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SA Jazz -Tete Mbambisa -Tete’s Big Sound

May 19, 2010

Tete Mbambisa was one of the most gifted pianists and composers of the 1950’s. He has kept the original and unique 1950’s sound alive, and has nurtured many of today’s best young jazz talents. With his inventive piano playing, Tete Mbambisa helped to preserve South Africa’s acoustic jazz tradition during the genre’s decline in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In addition to performing as a soloist, Mbambisa often accompanies vocalist Ncediwe Sylvia Mdunyelwa.

here’s the b-side to ‘Past Time’ released in 1979 as a 45 on The Sun label.

Tete Mbambisa -Trane Ride

In the middle of the 1976 uprising, Tete Mbambisa took an octet into the studio to record ‘Tete’s Big Sound’. The date of recording sessions were in February 1976 and the LP was reissued by Roots in 1989 as well on CD in 1995**

For three decades the big sound of Tete Mbambisa had not been heard. This is despite general agreement amongst musicians that the 67-year old musician is one of South Africa’s greatest composers and pianists.

Fellow blogger Matt@Matsuli added the following additional info; …in addition to the February 1976 sessions that resulted in the Tete’s Big Sound LP there are a number of unreleased reels that Matsuli Music/As-Shams will be releasing later this year. Stay tuned…

At the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival 2008 Tete hosted a sextet to play his own compositions. Joining Mbambisa on stage were Barney Rachabane (alto saxophonist); Ezra Ngcukana (tenor and soprano saxophone); Feya Faku (trumpet and flugelhorn); Herbie Tsoaeli (contrabass) and Ayanda Sikade (drums). Rachabane is the only member apart from Mbambisa of the 1976 octet who is still alive. Rachabane’s association with Mbambisa goes back to 1964 when they were members of a quintet. Ngcukana was a guest in a recording of The Brothers – a band that was made up of Mbambisa, saxophonist Duke Makasi, bassist Victor Ntoni and Lulu Gontsana. Ngcukana and Mbambisa also played together in Xhosa Nostra. Feya Faku comes out of the Soul Jazzmen school – a band that is a music institution in Port Elizabeth. In the 1970’s, Mbambisa was not only with the Soul Jazzmen, he is featured in the recordings of the group such as Intlupheko. Faku and Mbambisa have played together as sidemen of Winston Mankunku Ngozi and Sylvia Mdunyelwa. The path of the two musicians also crossed recently when they worked on the soundtrack of the movie Sophiatown. Although now based in Johannesburg, Tsoaeli’s musical career began in Cape Town where Mbambisa currently stays with his family. Like Mbambisa, Tsoaeli is known for his lyricism and is bassist of choice for many jazz musicians in South Africa. He is currently based in Johannesburg and is a member of the Zim Ngqawana Quartet.*

*excerpts from a press release for the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival 2008 and thanks to Craig Harris, All Music Guide

** thanks to Chris@ElectricJive for the additional info

On December 4th 2012 @Macazozo and @Ndumiso added the following update

Greetings, you can find Bra Tete’s latest album online:

http://ev2.co.uk/jisa/records (for the CD)
http://jisarecords.bandcamp.com/ (for download)

The African Music Store (Long Street, Cape Town) and High Fidelity (Killarney Mall, Joburg) have copies too.

You can keep up to date on his music via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JISArecords

12 comments

  1. Hi Eddie, great post. Just to let you know that in addition to the February 1976 sessions that resulted in the Tete’s Big Sound LP there are a number of unreleased reels that MatsuliMusic/As-Shams will be releasing later this year. Stay tuned…


    • i would like my uncle to feature me on his next album


  2. nice one Eddie – as you know I am trying to put together a discog of key 45s – and the as-shams ones are right up there – can you help in anyway with listings? some additional info: the mbambisa sessions were Feb 1976, and the LP was reissued by Roots in 1989 as well as on CD in 1995 – best wishes – chris


  3. “Did You Tell Your Mother” by Tete was one of the first prerecorded cassettes I bought in the late 1970’s.

    I am in full contact with Tete and looking forward to the rerelease of some of Tete’s works. I think they are also sitting on some unreleased material of Tete.


  4. Thanks so much for this…I hope to find more Tete!

    Great sounds! I have a lot to learn about SA Jazz!

    Robert Warren


  5. this is tabza i would like you to feature me on your next album


  6. HI MY NAME IS THANDUXOLO I DON’T KNOW WHETHER YOU STILL REMEMBER ME I’M YOUR GRANDSON MY MOTHER IS AYANDA “MAYUYU” RUNGQU THE DAUGHTER OF THE LATE NOMATHAMSANQA RUNGQU I MET YOU AT MDANTSANE SUN YOU WERE GOING TO PLAY THERE HERE IS MY NUMBER 0784651408 PLZ CONTACT ME I’M IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS


  7. Hi Bra tete i don’t know whether you still remember me i’m your grand son i met you at Mdantsane sun you were going to play there my mother is your daughter Ayanda”Mayuyu”Rungqu the daughter of the late Nomathamsanqa”Thami”Rungqu my grandmother used to own a sheeben in N.U.2 in Mdantsane called the carpert house I’m currently busy with music promoting Eastern Cape Artist also Promoting local talents&acts I need your advice in this industry My Cell No:078 465 1408 I would like to get your contacts as well so we can hook up again some time when you are in East London whether you are at your home in N.U.7 in Mdantsane or perfoming around town.I’m also a father now I have a baby boy who is one year six months.


  8. I greatly admire uBaw’ u Tete. We used to listen to one of his LPs in 1977 when we were young secondary students at home in Zwelitsha. This man deserves respect. Fortunately I knew a little about the late Bhut Aubrey Simani who played Tenor Sax for the Big Sound. He played in the same band in Zwelitsha with my father who was the vocalist in the early 1960s. The band members included Baw’ u Twenty.I will be one of the people who will be very happy to lay my hands on any of Bro Tete’s CD. By luck here in Durban we have a music store that can import musical material that is not available in SA.


  9. Anyone with info on where to get this respectful man music please please help. As of know I’m “stay(-ing) cool”. My number is 0714195531 Macazozo



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