Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Heartbreaker: The G. Kente Voices (1977)

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

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

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

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

Download link here

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Can You Take It (1977)

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

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

Link here

Monday, 20 July 2015

Soultime With the Flaming Souls (1969)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, 6 July 2015

Josaya Hadebe on 78 rpm (c1947-1954)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, 25 June 2015

Harare Hit Parade Revisited

Once more due to overwhelming reader demand the Harare Hits compilations are back. Like mbaqanga, the electric urban sounds of Zimbabwe between the late seventies and mid-eighties hold a special place in many people's hearts. These were different times with a sense of optimism midst daily struggles and a nation still drunk with liberty. It's blistering dancefloor pop in any language that still speaks today. Enjoy this time capsule from the past that keeps us from forgetting what can be possible. These were originally compiled by Tony Hunter who spent time teaching in Zimbabwe in the early part of the 80s.

Harare Hit Parade 1: 1980-81
01. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits- Africa 
02. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Cheka Hukama
03. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Madzongo Nyedze
04. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Seiko
05. Elijah Madzikatire and Ocean City Band – Very Sorry
06. Elijah Madzikatire and Ocean City Band – Gukura Hundi
07. Devera Ngwena Jazz Band – Zhimozhzhi
08. Devera Ngwena Jazz Band – Barba Mwana Wakanaka
09. Devera Ngwena Jazz Band – Ruva Remoyo Wangu
10. Job Mashanda and the Muddy face – Zuva Rakabuda
11. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Shanje
12. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Reura
13. Zexie Manatsa and the Green Arrows – Chivaraidze
14. Zexie Manatsa and the Green Arrows – Tambayi Makachenjera

Harare Hit Parade 2: 1981-84
01. Lovemore Majaivana and Jobs Combination – Okwabanye
02. Lovemore Majaivana and Jobs Combination – Isitmela
03. Lovemore Majaivana and Jobs Combination – Amanda
04. Africa Melody – Africa Yakanaka
05. Africa Melody – Emma Rega Kuchema
06. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Kumhunga
07. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Tinomuchema
08. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Yeukai
09. Marxist Brothers – Mwana We Dangwe
10. Safirio Madzikatire and Sea Cottage Sisters – Katarina
11. Zexie Manatsa and the Green Arrows – Tiyi Hobvu
12. Pied Pipers – Amayo
13. Patrick Mkwamba and the Four Brothers – Vakakunda Zviedzo
14. Patrick Mkwamba and the Four Brothers – Wapenga Nayo Bonus
15. Sungura Boys - Mandi

Harare Hit Parade 3: 1985-86
01. Jobs Combination – Imali
02. Jobs Combination – Mary
03. Jobs Combination – Ekhaya
04. Jobs Combination – Isimanga Sendoda
05. Jobs Combination – Usathane Simehlule
06. Fallen Heroes – Uthando Lwemali
07. Robson Banda and the New Black Eagles – Huya Tshande
08. Kassongo Band – Panyadzonya
09. Marxist Brothers – Sekuyo Ndipeiwo Zano
10. Marxist Brothers – Mari
11. Marxist Brothers – Kunjere Kunjere
12. Oliver Mtukudzi a and the Black Spirits – Chenjera
13. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Mhaka
14. Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits – Munamato Yedu

Harare Hit Parade 4: 1985-1987
01. Robson Banda and the New Black Eagles - Maria 
02. Robson Banda and the New Black Eagles -Emmah 
03. Jairos Jiri Band - Chando Chinouraya 
04. Jairos Jiri Band - Mai Murambatsvina 
05. Jairos Jiri Band - Ndezvedu 
06. Jairos Jiri Band - Sarah 
07. Jairos Jiri Band - Zvemumba Medu 
08. Oliver Mtukudzi - Gona 
09. Oliver Mtukudzi - Jeri 
10. Ilanga - Somandhla

Monday, 22 June 2015

Flavian Nyathi and the Blues Revolution: Ropa Re Zimbabwe

By popular request Electricjive reposts this Zimbabwean classic from 1980 - originally from the Matsuli blog:
"The first two Zimbabwean LPs I heard and subsequently taped from a friend (as you did back in those days of the TDK C90) were Thomas Mapfumo's Gwindingwe Rine Shumba and Flavian Nyathi's Ropa Re Zimbabwe. Thomas Mapfumo you should know along with other Zimbabweans such as Oliver Mtunkudzi. But how many of you have heard of Flavian Nyathi? No background information, just a classic LP full of revolutionary sentiment for better times. Have a listen and let me know if you agree on its status. If you look carefully you can see a Josh & Kathy's Soundland sticker, the Harare record bar frequented by many looking for exciting Zimbabwean pop." (Matt Temple)

Flavian Nyathi and the Blues Revolution - Ropa Re Zimbabwe (Gallo Records, Disc. KK 13, 1980)
Mwana Takamushaya
Ve Soweto
Ndikakunga Maivangu
Ropa ReZimbabwe
Pfumo Demo
Baba Namai
Hakuna Nyika Isna Rinda 


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Mahotella Queens - Tsamaya Moratuoa (1980)

We turn our focus now to some sunny early 1980s female mbaqanga. Tsamaya Moratuoa, featuring 12 Sotho songs originally released on singles in late 1979, is a 1980 release from the always wonderful Mahotella Queens. Although soul and disco music had already started to take the focus away from mbaqanga, the Queens continued to enjoy some substantial popularity thanks to strong compositions, superb vocals – and a revitalised instrumental backing: the second guitar was replaced by an organ, and the old sidestick snare was more or less exchanged for full disco-style drums.

So much of the Queens’ music of this era developed from real-life situations. The title song of this particular LP is nothing short of a masterpiece. Emily Zwane, vocalist for the Queens since 1971 and the group’s main lead singer between 1978 and 1987, wrote “Tsamaya Moratuoa” after her marriage to taxi driver Moses Mathibe collapsed. The two had got wed and moved in together in Daveyton, Johannesburg, but Emily’s job required her to tour South Africa (and surrounding countries) for up to six months of the year. After returning home from a Queens tour, Emily was shocked to discover Moses – and his belongings – absent from their marital home.

Emily later discovered that the man she loved had been legally declaring himself as unmarried for the entirety of their relationship. (For reasons known only to him, Moses continued to boast about once being with the famous Mahotella Queen for decades afterwards.) Emily, an archetypal strong woman who – for all her warmth and good nature – was never one to share her emotions, took the obviously therapeutic step of singing out her sorrow: “Go with peace, my love… you left me alone and miserable, putting your happiness before mine… I hope that wherever you go, they treat you with the same care and love I gave you… don’t cry, my love, because I’m not in tears myself… it’s true what the elders say… ‘Every difficult situation eventually comes to an end.’”

“Tsamaya Moratuoa” was a huge hit song for the Queens. Marks Mankwane arranged for the ladies to do alternate versions of the song in Zulu (“Hamba Sithandwa”) and in Tswana (“Tsamaya Moratiwa”), which won Emily the award of ‘Top Composer on Disc’ from Radio Tswana in 1981.

Another brilliant few songs come from group member Caroline Kapentar, who joined the Queens in 1973 after seven years at Mavuthela. Caroline is noted for her strong compositions - meaningful lyrics and extremely catchy melodies. "Mokgadi O Fihlile" refers to the ladies who long to see their men; the husbands who work all year long with only a brief Christmas holiday to see their wives and children. Another, "Ke Utloile", is a beautifully emotive ballad urging children to listen to their parents - this way, they'll avoid the feelings of guilt and regret when they become adults.

The other standout songs on this LP come from the creative mind of solo star Irene Mawela. (In 1979, the Mahotella Queens fell short of a few vocalists, so producer and guitarist Marks Mankwane recruited Irene and fellow solo singer Olga Mvicane to temporarily flesh out the group while they were in the studio. More permanent members were recruited later on in the form of Hazel Zwane – no relation to Emily – and Maggie Khumalo.) Irene re-arranged two traditional Sotho numbers for this album: “Mangwani Mpulele” and “Re Basadi Kaofela”. In the first number, the ladies sing the catchy English ‘it’s raining outside, raining outside’ lyrics, peppered with male vocals from dynamic soul singers Walter Dlamini and Mandla, and Irene takes the second song to a high with the repetitive ‘dumela, dumela…’ (‘greetings to you all’), performed in her usual sweet, supernatural voice.

The Queens on Tsamaya Moratuoa are: Emily Zwane (lead vocal), Irene Mawela (lead vocal), Caroline Kapentar, Thandi Nkosi, Sheba Malgas and Olga Mvicane. They are backed by The Beggers: Marks Mankwane (lead guitar), Mzwandile David (bass), Thamie Xongwana (organ), Mike Stoffel (drums). Enjoy!

produced by Marks Mankwane
engineered by Greg Cutler and Phil Audoire
Gumba Gumba BL 226
Sotho Vocal