Over the weekend I spent quite a happy moment going back to the contents of my Karoo-box. A few original 78’s have been on my turntable ever since. Here is a true classic that I like to share; ‘Skokiaan’. Among the artists who recorded the song are Louis Armstrong, Bill Haley, Herb Alpert, Brave Combo, and Hugh Masekela. See also 16 skokiaan versions

The African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia

A-side –Skokiaan

B-side –In the Mood

Recorded in 1947

Writer August Musarurwa

Genre Tsaba-Tsaba

released as DECCA FM 6142 South Africa, year unknown.

“Skokiaan” was first recorded as a sax and trumpet instrumental by the African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) under leadership of Musarurwa, possibly in 1947. The band comprised two saxophones, two banjos, traps, and a bass. Several tunes played by the Cold Storage Band were recorded by ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in June 1951. On Tracey’s recording, Musarurwa also apparently played for the Chaminuka Band. Musarurwa copyrighted “Skokiaan”, probably in 1952.

Within a year of its 1954 release in South Africa, at least 19 cover versions of “Skokiaan” appeared. The Rhodesian version reached No 17 in the United States, while a cover version by Ralph Marterie climbed to No 3. All versions combined propelled the tune to No 2 on the Cash Box charts that year. Its popularity extended outside of music, with several urban areas in the United States taking its name.

the full wiki-story of the origins of the song + charts here

14 thoughts on “The African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia

  1. OK, I’ve done some very careful listening and a bit of research and have come to an amazing conclusion:

    This original version of “Skokiaan” by the “African Dance Band of the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia” is the EXACT SAME RECORDING as the later-released 1954 single “Skokiaan” credited to “Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band.” Not a similar copycat recording or an outtake from the same session but THE EXACT SAME TRACK. The two versions only sound slightly different because when it was re-released in 1954 some machine somewhere in the remastering process was not calibrated properly, and so the music that ended up on the 1954 record is at a very slightly higher pitch and very slightly faster tempo — meaning the master tape machine was playing a bit too fast; alternately, the receiving machine could have been recording too slow.

    Additionally, the fidelity is different between the two. Not sure if this is an audio artifact of a 78 rpm disc versus a 45 rpm disc, or something that was done intentionally in the remastering process, but either way, the Cold Storage Commission version sounds slightly “flatter” while the Bulawayo version has a richer bass.

    But these are just minor differences that trick the ear into thinking that there are two different recordings. If you listen to both very very carefully, you will hear that every single idiosyncrasy and boo-boo occurs precisely the same on both records, something that would simply not be able to be accomplished with live musicians re-recording the song.

    A good example can be heard at precisely 1:44 on this Cold Storage Commission version, when the saxophone player momentarily flubs the fingering on a note in a distinctive way. The same moment can be heard on the Bulawayo version (for example, the version audible at http://learning2share.blogspot.com/2007/04/78s-from-hell-in-mood-by-bulawayo-sweet.html) at 1:40 (the time difference being due to, as mentioned before, the master tape playing too fast); listen carefully and you will hear the saxophone player flubbing the fingering precisely in the same way on the same note at the same moment, something that would be impossible to replicate in the studio (and why would anyone want to re-create a mistake?)

    Everywhere I read about this song, the writer claim or assume that there were two different recordings made, one earlier (1947 or possibly a year or two after) by the Cold Storage Commission Band, and a second recording made in 1954 by the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band, but I am here to say that this “fact” is wrong — only one recording was made, but it was released twice with different speeds and fidelity credited to two different artists. Listen for yourself if you don’t believe me!

    If anyone would to confirm my research or dispute it, please post an answer here — but I’m sure that I’ve finally solved the mystery.

    1. Hello, my name Nelson from Brazil..please who really created the music Shokiaan? I would like to see or hear the first time it was played (1947)..I tried searching on youtube but could not

  2. Oh, one more thing: this proof can easily be confirmed by listening to both versions of “In the Mood” on the flipside, which similarly is the exact same recording on both versions but re-mastered at a different speed and with a different “fidelity.” Once again with “In the Mood,” all the subtle idiosyncrasies and mistakes are precisely the same on both records. Listen and you’ll agree!

    1. I am not really aware of the change in the known arrangements but yeah, I have listened to both versions of “In The Mood” and I do agree with your observations.

      As you might be aware of, re-releasing tracks recorded in 1947 back in 1955 was common practice, hence the quality of sound and slight difference in the reproduction. At the time, producing records indepently was not such a hight risk investment so existing recordings were improved all the time, being remastered as well as being rereleased.

      Some of the later work on the master may have inhanced the quality of the original recordings although it not always improved the listening experience. That aside, I hope that you do enjoy both records.

      1. Oh, I enjoy them immensely: and I want to thank you for being the first person to FINALLY post an mp3 of the “Cold Storage Commission” original version, so that a comparison can finally be made! This is an historically important post, and nowhere else on the Web can the original be found anywhere (at least in my searches)!

  3. Could they be the same band? A prominent member or personnel moving on, but taking their intellectual property with them? (the Cold Storage Commission might have been a shared workplace, then they cut ties once they had a hit.)

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