In the 1930’s African Jazz Music became an important feature in the lives of many urban Africans and some remarkable talent began to emerge in Johannesburg.

In 1952 the Union of Southern African Artists came into being with the dual function of promoting the talent that had already been shown to exist in the musical and dramatic field and to act as an Artist’s Equity. The union promoted Township Jazz concerts which were the first large scale African entertainments to be presented in the capital of South Africa, and arranged for white and non-European audiences to see and hear a wide range of entertainment by black and colored artists.

South African Institute for Race Relations presents African Jazz and Variety

The Woody Woodpeckers -Fanagalo 

Fanagalo is a pidgin or simplified language, based primarily on Zulu. It is used as a lingua franca, mainly by workers in the gold, diamond, coal and copper mines.

the-woody-woodpeckers   This rare 10″  includes two songs by The Woody Woodpeckers, a group around  songwriter and musician, Victor Ndlazilwane, who was awarded the Metro FM Lifetime Achievement award in 2006 in South Africa. During his early career, Ndlazilwane was part of the legendary Woody Woodpeckers group as well as the Jazz Ministers, both of which were signed to Gallo Record Company. The Jazz Ministers were the first African jazz band to perform at the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival in New York.

King Jeff & His African Jazz Troupe -Rock Around The Clock 

At the end of the 40’s and mid-50’s when Rock ‘n Roll swept through the world like a tsunami, a bleached derivative of American Jazz and R&B music was popular in South Africa. Black and white musicians, singers and performers catered for the refined taste of the well heeled visitors and sophisticated dancers that frequented the big hotels and nightclubs of the big cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.  There existed a circuit of hip hangouts and palaces of nocturnal pleasures; theaters, nightclubs, bars and restaurants where live music was an extra attraction to the fine dining and luxurious surroundings. Valet parking included. But the jungle rhythms of the American originals  were a wee bit too adventurous to serve as a soundtrack for an exquisite night out at The Colony Hotel or The Beachcomber. So more musicians, singers and bands turned towards the then popular sound of the Mediterranean countries like Italy or Portugal. Many landed in Johannesburg , the city of gold & diamonds where riches and fame was to be found aplenty.

a night at Franco's watermarked    Such a nightclub/restaurant was Franco’s, located in downtown Johannesburg. The nightclub was a famous hangout for the city’s well-heeled crowd, musical entertainment consisted mainly of evergreens from around the world, sometimes local songs were included in the repertoire. A mixed bag really, something you can dance to or just listen to in the safety of a segregated environment.

The Beachcomber in Durban and The Grand Hotel Beira in Mozambique were similar hangouts, where well-to-do visitors from Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo or the Rhodesias could unwind on a dream holiday. Or they came to make a business deal, or simply to be entertained by the best of performers around.

Grande Hotel, a beautiful Art Deco resort in Beira, Mozambique opened in 1955.

The Three Petersen Brothers and Nico Carstens and his Orchestra

The Three Petersen Brothers, Mervyn, Basil and Andy, are really brothers who belong to one of the oldest theatrical families in South Africa. They are versatile and musically gifted, touring the country, appearing on stage, in variety and as cabaret artists in every nightclub in South Africa, in addition to regular radio performances. ‘On Safari’ is their first LP recording together with the famous Nico Carstens Orchestra.

from the original liner notes by Anton De Waal of ‘On Safari’ Columbia 33JS 11011 South Africa 

Three Petersen Brothers -Voom-Ba Voom 

Three Petersen Brothers -Pondoland

Three Petersen Brothers -Jo’burg Samba

Nigel Crawford with the Gold Diggers

“Gold Rock (You’ve Got to Dig, Dig, Dig for Gold)” is the title of a 78 rpm by Nigel Crawford with the Gold Diggers. The song explains why a small settlement in Gauteng could grow into the famed capital of ‘eGoli’, a Zulu word meaning “place of gold”. Johannesburg could not be bettered as an appropriate locale for the story of all those who came starry eyed to the big city, chasing a dream.

Nigel Crawford with the Gold Diggers -Gold Rock

Nigel Crawford with the Gold Diggers -Hamba Lala (African Calypso)

john massey and his warriors -fanagalo watermarked

 

John Massey and his Warriors -African Rock ‘n Roll 

John Massey and his Warriors -Fanagalo 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Voom-Ba Voom -Rock ‘n Roll in South Africa

  1. Thanks for this, nice read. I think your use of the term Rock and Roll is pushing it a bit though, (except for the king-jeff-and-his-african-jazz-troupe cut of course). None the less cool to imagine that time.

    Best,

    Yale

    Yale Evelev

    Luaka Bop 195 Chrystie 602 b New York, N.Y. 10002

    office: 212-624-1469 cel: 917-603-8678

    1. thanks for your reaction Yale! I agree that the title of my post is titillating a bit the definition of Rock N Roll as we know it.
      But that is done on purpose as I am focusing more on the bleached derivative of Rock n Roll, American Jazz and variety music that was popular in South Africa at
      the time.

      best, Eddy@SoulSafari

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