In one of the grandest hotels in the world, born of and to luxury, today you enter ‘at own risk’. More than 2500 people live there without water or electricity. They have taken possession of the building and manipulated not only the stones but also the dreams. A journey through present and past of a city in a city; a story about colonial megalomania, revolutionary vanity and feeling at home.
The Grande Hotel Beira was a luxurious hotel in Beira, Mozambique built by entrepreneur Arthur Brandão. It was open from 1954 to 1964, after which the holiday resort was used as military base and prison in the Mozambican Civil War. It has since fallen into disuse, and is currently home to numerous squatters, who have stripped the building of construction materials to provide a limited source of income.
Its failure wasn’t completely because of the revolution or government rule but the construction and maintenance costs were too high and they didn’t receive enough guests because of more affordable and better located competition.
In 1964, after ten years of operation, the Grande Hotel was closed by the Companhia de Moçambique. The construction costs were three times more than the original budget, and the hotel never made any profit. The anticipated number of wealthy guests never came and the workforce was too large for the amount of guests actually received. Every elevator, for example, had its own operator present. The hotel needed a lot of maintenance to keep it in its luxurious condition.
In several documents it was claimed that the reason for closure was the refusal of the regime to grant the hotel a casino permit. Any realistic estimation would have predicted the failure of the hotel. The white residents of Southern Africa couldn’t afford this level of luxury and Beira was not known, internationally, as a prime holiday destination for wealthy people. Destinations like the Bazaruto archipelago at Vilanculos, the Mediterranean city life style of the Mozambican capital Lourenço Marques, the South African Krüger national park and the Victoria Falls in Rhodesia where more famous across the world.
A cheaper alternative to the Grande Hotel was the Ambassador Hotel. This hotel opened just after the inauguration of the Grande Hotel and was preferred by business people because it was situated in the Baixa (downtown) area, where most of the business offices were located. Remarkably, Arthur Brandão was also the owner of this hotel.
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.
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.
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.
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’veGot to Dig, Dig, Dig for Gold)” isthe 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 -African Rock ‘n Roll
João Maria Tudella was born in Lourenço Marques, he studied at the Coimbra University in Portugal. He first won renown as a Fado singer, but has shown himself to be equally adept at dance band music and proved himself in several recordings to be a gifted young singer.
On this remarkable rare album ‘Uma Casa Portuguesa’, released by Gallotone at the end of the 50’s, João returns to his Portuguese roots. The selection of songs are all compositions by Artur Fonseca who is responsible for writing the classic song ‘Uma Casa Portuguesa’, best known in the version by Amalia Rodrigues and hundreds others. A rare photograph of Artur Fonseca together with Tudella at the piano graces the cover.
At the time of the release of this album Fonseca was working as musical director of the Radio Clube of Moçambique, based in Lourenço Marques, nowadays Maputo. Then the capital and biggest city of Moçambique, a thriving Portuguese colony, Lourenço Marques attracted many South Africans for busines and holidays. Gambling and the luxurious entertainment offered at the casinos were other main attractions. The many hotels of the city offered regular gigs to the many visiting artists from Portugal and South Africa. See also Cabaret at The Moçambique.
The doors of popularity opened to João Tudella because of his two successes ‘Kanimambo’ and ‘Hambanine’, which were real hits in the field of popular music. These two discs put João Tudella in the hit parade around South Africa and in Moçambique, the land of his birth.
On this album well known South African bandleader and arranger Dan Hill, great friend of the composer Fonseca, accompanies pianist João Tudella with a small quintet.