Thursday, 17 July 2014

After Me: The Sound Proofs (1975)


Its always a good time to celebrate Sankie Chounyane, Soweto soul-man with a sweet 70s marabi chill.  Four languid and laid-back Chounyane tracks showcasing  a "jazzy sensibility" backed up by a top-notch but unidentified band.
Barney Rachabane recorded with the Sound Proofs - have a listen to that album here. Besides Chounyane on keyboards it is probable that other members of The Movers also feature on this album.


According to Max Mojapelo, the original 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 at various times included Lulu Masilela, Lucky Mbatha, Blondie Makhene, Philip Malela, Jabu Khanyile, Vusi Shange, Rammy McKenzie, Jabu Sibumbe, Lloyd Lelosa, Archie Mohlala, Peter Moteolhe, Thomas Phale, David Thekwane, Dakkie Tau, Robert Mbele, Maxwell Kubheka and Peter Morake.

You can find a Movers discography at Flat International here.


Mediafire here
Rapidshare here

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Moonlight Expressions: How Long (1975)


Some gems in this South African seventies soul offering - from Sankie Chounyane, through Sophie Thapedi, to Booker T. Jones. The instrumental cover of the Temptations' "My Girl" worms its way into your ear. Johnny this one is for you.

My stand-out favourite is the excellent cover of the socially conscious Staple Singers' 1973 number one "If You Ready". Eleven years after this particular recording was made, Jonathan Butler and Ruby Turner in 1986 turned this same song into a township anthem.

If you enjoyed the Sophie Thapedi and Lulama Legola album posted by Siemon not so long ago - here - this record offers great versions of "How Long" and "Change My Mind".

Quite who comprised the "Moonlight Expressions" remains a mystery. This Johannesburg-based band were popular enough to have records cut in Kenya. To my untrained ear it does sound as if Sophie Thapedi was the vocalist?

Nearly five years ago I shared a pretty scratchy Moonlight Expressions compilation squeezed out of two cover-less damaged records I had found. You can find that here. The recording offered in this post is much cleaner and clearer.


Mediafire here
Rapidshare here

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Amagugu with the Intuthuko Brothers (1976)



Silky-voiced Sannah Mnguni, previously lead-singer of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, heads-up a stand-out  vocal-mbaqanga quintet. The Intuthuko Brothers provide the instrumental  fireworks, with Harry Nhlapo the likely male 'groaner'. This ten-piece outfit is up there with the best - at least as good as the Makgona Tsohle Band and the Mahotella Queens in their prime.

Today's offering is a "best of" Amagugu and the Intuthuko Brothers, happily with only one duplicate from the previously shared Amagugu album. My absolute favourite is the slow and jazzy Uyozikhethela (You Decide). 

Mnguni was also a prolific writer, responsible for penning eight of the twelve tracks featured here. Amagugu's 1974 Ubhek'uZulu can be found here; Other albums featuring the Intuthuko Brothers can be found here and here and here. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje can be found here and here. I do not have a copy of the Izintombi album "Nomali" that was recently requested, but I will find place for one or two others in the future.


Rapidshare here
Mediafire here

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Tulips - Uskhandamayeza (1978)


Herewith a hefty dose of mbaqanga soul from The Tulips courtesy of electricjive follower Frank Tischer. Recorded and released in 1978 on the Ring Ring label this collection is rooted in the style made famous by the Soul Brothers and borrows a lot from dance floor sounds of disco. The album was produced by Roxy "Black Cat" Butelezi. Roxy Buthelezi was active in the late sixties with the Queue Sisters, the Black Spurs and the Ndoda Band before joining EMI Brigadiers in 1971. He later recorded as the Black Cat Trio and created his own Black Cat label. He was assaulted in his sleep in June 1981 and died as a result of injuries sustained.

Enjoy! Rapidshare / Mediafire

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Best of NUMBER ONE [MILLION]



Yesterday Electric Jive reached a milestone of one million page views! And July 2014 marks the fifth year since Chris and Matt launched this blog... and so thank you all who have visited these pages over the last 60 months!!!

What better way to celebrate than with this elusive instrumental mbaqanga compilation: The Best of Number One Records (N 9000). Number One was developed in 1972 by EMI, South Africa as a budget label and this unique sampler disc features nearly one track from each of their first fifteen LPs (N 9001 - N 9015). The label is perhaps best known for re-issuing some of the most desirable SA LPs of the mid to late 1960s, including: Armitage Road by the Heshoo Beshoo Group, the 1964 Castle Lager Jazz Festival featuring the Malombo Jazz Men, Nomvula's Jazz Dance by the Jazz Ministers, and a number of albums by The Kings Messengers Quartet (which still leads EJ in the most page views).

Ironically (or typically) this album does not feature any artists names, even though it is labeled as a "Special Sample Record for the SABC" (South African Broadcasting Corporation). Most tracks are attributed to Tom Vuma and/or P. Manthata, but some of the albums have been featured here at EJ so we can extrapolate at least these four artists: Alfred Ndima (N 9005), The Black Eagles (N 9006). The Moon Stars (N 9009) and Abafana Basekhaya (N 9015). Of course there is the possibility that these are all the same session musicians, but if anyone is able to identify any of the other artists, please let us know.

The Best of Number One Records
Various Artists
1972
Number One (EMI)
N 9000

RS / MF

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Sound of Motella (1966)


Sometimes I wonder if I run against the grain of most record collectors in having a deep attraction for particularly damaged records. The album featured today is no exception. From an absent corner that must have provided sustenance for some small creature, to the beautiful water stain that runs across the back and visually approximates the north-western coastline of Africa—the cover by most accounts would be considered severely compromised... or as it would be listed on eBay... "G" for "Good"!


The condition of the vinyl, thankfully, is not as dire. Issued in 1966 on the Motella label, this compilation is the second long playing record published by Gallo's iconic Mavuthela stable following the debut: Meet the Mahotella Queens (LMO 101). The album brings together an eclectic range of early instrumental sax and harmonica jives, save for one track—Mayoyo—featuring female vocalists (perhaps Nick Lotay can help us out with identification). What more can be said about this iconic company that has not already been covered by Nick in his excellent posts here at Electric Jive and Matsuli. Do check these out!

As with most LPs from this period, the compilation features tracks previously issued on 78 rpm. While the track listing, oddly, does not reveal the artists' names, the images of the Motella labels on the front cover do; and so I have listed the details below:

01) Mario and his Khaila Alto — Jive March Time
02) Hlathi & Mahlathini — Khonza Egagasini (MO 43)
03) Marks Mankwane & His Alto Sax — Kap Kap Jive
04) Anania Wa Mfolo — Khula Anania (MO 63)
05) Jazz Manikiniki — Raai Raai (MO 55)
06) Jazz Manikiniki — Mayoyo (MO 75)
07) Jazz Manikiniki — Welcome 1966 (MO 74)
08) D. Makhekhe & His Sax — Qhude Manikiniki (MO 81)
09) D. Makhekhe & His Sax — Ginyitshe
10) Pyjama Party Band — Fukuzela
11) David Khanyile & His Alto Sax — Tha Tha U Thu Thuke
12) Jazz Manikiniki — Meropa Morago
13) Marks and His Alto Sax — Phalaborwa
14) Mario and his Khaila Alto — Jive Smodern Jive No.4


The Sound Of Motella (Town and Country)
Various Artists
1966
Motella, LMO 102

RS / MF

Enjoy!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

R.I.P. Beatrice Ngcobo

Electric Jive has recently learnt of the tragic passing of one of the former members of the Mahotella Queens. We pay our respects to the late Beatrice Ngcobo today with a short post reflecting on her life and career.

Beatrice was born in Umbumbulu, Durban on 25 October 1944. Unlike so many other singers of her era, she was not born in a musical family, but she did sing in a school choir, developing a distinctly rich and smooth alto voice. Beatrice’s family was hit hard by the death of her father in 1955, and Beatrice was subsequently unable to complete her school studies because of the high costs involved. Her school had, however, helped to give Beatrice a great love for music. She started singing in her teens in and around Durban with various girl groups, and was eventually discovered by promoter Roxy Jila in the late 1960s. Beatrice was soon cast in his play Chief Mamba, performing on stage in an acting role for the first time in her career and without any prior training. She latterly recalled to Electric Jive the exciting buzz of performing for audiences every night.

Beatrice was still performing in Durban with Jila’s company when singer John Moriri and guitarist Marks Mankwane turned up at a showing of Chief Mamba in 1971. The two artists, both of them in-house musicians for Gallo Africa’s Mavuthela Music Company, had travelled from Johannesburg to Durban in search of female singers for Moriri’s then-backing group, Mthunzini Girls, which had recently split. Moriri and the Mthunzini Girls had a number of pending shows booked in Malawi, meaning replacement girls had to be found in time. Moriri and Mankwane were immediately taken with Beatrice’s performance and invited her to become the lead singer of the Mthunzini Girls. An excited Beatrice gladly accepted their offer and awaited the arrival of special transport from Durban to Johannesburg organised by Mavuthela bassist Joseph Makwela. In addition to Beatrice as lead singer and John Moriri as the male soloist, the other Mthunzini Girls were Olive Masinga, Whyte Mkhulisi, Julia Ngubane, Beauty Radebe and Phyllis Zwane.

Beatrice’s first composition as a recording artist was “Njomane”, a song that became something of an anthem for schoolchildren back home in Durban through constant airplay on Radio Zulu. Soon after recording the hit, Moriri and the Mthunzini Girls travelled to Malawi to perform. While there, Beatrice realised she was pregnant and decided to return home to her mother in Durban. She gave birth to her son Bongani in late 1971, spending a very short three months at home before rushing back to Johannesburg in the name of music, leaving Bongani in the care of her own mother. When Beatrice arrived back at the Gallo studios in March 1972, neither Moriri nor the Mthunzini Girls could be found. She discovered that when Moriri and the rest of the girls finished the Malawi tour and arrived back in Johannesburg, Mavuthela boss Rupert Bopape had refused to give them their wages, saying that he didn’t have the necessary money to pay them. Moriri and the rest of the girls resigned in protest. At the same time, Mahlathini and several of the Mahotella Queens quit in a similar dispute with Bopape over touring salaries. Bopape and Marks Mankwane decided to rebuild the Mahotella Queens and let the Mthunzini Girls name perish, simply because Mahotella was the more popular and well-known name. Beatrice found herself being recruited into the biggest female mbaqanga group of the day and was ecstatic. In 1973, she performed on stage for the first time as a Mahotella Queen when the group travelled a long distance to perform in Molepolole, Botswana. The line-up, then consisting of Hilda Tloubatla, Caroline Kapentar, Beatrice Ngcobo, Nancy Ngema, Thandi Nkosi and Thandi Radebe, performed in the local town hall as well as various other places including a chief’s kraal.

MAHOTELLA QUEENS, 1979
Clockwise from top left: Caroline Kapentar, Nomsa Njakazi,
Beatrice Ngcobo, Emily Zwane, Thandi Nkosi
Beatrice recorded and performed with the Queens throughout the 1970s and also composed a number of their hit songs. Most of her compositions were based on events that happened in her own life. She wrote “Uxoshisa Abanye” after rumours began spreading throughout Mavuthela that Ray Mkize (Abafana Baseqhudeni member and one of Mavuthela's Public Relations Officers) wanted to get Beatrice fired for no apparent reason. Lead singer Emily Zwane takes Beatrice’s song to a high plateau with her sweet soprano. Another composition, “Sengidlala Amakhehla”, told the story of Beatrice’s love affair with a much older gentleman who eventually broke her heart. Her song “Bongani Mntanami” was one very close to her heart. Beatrice would return home to Durban to care for her son Bongani as often as her bosses would allow, but while busy working in Johannesburg, her ageing mother would often complain over the phone to Beatrice about Bongani’s mischievousness and bad behaviour towards her. Beatrice decided to teach her son a lesson by writing a song for him, telling him through loving lyrics to respect his family and stop misbehaving. Although Emily Zwane sang lead on most of the Mahotella Queens recordings of the 1970s and 1980s, Beatrice was allowed to do the lead vocals on some of the hits including "Izinyembezi Zesuliwe", “Malume” and “Isidwaba”. Emily and Beatrice share the lead vocal duties on a track they wrote together - "Kobanini Ngihlupheka".

BEATRICE as seen in Jeremy Marre's
Rhythm of Resistance
Beatrice was still a prominent member of the Mahotella Queens line-up when English filmmakers visited South Africa hoping to film the group: first was Jeremy Marre in 1978, who filmed a Mahotella Queens stage performance for his documentary on black South African music, Rhythm of Resistance; and then a BBC team who were making a documentary about the music and influences of Hugh Masekela in 1984. In the latter documentary – broadcast only once on BBC2 in May 1985 – the Mahotella Queens (by now consisting only of Emily Zwane, Caroline Kapentar and Beatrice Ngcobo) performed their recent smash hit single “O Boshako” accompanied by accordionist Mzwandile David.

MAHOTELLA QUEENS performing
"O Boshako" in 1984
L to r: Emily Zwane, Caroline Kapentar,
Beatrice Ngcobo
Beatrice stuck with the Mahotella Queens even through a fallow period during the mid-1980s which saw the group leave the Gallo organisation for the first time in their career. A number of messy behind-the-scenes incidents led to Marks Mankwane, the producer of the Queens, resigning from Gallo and taking the group with him to a new independent label. The venture lasted for almost a year until they once again uprooted and moved over to local EMI subsidiary CCP. During this era, the popularity of the Queens declined significantly and Beatrice detected Marks Mankwane’s disillusionment with (and eventual resentment of) the group that had once sold out whole stadiums.

A number of musical projects during the early 1980s had increased international awareness of South African music. Some of these included Rhythm of Resistance, Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock, Duck Food, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto and Paul Simon’s Graceland. Marks Mankwane was persuaded by West Nkosi to rejoin Gallo and reunite Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens for overseas performances. Mankwane duly agreed and began conducting rehearsals between Mahlathini and three of the original Mahotella Queens (Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Shawe and Mildred Mangxola), neglecting to inform Beatrice, Emily and Caroline, who were still recording and performing under the Mahotella Queens name. Beatrice and her bandmates found out only after spotting Hilda’s crew in another rehearsal room and were hurt by Mankwane’s deception. While Mankwane now busied himself with preparations for the reunited Mahotella line-up to visit the US and Europe, Beatrice and her bandmates were left dealing with the stigma of being unceremoniously fired and deprived of the opportunity to perform for audiences abroad.

During the 1990s, Beatrice and some of the former Mahotella Queens regrouped to perform under the same name for South African audiences, appearing at several local traditional music festivals and community halls. In order to avoid misunderstandings, they eventually decided to make a distinction between their group and the one touring the world with Mahlathini, tweaking their group name slightly to become X-Mahotella Queens (the ‘X’ obviously referring to ‘ex-’, as in ‘former’).


ABOVE: A snippet from a new recording by the X-Mahotella Queens, "Badla Inqondo"

X-MAHOTELLA QUEENS in 2011
L to r: Emily Zwane, Beatrice Ngcobo,
Thandi Nkosi, Caroline Kapentar
In 2011, a grouping of now-forgotten stars from mbaqanga’s past – including X-Mahotella Queens – united to form a non-governmental organisation called Omama Besxaxa Foundation. The foundation has held a number of successful shows and workshops in township halls across Johannesburg over the last three years, most recently holding an all-day show at San Kopano Hall in Alexandra in March 2014. The show featured a galaxy of stars including X-Mahotella Queens, Izintombi Zesimanjemanje, Izingane Zoma, John Moriri and the Manzini Girls, Isigqi and others. The show had been in the pipeline for months and Beatrice was looking forward to performing for audiences after so long. X-Mahotella Queens lead singer Emily Zwane had recently retired from performing, leaving Beatrice to step into the spotlight as leader for the first time in her career.

Tragically, Beatrice was knocked down and killed while visiting family in Durban in February 2014.

We at Electric Jive mourn the loss of a very special lady but give thanks that we were able to meet her and interview her at length about her wonderful career before her sudden passing. Life had dealt Beatrice some hard blows, including the sudden and untimely deaths of two of her four children and having to cope with extremely poor living conditions in her old age. But this was a woman who was blessed with enough strength to keep fighting in spite of the many obstacles in her way. Beatrice confirmed to us that she was happy and satisfied about the work she had done over four decades immersed in music, hoping that her life story would be valued in particular by the younger generation. We hope our humble tribute has done her proud.

Rest in peace, mam' Beatrice!

01) UXOSHISA ABANYE
02) DEMAZANA
03) ISIDWABA
04) MALUME
05) NGOTHINI NA?
06) BONGANI MNTANAMI
07) KETLARENG
08) SENGIDLALA AMAKHEHLA
09) KOBANINI NGIHLUPHEKA
10) IZINYEMBEZI ZESULIWE

My thanks to Matt for sharing two of the above songs, and a special acknowledgement to Norton Ramavhoya for giving so much of his time and efforts towards our mission - without his hard work, a tribute like this would simply not have been possible to compose. Thank you Norton!