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SA movies -1965 OST ‘Dingaka’ by Bertha Egnos

May 31, 2010
good day to all! Over the last  week or so the  attention over here has been focused mainly on musicals and soundtracks from our favorite 50’s & 60’s South African movies.  Served here today are some highlights, a few unusual works of Bertha Egnos, one of South Africa’s most underrated and forgotten composers. A remarkable talent that produced one of  South Africa’s most succesful musicals ever and many scores for movie soundtracks, plays and pop music that crossed over to the hit parade. But how well remembered is Bertha Egnos??
A Google search for a picture of the lady did not turn up anything! Not even some documentation on her long career in movies and musicals was found although Bertha Egnos was quite famous back in the 60’s and 70’s.  I believe the time has come to reconstruct a few bits and forgotten parts of her long career. Here’ s part one…
In a previous post‘An African Lullaby (tula baba)’ from 1963 by Eva Madison and the Bertha Gray Singers was highlighted. It is a traditional South African folk song that mothers sang to put their babies to sleep. It was re-written and adapted for the soundtrack of the movie  ‘Dingaka’ by Bertha Egnos who was making a name for herself earlier with musicals like ‘Bo Jungle‘ in 1959 and who would later become responsible for the musical ‘Ipi Tombi’.
In 1972, Bertha Egnos and her daughter, lyricist Gail Lakier, produced ‘Ipi Ntombi’ and ‘Mama Tembu’s Wedding’ as the two African songs for Eartha Kitt’s tour of  South Africa. Although the numbers were rejected by Kitt for being “too upbeat and rhythmic”, Egnos and Lakier were undeterred. They added another eight songs and released an album called ‘The Warrior’  in 1973. Later versions became known as ‘Ipi Ntombi’, or even more simplified as ‘Ipi Tombi’.
Sure, from a critical point of view,  these  shows sentimentalized and celebrated the life of the rural ‘native’. This form of theatre in South Africa confirmed white attitudes and prejudices and is blatantly paternalistic in the long colonial tradition. But nevertheless, ‘Ipi Ntombi’ showed the world South African Zulu tribal culture at its best and popularized this at a time when Apartheid still ruled the Union.

OST Dingaka -Cheeni Cheeni
The musical sequences featured on the soundtrack of ‘Dingaka’ were personally selected and edited by South Africa’s star actor-director-producer Jamie Uys.  The soundtrack was written by  Bertha Egnos, Eddie Domingo and Basil Gray. From a musical point of view, this soundtrack recording is without a doubt one of the most valuable contributions ever made to the ever-growing library of authentic African music. The songs reflect the colour, the driving rhythm, the vast panorama of sound and music which add up to what novelist Stuart Cloete once described as being ‘the song of Africa….the song no white man will ever sing’.
OST Dingaka Lullaby -Tula Baba
Dingaka tells the story of a tribesman, Ntuku Makwena, who avenges the murder of his daughter according to custom tribal laws. His act of revenge leads him to be tried under government laws, where justice for black people does not exist. The film stars Ken Gampu, Stanley Baker, Juliet Prowse and Bob Courtney.
excerpts from the original liner notes of ‘Dingaka’ Gallotone GALP 1385 released in 1965

the original soundtrack of ‘Dingaka’ can be found here

a VHS is available on eBay (updated 16th January 2015)

Cast “Dingaka” 1965

Stanley Baker -Tom Davis

Willem Botha-Court Clerk

 Bob Courtney-Prison Chaplain

 Ken Gampu-Ntuku Makwena

 Gordon Hood-Prosecutor

Alfred Jabulani-Mpudi

Paul Makgob-Masaba

Daniel Marolen-Priest

Sophie Mgcina-Choir Soloist

George Moore-Legal Aid Society Secretary

 Flora Motaung-Rurari

 Siegfried Mynhardt-Judge

 Hugh Rouse-Bantu Commissioner

 Jimmy Sabe-Leadsinger

 John Sithebe-Witch Doctor

 Simon Swindell-Doctor

 Thandi -Letsea

 Clement Mehlomakulu Tlhotlhhalemji-Priest

 Fusi Zazayokwe-Stick fighter

 Director

Jamie Uys

 Producer

Jamie Uys

Writer

Jamie Uys

Original Music

Eddie Domingo

Bertha Egnos

Basil Gray

21 comments

  1. […] one of South Africa’s grand old ladies of movies and musicals. See also my previous post OST Dingaka 1965 for more music and info on her […]


  2. I’ve been looking for the soundtrack for Dingaka for over 30 years, since I left my mother’s house! She had a copy of it.
    I managed to see the film in the 1990s at the 7 Arts theatre in Norwood.
    What a wonderful trip down memory lane!
    I woke up this morning singing “when the roll is called up yonder,” so I thought I’d google Dingaka and found your fabulous entry. Thanks so much.


  3. This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.


  4. Assisti a este filme lá pelos idos de 1978. Nunca mais o vi. Mas, uma música nunca me saiu da mente. Na época não sabia o nome, mas era algo como shosholota, hoje sei que é shosholoza, e é muito famosa. Até hoje procuro o mesmo arranjo que ví no filme, desta mesma música e não vi versão melhor, nem com o Lady Smith&Black Manbazo. No filme ficou estampado em minha mente e nunca consegui esquecer a harmonia do estilo capela, que por aqui na época era totalmente desconhecido.
    Parabéns pelo seu blog.


  5. Será que existe a trilha em CD ou DVD?


  6. Does anyone know where I can get a copy of a video of the original concert with the original cast? I know that it was showed on South African Television in the 1970’s.


    • Are you talking about Ipi Ntombi? Because I have a video of the original 1970’s production….


      • please see the update of Dingaka post. There is a VHS available on ebay (16-1-2015)


  7. I am the granddaughter of the late Eddie Domingo. I have grownup with stories of my grandfathers contribution to South African music and plays in the 50’s and 60’s. My late father Eddie Domingo Jnr. would have been so proud to see his dads name mentioned on this site. Should anybody have more information on my Grandfathers work please contact me via the above email address.


    • dear Meaghan Domingo, always a pleasure to read comments like yours. It means that the information on our pages is worthy and useful. Hopefully you will get more info on your Grandfathers work. Best regards, Eddy@SoulSafari


  8. i want to buy dvd Dingaka. i saw the film in 1974 and found it thrilling


    • Great movie but indeed tough one to find on DVD.


  9. Pois é… já se passaram dois anos do meu último post e ainda não consegui o filme, nem as músicas. Uma pena, realmente.


    • the soundtrack of Dingaka can be bought here . Not that difficult to find I believe.


  10. Is Dingaka available on dvd yet?


    • there is a VHS of Dingaka available on eBay


  11. “It was re-written and adapted for the soundtrack of the movie ‘Dingaka’ by Bertha Egnos” I have a problem with this, re-written in what way? Bertha and Domingo used African folk songs, made black performers to sing them and took all the credit, that goes for 70% of the score, these songs have always existed (I acknowledge the parts where Bertha is singing, but no words or melodies were rearranged). To add salt to injury, most of the performers of these songs were never credited for the music. “Thunder Orgy” for e.g. A workers resistance anthem denouncing the white man, the song predates Dingaka by at least 2 decades, the song is also sang in ‘Jim Comes to Joburg/African Jim’, It’s lyrics goes as such:

    Abelungu ngo doti, abelungu ngo doti (white people are rubbish)
    basibiza ngo boy, basi biza ngo Jim (they call us ‘boy’, they call us Jim)

    I found it ironic that this song would appear triumphant in both these films.


    • you seem to mix up a few different songs by Bertha Egnos;
      An African Lullaby (Tula Baba) by Eva Madison with the Bertha Gray singers -as featured in a previous post
      https://soulsafari.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/south-african-soul-divas-pt-3-dolly-rathebe-mabel-mafuya-nancy-jacobs-eva-madison/.

      This song is indeed based upon a traditional South African folk song that mothers sang to put their babies to sleep. It was re-written and adapted by Bertha Egnos, Eddie Domingo with choral arrangements by Basil Gray. This version was released in 1963, long before the new adaption for the movie ‘Dingaka’. The version by Eva Madison with the Bertha Gray singers has English lyrics and is quite distinctive since it has an orchestration and choral arrangements. In that way the song is re-written, re-arranged and a totally new interpretation of an old folk song.

      Then the song ‘Dingaka Lullaby -Tula Baba’ is featured
      in the soundtrack of the movie ‘Dingaka’ -both the original version by Jamie Uys and later in the American version- but again, re-worked, re-arranged and included as a vocal performance, exactly in the same way as the traditional song would have been sung for ages by mothers puttin their babies to sleep. That is very realistic in the context of the movie.

      And sure, from a critical point of view, a movie like ‘Dingaka’ just as shows like ‘Ipi Ntombi’ or even ‘King Kong’ sentimentalized and celebrated the life of the rural ‘native’. At the time movies and theatre in South Africa confirmed white attitudes and prejudices and are blatantly paternalistic in the long colonial tradition. But nevertheless, Bertha Egnos showed firstly with ‘Ipi Ntombi’ and later with ‘Dingaka’ the world South African Zulu tribal culture at its best and popularized this at a time when Apartheid still ruled the Union.

      I do not see why that is such a bad thing. I believe that Bertha Egnos as an artist was quite anti-establishment and more brave then most South African whites at the time. You seem to focus mainly on the exploitation side of South African black culture.

      As far as I know nobody stole anything here since these folk songs are public domain anyway, just like the works by Mozart or Bach. Where would Bob Dylan be without North American folk songs? Or Woody Guthrie?
      Anybody can interpret these songs without ‘stealing them’. And above all, Bertha has always credited the origins of the song Tula Baba. You can also read the extensive article I have published earlier on the work and personality of Bertha Egnos.

      https://soulsafari.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/eureka-tribute-to-bertha-egnos/

      the Original lyrics of Tula Baba

      Tula Tu Tula baba Tula sana Tul’umam ‘uzobuya ekuseni Tula Tu Tula baba Tula sana Tul’umam ‘uzobuya eku…


      • Firstly: it’s spelt Thula thu thula sana (with an H). We may have different versions of the soundtrack (there is no English version of Thula baba in the opening 2 tracks on the one I have, and certain no choral arrangement as there are solo performances) so that would explain part of my discontent. The 1963 Eva Madison with the Bertha Gray singers may have been re-written, not the 1st and second track on ‘Dingaka’. You use “original version” quite liberally here.

        Were the songs public domain in 1965?

        I don’t think we can talk about King Kong and Dingaka in the same vein. King Kong has acknowledgement of each and every individual contributor (by name), it is not the same for Dingaka, and this is the point I was driving at. You also only make reference to Thula Baba, what of the other folk songs used throughout the album?

        I didn’t speak of “stealing” but you have to admit to a great deal of culture appropriation here.

        Ken Gampu died a pauper and he was probably the most successful of the black performers on Dingaka.


  12. thanks for the correct spelling of Thula Baba. I refer to the title and lyrics as I found them on the record, I am not 100% familiar with the Zulu language so pardon my poor knowledge of the correct spelling.

    oh yes, the songs were already public domain in 1963, the year that the first version of Tula Baba (without H) was released on Continental Records. Folk songs like this are so old and come from so many different sources that it is very hard to trace their Original Composer to one person-if such a person exists-.

    Of course, it is widely known and of great injustice that many black composers were exploited and not recognised for their work at the time, and not only in South Africa but in the USA as well. ” Wimoweh -The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ may be the primary example for this sort of practice. Although in later years the song was rightly credited to Solomon Linda, the Original Composer and his estate got the long awaited royalties at last. Justice done.

    So despite a tragic person like Ken Gampu there are several other positive examples of black artists who escaped poverty and became succesfull in their own right. You should not forget that a production like ‘Ipi Ntombi’ made a star of Margaret Singana who was cleaning houses before she made it big time.


  13. “Trevor Gampu died a pauper…”. I wonder what Eddie Domingo die?



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