: “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was on Monday morning, the 7th of January, 1957 when everybody was shouting Azikhwelwa…” The bus boycott had been implemented by residents of Alexandra against the Public Utility Transport Corporation (more commonly known as PUTCO) over a rate hike of 4 to 5 pence. This spontaneous action lead to the formation of the Alexandra People’s Transport Action Committee (APTAC). Of course, during apartheid in South Africa, blacks were segregated into townships that were some distance from city centers and places of work and thus bus and train were, for many, primary modes of transport. Rate hikes would deeply affect every household’s bottom-line. With the boycott, residents chose other forms of transport to get to and from work, but most walked the 30km roundtrip journey. At its peak, 70,000 residents refused to ride the local buses and the action also spread to other townships including Newclaire and Mamelodi. The boycott lasted for at least three months and was only finally resolved on April 1st, 1957, when the 4 pence rate was restored. The protest drew the daily attention of the South African press and is generally recognized as one of the few successful political campaigns of the apartheid era. Read more about the campaign at Dan Mokoyane’s Blog here and more here.

 Sourced from SAHO (Drum Photographer, Bailey Archives)

Likewise the track Asikhathali (We never get tired) by Ruth Molifi and the Starlight Singers opens with this annoucement: “This is the Troubadour Daily News! Many People are going to meetings everyday in Sophiatown and Alexandra. Some shout Azikhwelwa and some shout Ziyakhwelwa. It would be too cold to walk in winter. This is the song the people sing when they go to meetings… Asikhathali…” As Rob Allingham reveals, the tune features sisters Ruth and Doris Molifi, Mabel Mafuya and Mary Thobei on vocals with Cuthbert Matumba as ‘groaner.’ Thobei has an additional monologue where she states: “We don’t care if we are arrested. But we want our freedom. So pray people of Africa. We want our freedom.” Marks Mvimbe while coughing in the tune also moans “We are suffering going to meetings.” (Allingham)

Asikhathali is a classic of the struggle and this 1957 track probably marks the first time that it was recorded. Do a search for the term on YouTube and you will find many later renditions of the song, some professional, some really informal. Notable versions can be viewed here and here.

Other political classics by Mafuya include the tracks Cato Manor and Beer Halls, probably both recorded late in 1959 or very early in 1960. Cato Manor opens with a whistle that emulates the opening pitch of a radio broadcast and Mafuya announces “Zulu… Zulu… This is Durban Calling… This is Durban Calling…” (Similar to the opening broadcast of the day on radio.) “Women are fighting in Durban. They don’t want their men to drink in Beer Halls…” On the surface the song appears as a feminist critique, but rather it is a call to action against the government.

Cato Manor was the official name of an area that became home to a vibrant, informal settlement just outside Durban. To the local resident Cato Manor was known as Mkhumbane. Read more about the place and Todd Matshikiza’s 1960 musical of the same name here at Electric Jive.

The Durban City Council had long established a revenue system of selling alcohol to the black population exclusively through a series of beerhalls. The acquiring of alcohol from sources other than these official beerhalls was declared illegal for black South Africans and the residents of Cato Manor resented such control over what had been regarded as a tradition. Illegal brewing developed as a result, and in response the South African authorities regularly raided what were considered to be illicit businesses and made numerous arrests. Protests at such police action resulted and often led to violent clashes.

A nervous Durban City Council issued a proclamation in June 1958 to relocate inhabitants from Cato Manor to the more distant regions of Umlazi, Chatsworth and the newly developed township of Kwa Mashu. In 1959 the City Council declared Cato Manor a white zone under the Group Areas Act and in June began the process of forcibly moving residents.

At this time a response to the increased liquor raids in Cato Manor put into play a series of actions that soon spiraled into significant violence. It began on July 17, 1959 when a group of women gathered at the Cato Manor beerhall, threatening the men drinking there with sticks. This same group of women then proceeded to attack the central beerhall in Durban and a boycott of the beerhalls began. On July 18th, the following day, 3000 women gathered around the Cato Manor beerhall, and while clashing with police, set it on fire. It is significant to point out that these grievances were not over moral issues around the use of liquor, but rather the control of its production and sale. After more raids on January 23rd (some have it in early February) of 1960, an angry mob killed nine policemen at the Cato Manor Police Station.

In the song Beer Halls Mafuya announces in English: “They say do not buy potatoes! Do not eat fish and chips!” probably referring to the boycott of food items that were sold at beerhalls.

At Troubadour other political themes were tackled, most famously Dorothy Masuka’s song Dr. Malan with a line that translates as “Dr. Malan has difficult laws.” Allingham in the liner notes to the Masuka CD suggests that this marked the first occasion that an actual political leader was cited in a critical song. The disc sold well and was even played over the rediffusion service, but eventually the Special Branch came to the company requesting the master-tape and remaining copies. Fagan, the co-owner of the company had misleadingly claimed that he thought the song was a praise song for Malan. Records were confiscated but Fagan was able to hold on to the master recording. Ultimately Fagan and Katz did little with Police intimidation and remarkably continued to give Matumba significant latitude over content with Troubadour's ‘African’ catalogue.

Although Troubadour was bringing in significant sales, Allingham points out, that the technical quality of the actual product was quite poor when compared to the other major competitors. Still the studio was able to maintain an edge by using some unorthodox policies. For example it was well known that musicians under contract with rival companies were welcome to record, under-the-table, with pseudonyms if they needed cash. Many took advantage of this grey approach including Kippie Moeketsi, Ntemi Piliso and others. Sadly, none of the recording ledgers have survived and very few songs can be accurately dated with the full personal. (Allingham)

The company’s fall was as dramatic as its rise. After Matumba died in a car accident in May 1965, Troubadour began a rapid decline and by 1969 they were completely consumed by Gallo and ceased to exist.

Mafuya’s own singing career was severely affected after a botched thyroid operation in 1957. But still she was able to perform and towards the end of the decade formed a group with Thobei and Thandeka Mpambane known as the Chord Sisters. In 1958 the group was encouraged to join the King Kong crew and Mafuya played a small acting role in the classic 1959 play. After that success she was invited to travel with the cast to London and stayed there for a year. Mafuya eventually returned to South Africa and continued with her acting career. She would later perform in the hit TV sitcom Velaphi.

While her singing career turned out to be quite short, Mafuya was nevertheless prolific and the tracks featured below reveal just a small part of her excellent output during a turbulent but also dynamic time. For a provisional discography of Mafuya visit flatint.

Postscript: Mafuya in her 1993 interview with Molefe, laments over the fragmentation of the music tradition in South Africa: “The young sisters nowadays seem to have no idea of where they come from. They don’t know us. But who can blame them. Nobody told them about us.” (Molefe)

(1956 - 1960)
(Flatinternational / Electric Jive, FXEJ 9)

Regina - 1956 (Matumba, Troubadour, AFC 364, RSA)

Baba - 1956 (Matumba, Troubadour, AFC 364, RSA)

Tsili - 1956 (Monamoeli, arr. Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 387, RSA)

Satchmo Special - 1956 (Monamoeli, arr. Mafuya, Troub., AFC 387)

Khumbula - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 416, RSA)

Woza Skanda Mayeza - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 416, RSA)

Bumba Lo Ntsimbi - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 417, RSA)

Ungibalele - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 417, RSA)

Heyta! - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 427, RSA)

Kehlela - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 427, RSA)

Azikhwelwa - 1957 (Mafuya, Thobei, Troubadour, AFC 429, RSA)

Alexandra Special - 1957 (Mafuya, Thobei, Troub., AFC 429)

Charlie - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 434, RSA)

Chomie - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 434, RSA)

Asikhathali - 1957 (Molifi, Troubadour, AFC 440, RSA)

Mfana - 1957 (Mafuya, Troubadour, AFC 440, RSA)

Silindele Christmas - 1959 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 534, RSA)

Sisaphila - 1959 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 534, RSA)

Cato Manor - 1960 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 567, RSA)

Beer Halls - 1960 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 567, RSA)

Sibarie - 1960 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 579, RSA)

Umtata - 1960 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 579, RSA)

Happy Xmas - Happy New Year - 1960 (Ngubane, Troub., AFC 584)

Jabulani Xmas - 1960 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 584, RSA)

Ngi Yeka - 1960 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 608, RSA)

Itlalo Ya Lizwe - 1960 (Ngubane, Troubadour, AFC 608, RSA)

Monday, November 23, 2020

Flatinternational Vol. 3

We will not forget 2020. A global pandemic, protests for racial justice, serious challenges to democracies, digital misinformation, and the ugly resurgence of fascism. This year is marked by a wave of global trauma and sorrow. Families all across the world have lost loved ones, friends, jobs, security, community, and faith. I too was not immune, going through my own family tragedy with the passing of my father in the early stages of the lockdown in South Africa. The difficulty of not being able to travel. No funeral. No goodbyes. Consoling loved ones at a distance over Zoom. For many people these times have brought stagnation, unemployment, depression.

But this moment has also encouraged people to come together in new ways, some have welcomed the break from everyday life and have used the time to develop new practices, change habits, withdraw from excessive consumption, and find novel strategies of being creative in the world.

In March with looming lockdowns and recommended isolation I was fortunate enough to be able to retreat into social isolation with my partner. I felt this could be a fertile time to return to this blog and the South African Audio Archive project, which I had left dormant since my last posts at Electric Jive. Over the last two years I had come across some unusual and interesting recordings and wanted to include those in the Flatinternational database. Also during this period I had been contacted by a number of friends and colleagues with inquiries about various historic South African artists and recordings. Taking on the role of a quasi-librarian, I obliged and generated quite a bit of research. I realized that this too could be a wonderfully serendipitous way to add knowledge to the archive.

For the past few months I have been adding various South African compilations, I originally posted at Electric Jive, to Mixcloud, making them available for streaming. Likewise, I have been reposting the original text for these here at Flatint as a way to reintroduce the various themes. There are still a few more compilations to migrate and I hope to have that all done by early next year.

While doing all this, it seemed fitting to return to the idea of the eclectic mix-tape, using a variety of materials sourced from the archive—new, old and unusual. A process begun so many years ago when Matt Temple at Matsuli asked me to contribute a mix of South African material to his blog in 2008. Since then I have put together over 30 compilations of themed material for Electric Jive and other contexts, but each of those covered a specific subject: Majuba Jazz, Exile Jazz, Kwela, Maskanda and so on.

I wanted to return to a more fluid, serendipitous mix, one that may reflect this challenging moment, but one that also allows me to revisit the days of exploring dynamic music and sharing it with friends. And so for the first time in twelve years I am introducing Volume 3 of the Flatinternational Mix. I do hope that more will follow in the near future.

While there is no specific theme for this compilation, I do feel it captures this moment—the lamentation, the loss, but also the joy and ecstasy of possible futures.

The mix opens with Reuben Caluza’s homage to those that died during the 1918 influenza pandemic that hit South Africa significantly hard. It then travels through some beautiful new and old material, serious and humorous, traditional and experimental, through lamentation, fear, anger, loss, love, hope, ecstasy, and acceptance.


Influenza, 1918
from Caluza’s Double Quartet: 1930
Heritage (HTCD 19)
His Master’s Voice (GU 2)
September 1930

102 years ago, near the end of World War 1, two ships bringing troops back home from Europe, docked in Free Town, Sierra Leone where an outbreak of influenza was rampant. Within a few days, there were cases aboard the ship as it continued onto Cape Town, South Africa. The arriving soldiers were at first quarantined, but after being examined over a 72 hour period were allowed to leave for destinations all over the country. Soon, many people adjacent to those on that journey, began falling ill.

The influenza pandemic of 1918 devastated South Africa, making it one of the five hardest hit countries in the world. Approximately 300,000 people died in the first six weeks, roughly about 6% of the population at that time. This disease would go on to kill 50 million people world wide. (Howard Phillips, The Conversation)

Reuben T. Caluza’s “Influenza, 1918” documents the devastation of that historic pandemic on South Africa’s Black community who were particularly hard hit. Recorded in London on September 29, 1930, the song became Caluza’s second disc issued on the Zonophone label (ZON 4277) in October 1930, exactly twelve years after the arrival of the disease in South Africa. It was then reissued on the HMV label (GU 2) eighteen months later in March 1932, again as their second issue. Caluza’s lamentation must have resonated as the tune was also recorded a month earlier than his by the Humming Bees Quartet for Columbia’s Regal label (GR 43) in August 1930.

UK-based Gramophone Company, through a local agent in South Africa, Mackay Brothers, signed a contract with Caluza, and invited him with a nine person choir to make a series of recordings at their studios in Hayes, London. The 150 odd tracks recorded between September 4th and October 8th, 1930 became a landmark series and set Caluza up to become, by some accounts, one of South Africa’s first “recording stars.” Educated at John Dube’s Ohlange Institute where he became a coral conductor and teacher, Caluza in 1934 graduated from Hampton Institute in Virginia, then Columbia University, before returning to South Africa to head the newly formed School of Music at Adams College outside Durban.

Caluaza’s Double Quartet comprised of Irene Msane, A. Ndimande, Sinaye Kuzwayo, Thembani Ngobo, Evelyn Caluza, Nimrod Makanya, Alexander E. Hlubi, Gule, Meinod Dlamini with Reuben Caluza on piano. (Veit Erlmann, African Stars)

You’ve Been Called
from We Are Sent Here by History
Impulse! (B0031753-01)
March 2020

We are sent here by history
The lighter gave fire, and was present at the burning
The burning of the republic
Burnt the names
Burnt the records
Burnt the archive
Burnt the bills
Burnt the mortgage
Burnt the student loans
Burnt the life insurance
An act of destruction became creation.

So opens “You’ve Been Called” with lyrics and vocals by South African performance artist Siyabonga Mthembu. Released in March 2020 during the early stages of the Coronavirus epidemic and just preceding the historic world wide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, the album could be said to foreshadow the dramatic events of this year. But its apocalyptic vision also reflects a mood already prevalent in South Africa following widespread protests throughout the country over the last few years. Uprisings with movements like the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall campaigns, and protests against systemic racial inequality, all parallel the album’s urgent temper.

Matthew Ismael Ruiz in his Pitchfork review of the album describes it further: As the world reels from the repercussions of the novel coronavirus, We Are Sent Here by History might feel particularly timely, particularly for those in the West typically shielded from the brunt of capitalism and the brutality of colonialism. But the album, recorded in Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2019, is not so much prescient as it is broadly in tune with the plight of the marginalized. As Hutchings has said, “For those lives lost and cultures dismantled by centuries of western expansionism, capitalist thought and white supremist structural hegemony the end days have long been heralded as present with this world experienced as an embodiment of a living purgatory." (Ruiz, Pitchfork)

London-based, British-Barbadian artist, Shabaka Hutchings teams up with the Johannesburg-based Ancestors for their second album together, We Are Sent Here by History. Some of the group, Tumi Mogorosi, Gontse Makhene and Ariel Zamonsky are also members of the Amandla Freedom Ensemble; while Siyabonga Mthembu fronts the band The Brothers Move On. I was fortunate to experience a live performance by The Brother Moves On at The Chairman in Durban last December and I’m looking forward to their forthcoming vinyl album to be issued by Matsuli some time next year. My thanks to Chris Albertyn for taking me there.

Shabaka and the Ancestors includes Shabaka Hutchings on tenor sax and clarinet, Mthunzi Mvubu on alto sax, Siyabonga Mthembu on vocals, Gontse Makhene on percussion, Ariel Zamonsky on double bass, Tumi Mogorosi on drums, Nduduzo Makhathini on Fender Rhodes, and Thandi Ntuli on piano.

Reviews of We Are Sent Here by History can be viewed at the New York Times and Pitchfork. The album is available at

Ngaphanzi Kwe Ngazi
from Tlong Ba Kresta
RPM (RPM 7053)

Let me first say that this is one of my all time favorite records! Barorisi Ba Morena is a Soweto based gospel group, and one of the earliest pioneers of the South African genre known as "Clap and Tap.” Notably, no instruments are employed here save for voice, clapping and foot tapping.

Formed in 1965, the group was lead by the late Bishop Jacob Kobi Tlou and recorded their first album in 1977: Dipheko - Live In Church (RPM 7029). With over 25,000 sales, that record went gold making them the first South African gospel group to receive such an honour. Since then the group has produced over 30 platinum selling discs. Tlong Ba Kresta is their fourth album. According to their Facebook page every performer in the choir is required to be a member of St. Jacobs Saviours Church in Soweto.

Barorisi Ba Morena roughly translates in Sesotho as the king's praisers or more specifically as ‘Praise the Lord.’ Some incredible live performances by the group can be viewed on YouTube and here. Most of their albums, including Tlong Ba Kresta, are available at iTunes.

from Mr Moonlight meets Miss Starlight
City Special (CYL 1024)

“Masterpiece” is a cover of Norman Whitfield’s classic 1973 hit with the Temptations. The Movers’ interpretation comes from their 1974 album Mr Moonlight meets Miss Starlight, probably their twelfth album in five years. This particular album features three tracks (including the title) composed by Lawrence Goreoang, the guitarist for Ikageng's Teenage Lovers and later The Question Marks. The inclusion of Goreoang's tracks lead me to speculate that he may be performing on the album.

Interestingly the track “Thiba Ka Maho” composed on this album by Sankie Chounyane is more or less identical to the classic hit “Thiba Kamoo” by The Beaters which would be issued on their Harari album in 1975. The Movers version predates The Beaters by roughly a year which makes me curious about who the original composer may have been. The Beaters version is penned by Selby Ntuli, Sipho Mabuse and Alec Khaoli.

The liner notes of the Dutch single She Loves You claim that The Movers were formed in June 1969 by keyboardist Sankie Chounyane and producer David Thekwane. Though Rob Allingham maintains that they were discovered and first recorded by producer Hamilton Nzimande. Furthermore the liner notes of their second LP, Greatest Hits Volume 2 actually state that Kenneth Siphayi formed the group in Alexandra. Siphayi's image is featured predominantly on the back cover of their third LP, Greatest Hits Volume 3.

According to Max Mojapelo, the group included Sankie Chounyane, Oupa Hlongwane, Norman Hlongwane and Sam Thabo, though the lineup would shift throughout the seventies. Others that performed with the group included Dinah Mbata, Blondie Makhene, Philip Malela, Jabu Khanyile, Vusi Shange, Rammie McKenzie, Jabu Sibumbe and Lloyd Lelosa.

from Eina!
Bad Paper (BPM 03)

Artist Zander Blom and writer Sean O’Toole pair up on this synth-laden, experimental project peppered with absurdist and sometimes acerbic reflections on South Africa and it’s art world. Their collaboration developed from a series of free-form improvisations at Blom’s Cape Town studio in 2018. The album is abrasive but totally engaging and I find myself constantly trying to decipher the context of each track. “Chakalaka” according to O’Toole, is based on a real incident he experienced in a bathroom at a Shell Station in Potchestroom where he overheard a man ordering meat and food supplies while on the toilet.

Twee tjops, een kilogram rump en ribbetjes, boerewors… en chakalaka!

I acquired this copy from What If The World art gallery around December 2018 and it turned out to be an advance copy. The limited edition vinyl only became available later in 2019 as I was to discover after talking to O'Toole. Bad Paper, the publishers, had set up a display in the gallery with various editioned products, and the gallery staff must have been instructed to wrap each purchased item in white paper and red tape bearing the label's name. I mention this only because the other Bad Paper vinyl album I acquired by NRNA from A4 gallery did not come with a similar outer wrapping.

Eina! is available in a limited edition of 300 copies designed by Ben Johnson, and includes a signed poster within the 16 page booklet insert, from Bad Paper. Videos plus a review of the album by Francois Lion-Cachet, can be viewed at Klyntji.

06) AS IS
Untitled (Track 8)
CD-R in generic paper sleeve

I thank John Peffer for sending me a copy of this unassuming CD-R with recordings by experimental jazz group As Is. The group here includes Andrea Dicó on percussion, Lliezel Ellick on cello and vocals, Garth Erasmus on blik’nsnaar and saxophones, Niklas Zimmer on percussion and Manfred Zylla on accordion, trombone and vocals. Formed in 2010, the group is made up of a number of collaborators and in July 2016 I was fortunate to see a slightly different configuration of the band perform above the Blah Blah Bar in Cape Town.

The venue formed part of Erdmann Contemporary on Kloof Street where some of the performers involved also exhibited. That night I recall the various performers being stationed at different locations in the space, moving and interacting from one room to another. We all, performers and audience, eventually gravitated to a central room taking on our traditional roles of viewers and viewed. At some point someone in the audience, seemingly possessed by the music, began making noises and slid onto the floor. He then slowly crawled through the audience and onto the stage where he located a microphone and began reciting stream-of-consciousness headlines sourced from that days’ news. Something about Hillary’s emails!

The vocalist turned out to be film maker, Aryan Kaganof (or ‘Kalashnikov’ as some people I heard refer to him). Recently Kaganof has been the editor of Herri, an online magazine focussing on music and cultural criticism funded by the Africa Open Institute. As Is over the years has collaborated with a number of artists including Kaganof, violist Brendon Bussy and others. In the mid 1990s Bussy was involved with many of the audio adventures at the FLAT Gallery in Durban.

For some months prior to the evening, I had been in communication with drummer, Niklas Zimmer and we were finally able to meet at the performance. Zimmer, who by day is the head of the Digital Library services at UCT, kindly invited me to visit their archives the following day. He had also worked as an archivist at the Centre for Popular Memory at UCT where he was an audio specialist and digitisation manager. At the archives we viewed various projects he was involved with including some cylinders that had been recorded by Percival Kirby in the 1930s.

Sadly, Garth Erasmus was not performing that night at Blah Blah. I first met Erasmus when we shared a two-person art exhibition, ReSoundings, at the University of Delaware in 2015. His projects included a series of drawings and prints exploring Khoisan history and a display of traditional Khoisan musical instruments. For many years Erasmus has been significantly involved in documenting the cultural heritage of South Africa’s indigenous peoples. For the duration of the exhibition, he installed an eighteen minute looped soundscape named for the Goringhaikona chief, Autshumato, who was imprisoned by the Dutch on Robbin Island in 1659.

Recently, Erasmus has been working on a number of new experimental projects. This past month saw him completing a residency at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) where he collaborated with classical flutist, Marietjie Pauw, and a number of other musicians. Together they made over 80 recordings fusing classical with improvisation. Erasmus has also been recording with Jacques van Zyl, on electronics and Charles Palm, on synthesizer, in a yet unnamed trio. In this configuration, Erasmus performs with the Ghorrah bow, live electronics and alto sax "preparations." A term he uses to describe experimentations he has been undertaking for a number of years by interfacing modern technology with the analog of traditional instruments rooted in KhoiSan indigenous knowledge systems. He is now expanding these "preparations" to include other more conventional intruments like the sax. (Erasmus)

Listen to Erasmus perform on the blik'nsnaar at YouTube. View Zimmer's recent sound essay in the current issue of Herri.

Hope in Azania
from Dialectic Soul
OntheCorner (OtCR LP 009)
July 2020

Along with Thembinkosi Mavimbela on bass, Buddy Wells on tenor sax, Robin Fassie-Kock on trumpet and Nono Nokoane on vocals, Cape Town-based drummer, Asher Gamedze has produced Dialectic Soul, a stunning debut album released in July 2020, from which “Hope in Azania” is sourced.

This Song, known as ‘Cape to Cairo’ or ‘Azania’, comes from the Pan-Africanist and Black Consciousness traditions of liberation politics in South Africa. It speaks to the urgent desire and project to liberate the continent from ‘Cape to Cairo’, Morocco to Madagascar.’ ‘Azania’ refers to an imagined liberated South Africa. It resonates with a hope that has galvanised generations of revolutionaries from within this country, and links us to the rest of the continent and the diaspora through Pan-Africanism. (Gamedze, liner notes from the LP)

When I first heard this track I immediately thought of it as a classic. Gamedze’s notes refer to the revolutionary future to which the song aspires, and yet the arrangements, for me, operate also as a homage to the rich majuba jazz past.

For the last few weeks I have been trying to place other, older tracks with which it seems to have an affinity — Zacks Nkosi’s “Hoshhhh-Hoha” perhaps, Elijah Nkwanyane’s “Elijah’s Special” or even Mongezi Feza’s “You think you know me…” But none of those quite fit. If anything, I hear elements of those tunes in Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Mannenburg” and maybe I hear distant echoes of "Mannenburg" in "Azania".

Dialectic Soul is available at Bandcamp. Read reviews of the album by Gwen Ansell at the Mail and Guardian; and Hubert Adjei-Kontoh at Pitchfork.

Varitone Jump
from Varitone Jump
JAS Pride (BL 108)

Another great album produced by Ray Nkwe on his JAS Pride label (Jazz Appreciation Society). Three tracks, "Shoe Shine Kid", "Varitone Jump" (both composed by Nkwe) and "Yintoni" (by Anna Nkosi) are simply sublime.

I acquired this copy from a second hand record store in Brooklyn, NY. Curiously, the cover is signed by Nkosi and includes a hand-written note to singer and anti-apartheid activist, Harry Belafonte, from Susan (Magidson) Goldenberg.

From the cover inscription and note it appears that Anna Nkosi gave Susan Goldenberg two copies of this record before Goldenberg left South Africa for Canada. My speculation is that Goldenberg left SA for political reasons and sent one copy to Belafonte from Canada, perhaps in hopes that he would be able to help the group in some way. In the note Goldenberg mentions that the group was led by Aaron Lerole (of Black Mambazo fame) and Nkosi, and that she also was a member of the group, though its not clear in what capacity Goldenberg performed.

It is likely that this record came from Harry Belafonte's personal collection though that is just speculation. The record also includes an additional card with an image of a drawing by a Soviet artist with all proceeds going to support the work of the Soviet Jewry Committee at the Holy Blossom Temple. View the card and note at Flatinternational.

Throbs Away
from The Soul Throbs
Soul Soul (SSL 0101)

The Soul Throbs were principally an organ-driven instrumental, soul group that had some considerable success during the bump jive era of the mid 1970s. This copy is a Mozambican pressing of their 1974 debut album on Teal's Soul Soul label. The album includes contributions by vocalist Sophie Thapedi and saxophonist Abraham Levuno. Its possible that the group was likely lead by drummer Vusi Khumalo, though that is speculation on my part. Khumalo later led the groups Varikweru, Exit and Thetha. Most of the tunes are penned by Vusi Khumalo and G. Khumalo, with the exception of those by Thapedi and Levuno.

I can find little information on the band other than the track “Little Girl” from their second album is included on Duncan Brooker and Francis Gooding’s classic STRUT compilation: Next Stop Soweto Volume 2.

10) LWANDA GOGWANA Maqundeni
New Horizons - Young Stars of South African Jazz
Afrosynth (AFS 049)
September 2020

My only lament with this track is that it is so short. I wish I could listen to it for ten minutes or more. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for it! The tune can be found on the recent vinyl compilation New Horizons put out by Afro-Synth. Run by Dave Durbach (aka DJ Okapi) this label has generally focussed on classic synth-pop from the 1980s, but on this double disc collection, compiled by Shane Cooper and Durbach, they have focussed on new jazz coming from South Africa.

Lwanda Gogwana’s “Maqudeni” was originally released on his 2016 album Uhadi Synth and features Gogwana on trumpet, Kyle Shepherd on piano and synthesisers, Sisonke Xonti on sax, Ameshi Ikechi on bass and Lungile Kunene on drums.

Read Gwen Ansell’s review of Uhadi Synth at her blog Sisgwenjazz and an interview between Gogwana and Seton Hawkins at All About Jazz. Uhadi Synth is available from Amazon and New Horizons can be found at Bandcamp.

from The Slums
Raintree Records (RAH 3004)

Guitarist Masike 'Funky' Mohapi was a member of the classic 1970s group Harari, before moving onto a successful solo career in the 1980s. The Slums, I believe, is his second solo project after Gomora, both being issued in 1982. "Humnana," stands apart from Masike’s other funk/rock tracks in having a somewhat somber, 'easy-listening' quality, but after the entry of horns it builds to an ecstatic almost religious apex. The album is excellent, but this track is sublime! Sadly Mohapi passed away in August 2014 after sustaining injuries from a hit-and-run accident in Soweto.

Let the Music Take You
from African Bass - Solo Concert - Willisau Jazz Festival
Sing A Song Fighter (SASF 019)

I recently came across this beautifully designed, double pressing of a previously unreleased, live, solo concert by Blue Notes alumnus and South African exile, Johnny Dyani. Recorded on September 2, 1978 at the Jazz Festival Willisau, Switzerland by concert organiser Niklaus Troxler; the performance conveys Dyani’s warmth and a wonderful intimacy. Dyani employs both piano and his iconic contrabass with a humorous give-and-take with his audience. The gatefold publication also includes detailed liner notes by Francis Gooding, who has contributed contextual histories to many recent discs in Matsuli’s important South African reissue series.

The year prior to this concert, Dyani performed at FESTAC ’77, the massive arts and cultural festival held in Lagos, Nigeria. An account of his time there plus his work with the ANC in exile is given in the recent Chimurenga publication FESTAC ’77 and is well worth the read. A few vinyl copies of African Bass (eleven as of this posting) are still available at Bandcamp.

from Zulu Song Cycle
Mountain Records

Perhaps it is fitting to end the compilation with this lamenting and yet uplifting song. “Lizalis' idinga lakho” (Fufill thy promise) is an iconic hymn composed by evangelist, translator, teacher and pioneering intellectual, Tiyo Soga, the first Black South African to be ordained in 1856 in the United Presbyterian Church. Composed in 1857, the song became hugely popular and, notably, was sang at the opening of the SAANC’s inaugural conference in Bloemfontein in January 1912.

Dr. Thokozani Mhlambi performs the song with grace. I first met Mhlambi in Durban last year where he kindly gave me a copy of his new CD, Zulu Song Cycle. Mhlambi takes an experimental approach to Western classical music intersecting it with Zulu and Xhosa traditions. The album is impeccably recorded, with multi-tracking employed on a number of songs where he performs layers of instrumentation and vocals. His principle vehicle is the cello, but integrated throughout the album are traditional instruments such as the string bow, uhadi and seaweed horn. From an interview in the CD’s liner notes he describes the album in this way:

I think the album is a representation of my journey, throughout the album there are interludes where I play the Bach cello suites, which are so famous in the world of Western classical music. But between these interludes are my own compositions, which are deeply invested in Africa, even as I use the cello, and sometimes the Nguni music bows. The struggle between these worlds, which on the surface seem irreconcilable, is what I have tried to bring forth in the album. (Mhlambi, from the CD liner notes)

In 2019 Mhlambi embarked on the Early African Intellectuals as Composers of Music project to document and create awareness around historical composers from South Africa like Soga, Enoch Sontonga, John Langalibalele Dube, Nokutela Dube, Reuben Caluza and others.

[This] Project is an initiative that will honour, celebrate and revive the musical craft and intellectual property of Africans from yesteryear. It is a historical undertaking that seeks to ‘wake up’ the African to his/her ancient music composition and intellectual excellence; as well as raise awareness of and educate about the birth and journey that has been traveled by compositions of the past while finding a place for them to be recognized and enjoyed in the current African renaissance.
   Africans and South Africans in particular will learn about, celebrate and enjoy the revived sounds of Ntsikana, Enoch Sontoga, Tiyo Soga to name a few. Some legendary craft has come from such composers/intellectuals and the Early African Intellectuals as Composers of Music project will revive and position them in a manner that educate and inspire audiences. This legacy project will inspire future generations and aspirant composers. It is poised to disrupt the arts industry. It is an ‘arts intellectual revolution.’
(African Intellectuals as Composers of Music, Facebook)

Recently Mhlambi published a critical examination of Hugh Tracey and his colonial approaches to the archive in the recent edition of Herri. Zulu Song Cycle is available at Amazon.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

In Exile

Eight years ago, I posted this double compilation with extensive notes at Electric Jive. The response was fantastic and the post soon became one of the most visted at EJ and remained popular for a number of years. You can now listen to the audio of each compilation while scrolling the text via Mixcloud widgets embedded below. Please enjoy!

South Africa outside!

For the past ten years I have been exploring through a number of varied projects the idea of a history of South Africa outside itself. The premise of the research involves the idea that individuals (as well as artifacts) leave the country for a range of complex reasons and thereafter exist in an external space. Often these individuals (and the histories they embody) remain unrecognized or forgotten in South Africa. My goal has been to mine and collate the information and to return it in some form back to a South African audience. In many ways the compilation featured here today is part of one of these projects and features a cross-section of mostly South African music in exile.

For purposes of definition, exile music here covers a thirty year period from 1959 to 1990, during the heart of the apartheid years. This survey is by no means comprehensive, nor is it representative of all South African exile artists or even their ‘best’ work. Rather it is a collection of some of my favorite, more personal tunes. Tunes that for me capture some of the darker but also more ecstatic moments of exile.

The alienation, isolation of the foreign experience is evident on many tracks, especially the solo performances. But at the same time, so are fragments of cultural memory, various phrasings, quotes of the majuba sounds of the 1950s, that instantly recall a distant home. Often the fragments give way to moments of ecstatic joy and build in strength to challenge the darkness.

The task of compiling a limited set of tracks on this theme has been difficult — there is so much good music out there and these volumes could potentially continue for some time. In any event, I have tried to select albums that are generally harder to come by or tracks that are perhaps somewhat unusual. While European and US jazz enthusiasts might be familiar with some of these recordings, many have been unavailable and remain unheard in South Africa.

Miriam Makeba does not feature on this compilation (an earlier posting offers comprehensive coverage of her contributions and can be viewed here at Electric Jive) yet her singular importance as an artist in exile is undeniable. Makeba is the first major South African artist to record and establish a significant anti-apartheid profile. Her importance in constructing an empathetic image for disenfranchised South Africans in the international context cannot be overstated.

Significantly Makeba's first album was issued within months of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. And while there is no specific mention of the tragedy in the liner notes, Makeba’s condemnation of the apartheid government is evident in these lines: “Though she tries many styles, she never sings the Afrikaner songs of white South Africa. (‘When Afrikaners sing in my language,’ she says, ‘then I will sing in theirs.’)” Interestingly, this text can only be found on the US, Canadian, New Zealand and later Israeli copies of the album. On British and all other versions it has been edited out.

Makeba’s exit from South Africa is slightly predated by the Golden City Dixies, who toured Europe in early 1959 and then in December ten members, including Danny Williams, Harold Jephtah, Brian Isaacs and Ronald Chetty, applied for political asylum in Sweden.

Another major event that catalysed a stream of artists leaving the country was the international production of King Kong. In February 1961 artists including Gwigwi Mrwebi, Jonas Gwangwa, the Manhattan Brothers travelled with the cast to London, but decided not to return when the show ended, leaving a gaping hole in the South African music industry.

Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) and Sathima Bea Benjamin would leave in January 1962. They were later joined by Johnny Gertze and Makhaya Ntshoko. With the help of Ibrahim, the Blue Notes, including Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, Johnny Dyani, Chris McGregor, Louis Moholo and Nikele Moyake, left in 1964 to play at the Antibes Jazz Festival in France. They decided to remain there and in Switzerland, before eventually moving to London. Moyake, suffering from serious homesickness, decided to return to South Africa in 1965 but soon died from a brain tumor.

This blog post cannot begin to describe the emotional, psychological, cultural, and political complexity of the South African musician in exile. Though apparently free of apartheid, these artists endured alienation and isolation. Many suffered from debilitating mental and physical stress and many died in exile never returning home. These complexities however are explored through the music.

Johnny Dyani describes their situation in the liner notes of his album African Bass: “I would like to tell my people. That we think and cry for them now and then; it is not easy for us on this side of the world, but together we will have our freedom: Power to the People: yours in music.”

If anyone is interested in a theoretical analysis of exile in South African jazz I would recommend Michael Titlestad’s very dense essays on the subject in his book Making the Changes. For an easier read, Maxine McGregor’s account of the Brotherhood of Breath is excellent.

Perhaps Louis Moholo sums it up best in an interview: “To be in exile is a motherfucker.”

IN EXILE - Volume 1
(Flatinternational, Electric Jive, FXEJ 7)

(Isaacs, Chetty; Afrikanska Rytmer EP, Expo Norr, RIKS EP 2, Sweden)

My Swedish is really not very good (actually non-existent) but according to the liner notes, this unusual EP was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on November 24, 1967. The disc appears to by the product of an academic tour that Brian Isaacs and Ronald Chetty undertook amongst various schools in the region. Their program called “Afrikanska Rytmer” involved teaching various aspects of traditional African rhythm instruments. Ebrahim ‘Brian’ Isaacs was born in Vrededorp, a suburb of Johannesburg in 1939 and Chetty in Kimberly, 1933. Isaacs became part of the touring variety show African Jazz in 1955 and then both joined Majiet Omar’s famed Golden City Dixies in 1956. The group toured extensively throughout Southern Africa before becoming the first South African ensemble to travel internationally in April 1959. During Christmas of that same year 10 members of the group including Isaacs and Chetty decided to remain in Sweden as political refugees. According to Muff Anderson, Isaacs became a cabaret performer in Sweden and to my knowledge put out at least one, privately pressed, solo LP, Bayete, sometime in the 1970s. A track from that album is featured on the Flatinternational vol.1 compilation.

2) BRÖTZMANN / MILLER / MOHOLO – Special Request for Malibu (extract) – 1980
(Brötzmann, Miller, Moholo; Opened But Hardly Touched, FMP 0840/0850, West Germany)

The German horn-man, Peter Brotzmann joins South African bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo in a contorted explosion of almost unlistenable free jazz. Recorded in Berlin on November 5th/6th 1980, Opened, But Hardly Touched is the second of two hard-to-find albums by this trio — the first being The Nearer the Bone, the Sweeter the Meat (FMP 0690, 1979).

For me the free jazz captured on this track and the one that follows it, Pukwana’s Yi Yole, are iconic representations of alienation through dissonance. No other tracks on this “Exile” compilation are harder to listen to! The references to the iconic majuba sound of the 1950s, familiar to much South African jazz in exile, is significantly absent in these compositions. There are moments in the recording that remind me of the contemporaneous, industrial sounds of Einstürzende Neubauten’s classic, debut LP Kollaps (ZickZack, 1981) or even Steve Albini’s later groups Shellac or Rapeman.

In many ways Brotzmann’s acerbic aesthetic dominates the sound of trio. At times his horn literally sounds like a screaming human voice. Brotzmann’s 1968 seminal, second album Machine Gun is considered by many to be a cornerstone of European free jazz and is described by one comment on YouTube in this way: “This is the most ugly, abrasive piece of music ever. Cool!”. Significantly the only (until recently) live recording of Machine Gun was included on Brotzmann’s CD titled Fuck De Boere — Dedicated to Johnny Dyani (Unheard Music, ALP 211CD).

Harry Miller opens the extract of “Malibu” (the full version is 22’20”) with a frenetic but quiet scraping of his upright bass that recalls for me Ennio Morricone’s metallic treatments in the opening fifteen minutes of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A time in the West.

Moholo completes the trio on drums and in a 1991 Wire interview describes his experience of free jazz: “When we came here I started hearing some other vibes. I was away from South Africa and away from chains. I just wanted to be free, totally free, even in music. Free to shake away all the slavery, being boxed into places – one, two, three, four – and being told you must come in after four […] From then on I just played free.”

3) PUKWANA / BENNIK / MENGELBERG – Yi Yole (extract) – 1978
(Pukwana; Yi Yole, ICP 021, Netherlands)

Recorded between September 2nd - 5th 1978, Yi Yole features Dudu Pukwana on alto sax and whistle; Misha Mengelberg (Dutch) on piano and Han Bennik (Dutch) on drums, clarinet, trombone and viola. In 1967 Mengelberg co-founded the Instant Composers Pool or ICP, an organization to promote Dutch avant-garde music and also the label on which this recording was issued. Pukwana’s sax treatments here while not as abrasive as Brotzman’s in the previous track are still remarkably strained and yet at times do return to the melodic.

4) A TENT – Seven Years Part 2 (Abundance) - 1981
(Gavin Povey; Six Empty Places, Red Cherry, BRED 17, France)

In the same year that Dudu Pukwana and Zila issued their funky first LP on Jika records, Pukwana also recorded with A Tent featuring Gavin Povey on keyboards. This is a very interesting album. My first impressions of the LP were that is was a type of ambient jazz album in the spirit of Brian Eno, but as I got into it I recognised that it had elements that came far closer to the industrial sounds of Cabaret Voltaire or even Throbbing Gristle, both contemporaries of this group. Pukwana plays saxophone on a number of tracks. More on the album at Mutant Sounds.

5) JOHNNY M. DYANI – South Afrikan (extract) – 1979
(trad. arr. Dyani; African Bass, Red Record, VPA 149, Italy)

Recorded in Milan, November 14th 1979 this sparse album includes Clifford Jarvis on drums. The vocal track here features Dyani moving towards an ecstatic interpretation of the traditional song Bayeza Kusasa. His version comes ten years after Jonas Gwangwa’s brilliant take on the same tune featured on his 1969 album, Who (Ngubani)? For more examples see Matsuli.

6) CHRIS MCGREGOR – The Bride / Ududu Nombambula (extract) – 1977
(Pukwana, McGregor; In His Good Time, Ogun, OG 521, UK)

Recorded in Paris on November 18, 1977. This solo LP is one of three issued by McGregor and captures a loneliness through absence of other performers, and yet is distinctly still warm.

7) HUGH MASEKELA – Ingoo Pow-Pow – 1972
(Caiphus Semenya; Home is where the Music is, Chisa / Blue Thumb, BTS 6003, USA)

Recorded in London in January 1972 with Masekela on flugelhorn, Dudu Pukwana on alto sax, Larry Willis on Piano, Makhaya Ntshoko on drums, Eddie Gomez on acoustic bass. The cover features drawings by South African artist, Dumile Feni.

8) HARRY MILLER – Homeboy – 1974
(Miller; Children At Play, Ogun, OG 200, UK)

According to the liner notes by Pallo Jordan, Harry Miller was born in Johannesburg in 1941 and came to study music in London in 1961. He soon was a prominent figure in the London jazz scene performing with Chris McGreogor’s Brotherhood of Breath and the Mike Osborne Trio, amongst others. Together with his wife, Hazel, Miller co-founded Ogun records in the early 1970s with the goal of documenting the open-minded music of London at that time. Though Miller died in a car accident in the Netherlands in 1983, Hazel Miller continues to run the label and issues great music to this day.

Ogun Records first release was a live recording of the Brotherhood of Breath at Willisau (OG 100) featuring Miller on bass. Children at Play was Ogun’s second issue and Miller’s first solo LP. The album features Miller playing all instruments including double bass, flute and percussion on a multi-track recording. One of my favorites from this album is Homeboy, a very warm reference back to South Africa, with an almost maskanda like treatment of the double bass.

9) DOROTHY MASUKA – This Land is Mine – c1967
(Pat Boone; Africa in Revolutionary Music, LSM Records, R 1, Canada)

In the 1950s, Dorothy Masuka was one of the leading recording artists in South Africa. As producer for Troubadour Records, Cuthbert Matumba was open to recording songs that sometimes contained critical commentary, and the company occasionally drew visits from the Special Branch of the police, who often confiscated masters and copies of records. In 1961, Masuka wrote and recorded the song Lumumba, in response to the outrage over the execution of the newly elected Congolese leader. The South African Special Branch took note and confiscated the master and began searching for Masuka. In the meantime, she returned to Bulawayo and remained there on the advice of Troubadour. After the incident, Masuka was declared persona non grata by the South African authorities and was forbidden from re-entering the country. She remained in exile from South Africa for the next 31 years.

Masuka would spend the following years travelling and performing in Africa and Europe. In 1965 she returned to Rhodesia for a performance. After hearing that the Ian Smith Government was planning to arrest her, she moved to Zambia where she remained in exile for the next sixteen years as a flight attendant for Zambian airways.

The track featured here is a moving fragment of Pat Boone’s This Land is Mine and on the LP is mixed together with a number of other freedom songs from around Africa.

10) THE SWAPO SINGERS – Power to the People – late 1970s
(Kaujewu, Haipinge; One Namibia One Nation, SWAPO Department of Information, 6812 258, Netherlands)

One of my favorite recent finds, this LP features some of the most beautiful freedom songs from Namibia. Stylistically many of the tracks remind me of those by the 1940s guitarist, George Sibanda. Power to the People (not the Lennon version) alludes to a number of struggles worldwide including Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cuba. Contributors to the album include Jackson Kaujewu (who also does all the arrangements), Dan-Hafeni Haipinge, Martha Eliser, Albertina Heita, Sackey Schikwambi, Nick Nambahu and Frieda Kaurimuje. The album appears to be recorded in Amsterdam, but alas there is no date, but I assume it is some time in the late 1970s. More on this album at Dial Africa.

11) THE ZULUS (AFRICA ‘68) – Uyaz’ Gabisa – 1968
(Caiphus Semenya; Africa ’68, UNI, 73030, USA)

While the original record is poorly credited, a compilation CD reissue (The Chisa Years) of some of the tracks from this LP reveal the group in that case to be simply called The Zulus. I am also assuming that all the tracks on Africa 68 are by the same band and if so, then the line-up on this song would include Mumsie Gwangwa, Ernest Moholmi, John Sithebe, Paul Makgoba, Philemon Hou, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya, all on vocals; with Bruce Langhorn on guitar; and John Cartwright on bass.

On April 2nd 1964 Alan Paton’s play Sponono opened on Broadway at the Cort Theatre in New York. Directed by Krishna Shah, the play included musical arrangements by Gideon Nxumalo and the cast featured amongst others Philemon Hou as Ha’ Penny, Doudlas Ndikho Xaba as an imbongi or praise singer, Caiphus Semenya as one of the reformatory Boys and Margaret Mcingana (Singana) as a member of the choir. According to Miriam Makeba, in her biography, the performance on Broadway was picketed. In her words “people thought Sponono was just some white play with Uncle Tom black people in it. They boycotted it. They did a mock funeral parade and carried a coffin symbolizing that Sponono had died.” But Makeba goes on to say that the performers that came were genuine actors and musicians. The show was a “flop” and the cast returned to South Africa, but some of the artists remained including Semenya, Hou and Xaba. Makeba assisted them in finding scholarships to study music and an apartment in New York. In many ways their arrival in New York gave Makeba and Hugh Masekela a vital community away from home.

Caiphus Semenya had been dating Letta Mbulu, before he came to the US and Makeba made arrangements for her to come out and perform at the Village Gate in New York. Mbulu arrived at the end on 1964. She later married Semenya. Mumsie Gwangwa is of course married to Jonas Gwangwa, who left South Africa in 1961 with the King Kong cast.

In 1966 Letta Mbulu’s first single titled Walkin’ Around was issued on the Columbia label. Letta and the Safaris featured a possible similar line up with Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Caiphus Semenya, Stewart Levine, Charlie Smalls, Eric Gale, John Cartwright, Herbie Lovell, Mamsie Gwangwa and Ernest Mohlomi. Check out the single on the Flatinternational vol.1 compilation. For more on this record see Doug Payne's article.

12) AMANDLA – Sasol – 1982
(uncredited; Amandla, Melodiya, C60 18207, USSR)

Amandla, like Mayibuye before it, was an anti-apartheid group formed by the cultural arm of the ANC in exile. Mayibuye was established in early 1975 while Amandla began to slowly come together towards the end of the 1970s, though the two groups are unrelated. In the early years the group limited its performances to ANC camps and various venues around Luanda, Angola. Once a Scandinavian tour had been organized for 1980, trombonist, Jonas Gwganwa was called in to assist with arrangements. Gwangwa soon became the group’s artistic director.

In all Amandla recorded four albums, two in Sweden and two in the USSR. Sasol comes from the first Russian release and their 2nd album overall, issued in 1982. The Soviet Union was sympathetic to Anti-Apartheid causes and supported the ANC in exile with training and shelter. Though not fully credited, some of the performers on this album include M. Khuze, B. Kgoale, E. Choncho, L. Tikwane, S. Kumalo. View some of the covers here at Matsuli.

Sasol was a major state-owned oil refining company in South Africa. The lyric translation and more details can be viewed here at Flatinternational.

13) SOUNDS OF SOWETO – Mama Ndiyalila – 1983
(Caiphus Semenya, arr. Victor Williams; Wie Lange Noch Dieses Leid?, Misereor 631383, Germany)

Recorded in Hamburg, Germany, this 1983 anti-apartheid record included Linda Conco, Sam Hlatwayo, Steve Khala, Wally Loate, Dumisane Mabaso, Josh Makhene, Sonti Mwdebele with arrangements by Victor Williams and Makhene. Williams also performs on piano with Dudu Pukwana's Spear on the album Flute Music (see volume 2 below).

14) DISTRICT SIX – Etlon-Tu – 1987
(Brian Abrahams; To Be Free, Editions EG, EGED 53, USA)

District Six on this record includes Brian Abrahams on drums, percussion and vocals; Chris McGregor on piano and vocals; Jim Dvorak on trumpet and vocals; Bill Katz on bass; and Harrison Smith on tenor and soprano sax, flute and bass clarinet. An earlier album, titled Akuzwakale, issued in 1984, also includes Mervyn Africa on piano and Russell Herman on guitar.

15) JABULA – Let Us Be Free – 1974
(Bahula, Ranku; Jabula, Caroline, CA 2004, UK)

In 1973, Julian Bahula, originally of the Malombo Jazz Makers, decided to go into exile and moved to the UK. Initially he toured with the South African group Hawk but soon started putting together a new group — Jabula — with Lucky Ranku and an international cast of musicians including a number of South Africans. Jabula worked closely with the African National Congress and the Anti-Apartheid movement and subsequently a number of their records were banned in South Africa.

This track comes from their first album recorded in September 1974. For an extensive discography of Julian Bahula and Jabula check out flatint.

16) SOUTH AFRICAN FREEDOM SONGS – iBande Nge Lami – 1965
(uncredited; This Land Is Mine, Folkways, FH 5588, USA)

Finally we end volume one with a ‘freedom song’ featured on one of the earliest collections of South African protest music. Issued on the Folkways label in 1965, this album includes material that was sent to Moses Asch from an ANC training camp in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). A funky version of this same tune, iBande Nge Lami, which roughly translates as The Belt is Mine, can be heard on Miriam Makeba’s 1970 album Keep me in Mind. View more information about the Folkways album plus translations of all the song lyrics here at Flatinternational.

IN EXILE - Volume 2
(Flatinternational, Electric Jive, FXEJ 8)

(traditional; African Sun, Spectator, SL 1025, Denmark)

A solo record by Abdullah Ibrahim recorded from May 9th to 10th, 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This track is somewhat unique in that it is not very often that you hear Ibrahim singing let alone playing the drum. Certainly a beautifully, strained version of Hush, the almost gospel tune, made famous by Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks in 1958. According to Lars Rasmussen, African Sun is one of the rarest Ibrahim albums as a fire at the Spectator Studios destroyed the original master tapes as well all remaining copies of the LP.

2) BROTHERHOOD OF BREATH – Uqonda – 1981
(McGregor; Yes Please, In and Out, IaO 1001, France)

After planning to avoid Brotherhood of Breath tracks on this compilation (especially the Ogun material that has all recently been re-issued), I could not resist including this lugubrius tune from one of their more obscure, later LPs: Yes Please. Recorded June 1st and 2nd 1981, in Angoulême, France, my only gripe with this wonderful piece is that the recording of Peter Segone’s trumpet is way too loud and piercing — it can really hurt your ears! To some extent I have tried to remedy this, but I suppose conceptually there is something interesting about listening to a track so beautiful and yet at moments so physically painful.

The Brotherhood of Breath, formed by Chris McGregor in London, June 1970, in many ways was an attempt to reconstitute in exile a type of Castle Lager Big Band. Made up of South African exiles drawn from the Blue Notes and a number of leading London free-jazz performers, the group recorded their first LP in 1971 on RCA’s Neon label. From there they continued with at least six more records spread over RCA, Ogun, then later this record on In and Out and finally Virgin’s Venture label. Since then a number of live and bootleg recordings have been issued posthumously on CD.

On Yes Please only McGregor is present from the original Blue Notes line up, though the group at this point does also include South Africans: Ernest Mothle on bass, and Brian Abrahams on drums and percussion. McGregor would later perform with Abraham's group District Six (see Volume 1 above).

3) DYANI / TEMIZ / FEZA – Dear Africa – 1972
(Dyani; Music For Xaba Vol. 2, Sonet, SNTF 824, UK)

The session that was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden on November 2nd, 1972 produced two fantastic albums that were issued eight years apart. Remarkably some of my favorite tracks like Dear Africa and Mighty Blues were not included on the first installment. The trio consisted of Johnny Dyani on bass and piano, Mongezi Feza on trumpet and Okay Temiz, a classically trained percussionist from Turkey, on drums. Both Dyani and Feza left South Africa with the Blue Notes in 1964.

4) JOE MALINGA QUINTET – Zadibana – 1981
(Malinga; One For Dudu, Meteor, MOR 32018, Switzerland)

A tribute album to Dudu Pukwana, this recording was made in Innsbruk, Austria on November 7th 1981. The line-up here includes Malinga on alto sax, congas and shakers; René Widmer on tenor sax and oboe; Johnny Taylor on piano; Hami Hämmerli on bass; and Churchill Jolobe on drums and claves. For a discography of Joe Malinga check out Matsuli.

5) AUTHORITY – Bayabaleka – 1987
(Authority; Against Again Apartheid in South Africa, Suisa/Nuke’s Presence, A 97, Switzerland)

A really well arranged and well recorded, late anti-apartheid album featuring classic protest songs like Mello Yellow, Shosholoza and Oliver Tambo. There are moments in the instrumentation on this record that for me hint at a future BLK JKS. One has to hunt for the name of the group on the LP but eventually you discover that it includes Aubrey Molefe, Smal Ndaba, Aubrey Radebe, all on vocals; Gabriel Magos on keyboards and guitar; Jürg Planta on drums; Hopi Hopkins on percussion; Christian Ostermeyer on saxes and flutes; and Hilary Williams on bass. The lyrics for Bayabaleka or Running Away translate as:

Running Away
Towards the South
In fear of the spear (Mkonto)
Let them all leave

6) AMANDLA – Ekhaya Bakulindile – 1980
(traditional, Amandla; First Tour Live, Afrogram, AGIS 002, Sweden)

This track is one of my favorites of the whole compilation. It opens with a vocal introduction reminiscent of the many soul jive sounds of the Movers and other groups of the mid 1970s. Though the content here, in contrast, is bleak and political. The song then moves into a hymn that builds towards what I would describe as an ecstatic moment.

The track comes off Amandla’s third LP First Tour Live recorded in Stockholm, October 1980 and issued on the Afrogram label in Sweden in 1983. Amandla as mentioned earlier developed out of the cultural arm of the ANC in exile and follows to some extent the project of the earlier group, Mayibuye. Though uncredited it is possible that Jonas Gwangwa may have been responsible for arrangements on this album. For more information on both these groups, I would highly recommend Shirli Gilbert’s excellent essay “Singing Against Apartheid” in Composing Apartheid, edited by Grant Olwage.

7) DUDU PUKWANA AND SPEAR – Flute Music 1+2 – 1974
(Mongezi Feza; Flute Music, Caroline, CA 2005, UK)

Simply a classic! Though I recognize that Mongezi Feza’s Flute Music opens (part 1) and ends (part 2) the album in a manner that approaches a concept album, the split tracks also reminded me of the way many long-form bump jive tracks were broken up to meet the shorter requirements of a 45 rpm single. Thus I could not resist splicing together both parts of this amazing tune to make one long thirteen minute experience.

Recorded between 14th / 15th October 1974, and issued on Virgin’s Caroline label, Pukwana’s 3rd album with his group Spear includes himself on alto sax, flute, percussion and voice; Feza on trumpet, flute congas, percussion and voice; Victor Williams on piano, electric piano and voice; Pete Cowling on bass; and John Stevens on drums.

8) LOUIS MOHOLO OCTET – You Ain’t Gonna Know Me Cause You Think You Know Me – 1978
(Mongezi Feza; Spirits Rejoice, Ogun, OG 520, UK)

Louis Moholo is the last remaining of the six Blue Notes that left South Africa in 1964 – all others have died in exile. Remarkably, though recording on countless albums including those with the Chris McGregor Group, Brotherhood of Breath and many other collaborations, Spirits Rejoice is his first as band leader. Recorded in London on January 24th 1978, the line-up includes Moholo on drums; Evan Parker on tenor sax; Kenny Wheeler on trumpet; Nick Evans on trombone; Radu Malfatti on trombone; Keith Tippet on piano; Johnny Dyani and Harry Miller on bass. A classic Mongezi Feza tune!

9) NDIKHO XABA AND THE AFRICAN ECHOES – Zulu Lunchbag – c1970s
(Gideon Nxumalo; 45 rpm, Shange, #2005, USA)

Ndikho Xaba and the African Echoes do a wonderful example of Gideon Nxumalo’s Zulu Lunchbag on this hard-to-find single.

Multi-instrumentalist and actor, Douglas Ndikho Xaba, was born in Natal in 1934. In 1964 Xaba came to the US as part of Alan Paton’s play Sponono which opened at the Cort Theatre in New York on April 2nd. Directed by Krishna Shah, the play included musical arrangements by Gideon Nxumalo and the cast featured amongst others Philemon Hou as Ha’ Penny, Xaba as an imbongi or praise singer, Caiphus Semenya as one of the reformatory Boys and Margaret Mcingana (Singana) as a member of the choir. After the show closed much of the cast returned to South Africa, but some of the artists including Semenya and Xaba, remained. Miriam Makeba assisted them in finding scholarships to study music and an apartment in New York. In many ways their arrival in New York gave Makeba and Hugh Masekela a vital community away from home.

Xaba is possibly most well known for his tune Emavungwini popularized by Miriam Makeba on her 1968 album Makeba!, but first featured on Hugh Masekela’s 1965 album Grrr. Xaba and his group the Natives are also responsible for the super rare, spiritual jazz LP, Ndikho and the Natives, issued on the Trilyte label in 1969.

10) OKAY TEMIZ / JOHNNY DYANI – I’m Muslim Man – 1976
(Dyani; Witchdoctor’s Son, Yonka, YCSLP 5013, Turkey)

This hard-to-find, middle-eastern flavored LP features some really excellent collaborations between, Turkish percussionist, Okay Temiz and, bassist, Johnny Dyani. The album is split evenly with compositions by Temiz on side A and those by Dyani on side B. Others on the recording include Saffet on clarinet and violin; Gunnar on saxophone; and Oguz on electric bass. Listen to the full album here.

11) DUDU PUKWANA AND ZILA – Ziyekelani – 1983
(Mervyn Africa, Pukwana; Life in Bracknell and Willisau, Jika, ZL 2, UK)

In 1978 Pukwana founded the record label Jika and put out at least three albums with his newly formed group Zila. Ziyekelani is from their second album and features Pinise Saul on vocals. The album consists of live recordings from the Bracknell and Willisau Jazz Festivals in 1983. The Zila line-up on these occasions included: Pukwana on alto, soprano sax and whistle; Pinise Saul on vocals and cabassa; Harry Beckett on trumpet, flugelhorn; Django Bates on keyboards; Eric Richards on electric bass; Paul Gamblin on guitar; Churchill Jolobe on drums; and Thebe Lipere on congas and percussion.

12) THE MANHATTAN BROTHERS - Gumboot – 1963
(Manhattan Brothers; Concert of Zulu Folk Songs, Tropitone, CP 27, UK)

The Manhattan Brothers left South Africa with the cast of the international production of King Kong in February 1961. After the show ended, Nathan Mdledle, Joe Mogotsi and Rufus Khoza decided to remain in the UK. There they continued recording as the Manhattan Brothers but with Walter Loate replacing Ronnie Sehume. Recorded at Cecil Sharpe House, this album appears to be the only live recording of the group and features Sol Klaaste on piano. An edited version of the album was re-issued on CD as Freedom Songs and accompanies Joe Mogotsi’s autobiography, Matindane, edited by Lars Rasmussen. Their 1950s vocal style seems somewhat out of place in the context of London at this time, which reinforces a strange sense of displacement on this LP. My favorite track, which is quite unusual, finds them performing a gumboot dance at the close of the concert.

13) GERARD SEKOTO – Sing Low – late 1950s
(traditional; Negro Spirituals EP, La Voix De L’Esperence, France)

This rare and unusual piece of art history features a number of spirituals by South African painter, Gerard Sekoto, who went into exile to France in 1947. Joe Mogotsi in his autobiography has this account of first meeting the artist in Paris:

“When we saw him, he was living alone in a dilapidated flat with very few creature comforts. Paintings were strewn all over the floor, and he was in a disorganized state. Although his health was failing, he still made an effort to welcome us, and questioned us intently about whether things had changed at home and if there had been any improvement. We went out and bought wine and food which we shared with him while we talked about old times. It was a very heart warming experience.”

Unable to make a living from his painting he survived by performing. According to Wikipedia he composed at least 29 songs that were published between 1956 and 1960 by Les Editions Musicales. Sekoto died outside Paris in March 1993. Today his paintings are some of the most expensive and it is no surprise that this particular EP sold for £2,880 at auction some years ago — the most I have ever seen any South African related record go for!