Long, long ago, African herd-boys used to play bamboo whistles which are known in the African language as ‘mahlaka’. As time went on these were replaced by tin whistles as the bamboo was not strong enough and did not last. These tin pipes have been greatly improved and are what we now call ‘penny whistles’. The penny whistle became the popular instrument of little African boys and they could be heard playing on street corners and in the townships, where they attracted much interest and attention.
in the mid 1940s Pennywhistle jive was developed. Kwela, a Zulu term means “pick-up” and refers to roving police vans on the look-out for illegal street corner gambling. When the police came in sight all evidence of the game would be hastily hidden and somebody would substitute the event with harmless flute music until the immediate danger was over.
Recording scouts, realizing the talent of these penny whistle players brought them to recording studios and the penny whistle records have proved tremendously popular with Spokes Mashiyane being the biggest star.
The EP “Music and Rhythms of Africa vol. 1” features four recordings by Benoni Flute Quintet and the Alexandra Shamber Boys. One of the most popular flute groups is the Alexandra Shamber Boys who have made a big name for themselves in Johannesburg. “Phazamiza Zacks’ one of the tunes they play on this record is a tribute to the great Zacks Nkosi. The Benoni Flute Quintet had a big hit with their recording of ‘Skanda Mayeza’. The tune was originally recorded as a vocal and these youngsters picked up the tune on their penny whistles; their playing of it established the tune as one of the all time favourite with the Africans.
Alexandra Shamber Boys
‘Finish’ by The Alexander Shamber Boys is a later version re-recorded version while the original song ‘Tom Hark’ was popular in the mid-fifties.
here is the original 78 rpm by
thanks to flatinternational