A Cosmopolitan Night With Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores

Todays post features one of the most charming and unusually good lounge records found in South Africa on my last safari during the past few months

I am happy to add this rare album to my ever-growing collection of music for restaurant, nightclubs and lounges

The album “A Cosmopolitan Night With Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores” was recorded live in the mid 60s at the Lourenco Marques Restaurant  in Johannesburg, while the cover photo was taken at another restaurant/club The Casino in Johannesburg

The repertoire represents that cosmopolitan sound that was ever so popular in the 60s in the nightlife and restaurants where the South African well-heeled big city dwellers came to dance and romance;  Cha Cha, Tango, Baion, Rumba and Mediterrean popular music. All arranged and played by a South African female bandleader and singer accompanied by The Rumbadores and choral group The Mellotones…

A very well know group working in the same style and sound as Silva Bera were The Chakachas, a Belgian based group of Latin soul and Afro Cuban studio musicians, founded in 1958 by bandleader Gaston Bogaert.

See also my previous posts

Last night at the Carlton, Johannesburg with Renatino di Napoli

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part One 

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

A Cosmopolitan Night With Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores

Silva Bera was born in Istanbul. Her father is a Turk, her mother is Greek and her grandmother is Italian. At the age of five she started playing the piano, singing and composition at the Conservatoire of Athens for twelve year. It was there that she learnt her unique microphone technique and stage presentation. Apart from Miss Bera’s remarkable musical ability she speaks Turkish, Greek, French, Italian and English fluently and sings in many other languages like Hebrew, Portuguese and Spanish.

She came to South Africa as a young singer and has performed in most of the best Johannesburg restaurants, where she has thrilled her audiences with her husky voice and Continental charm. She is accompanied by Her Rumbadores and  she is probably the only woman bandleader in the country and although she finds this difficult, she will never lose courage, as she hopes to make her contribution to music in South Africa.

She has become known as the Catherina Valente of South Africa and although she is very proud of this status, she prefers to be known by her own style. South African musicians like Dan Hill and many others have helped and inspired to success and she is most grateful tot hem.  

Silva Bera’s versatility and vibrant personality are predominant on this variety packed album.

see also my previous post on Dan Hill and Dana Valery

‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli

Listen to both sides of this rare album in its original sequence with live audience participating…

MAMADU is a fast cha cha which she sings in Brazilian.

She sings HANEGEV, a sad desert song, in Hebrew and in a man’s voice. A soldier sings to his mother from the desert, telling her that it is his duty to fight.

SALADE DE FRUITS is sung in French with a cha cha rhythm. The girl’s fiance name is Fruit Salad. She asks him to marry her because she likes him and everything he does.

POR DOS BESOS is sung in Spanish and Italian and is a Tango Cha Cha. It is the story of a girl who tells her boyfriend not to joke with love and to marry her. This is an extremely difficult song to sing because the lyrics alternate between Spanish and Italian with every two words.

Miss Bera sings IMITTOS in Greek and the rhythm is a baion.

The Rumbadores open Side Two of the record with their own special interpretation of GOLDEN GIRL, which is followed by Miss Bera singing in English her own arrangement of AROUND THE WORLD in a cha cha rhythm.

There are two songs which are special features on the album, introducing the drummer of the Rumbadores, Stefano La Placa, who sings LET ME CRY and TINTERELLA DI LUNA.

Miss Bera sings AL DI LA in italian and in a slow rock style.

SIFIRIZO is her own composition, which means I’m Whistling. It is a slow baion and is sung in Greek. It is about a street girl who blames society for what she has become and walks the streets whistling when she is looking for a man.

BAN DI RUOLA is a fast cha cha sung in italian.

All the choral backings on this album are provided by The Mellotones.

Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores –A Cosmopolitan Night With (Continental Records ZB 8025- South Africa)

Also re-issued as  Silva Bera and Her Rumbadores:Turkish Delight (Black Cat Productions 2016)

In Tune with South Africa -Albie Louw

today’s post features a series of records that fits perfectly into my favorite category ‘Music For Restaurants, Nightclubs & Hotel Lounges’ with gorgeous covers. After a few years of digging I finally completed a full set of 5 volumes of ‘In Tune with South Africa’ by keyboard player Albie Louw. And after some research I found out that the guy was more then just tickling the ivory….read more

The following is extracted from Volume III of the 1986 edition of South African Music Encyclopedia (J.P. Malan, ISBN 0 19 570363 4) 

ALBERTUS JOHANNES (ALBIE) LOUW, baritone, born 10 February 1926 near Malmesbury, South Africa

After initial training in pianoforte and singing at Stellenbosch, Louw continued his study at the College of Music in Cape Town. His pianoforte playing was supervised by Cameron Taylor and Lili Kraus and for singing he successively had Lucy Greathead, John Andrews, Alessandro Rota and Gregorio Fiasconaro as teachers. During his College years he became a member of the University’s Opera Group for whom (up to 1970) he interpreted a range of repertoire operas which included Don Giovanni, Tosca and Le Nozze di Figaro. He accompanied this group on their tour to England and Scotland in 1953 and sang in The Consul by Menotti. He had an exceptional occasion in 1961 when he interpreted the title role at the premiere of John Joubert’s Silas Marner in Cape Town. As a pianist he played with the Cape Town City Orchestra at least once in a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Since the establishment of the Regional Councils for the Performing Arts (1962) he has undertaken concert tours and the singing of opera roles for CAPAB, NAPAC and PACT. 

Springbok Radio’s “Shell Show”

His main interest, and the one to which he has devoted the most time and attention, lies in the domain of light music, especially in the world of broadcasting for which he has performed both as pianist and as singer and in combination with his own Albie Louw Salon Orchestra in the transmission of innumerable entertainments. His orchestra became renowned through years of participation in Springbok Radio’s “Shell Show”, often in arrangements by Louw himself. Another popular group which owes its existence to his initiative were the Safari Singers, who interpreted his arrangements of folk songs, as well as his original lyrics. Their performances were characterised by Louw directing, singing and playing the piano at the same time. 

In 1978 he orchestrated and conducted for NAPAC the musical “Aladdin” and in 1979 he conducted “Annie” during the last two weeks of its season in Cape Town. In the same year he undertook a concert tour with his Safari Singers for CAPAB, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the FAK. He has supported the tenor Gé Korsten in various shows, e.g. in the TV show for which he composed the song In die Kaap Maak die Boere Lekker Wyn. Albie Louw also had a studio in Cape Town where he taught singing and pianoforte playing.


not an unusual practice with the big record companies…when no individual art work was available for a certain record then another cover was used. Just like this original 7″ ep by the Benoni Flute Quintet and the Alexandra Shamber Boys and Girls that became a twin cover for Albie Louw ‘In Tune with South Africa Volume 5 -Kwela’

see also The Don Albert Combo -Dinner (not breakfast) at Tiffany’s

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

In my previous post Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part One Italian born singer Viviana remembers working and partying in Johannesburg and around the clubs, restaurants in East London in the mid 1960’s.

This is part two of an exclusive Q&A I had with Viviana. Thanks so much for the memories.

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

Viviana + Rene Moya
Viviana + Rene Moya

Q-did any black artists performed in Jo’burg nightlife around 1965? Was jazz music popular in the circuit you worked in?

A- a few black artists performed, but not many. I didn’t know most of their names and frankly personally I only saw a few, one of them was Hugh Masekela. As musicians we didn’t differentiate with races, and accepted talent and technique only. It was different with the laws of the country, but to all of us it never made any difference. I know they were required to enter the premises from the back door, but the clients liked them very much. As for jazz venues, I don’t recall any specific one, but I do remember a combo with Hennie Bekker (piano), Johnny Fourie (guitar), Johnny Boshoff (bass), Tony Moore (drums) they played excellent fusion and being good musicians they eventually played and produced at SABC. I worked with all of them on one nighters, shows and functions later on after they disbanded

 Q-were there any specific discotheques/places for dancing or only restaurants with dancing facilities. How safe was it to go out at night?

A- I don’t remember many discotheques except Bella Napoli in Hillbrow. Every restaurant had a band and everywhere you could dance till very late. Nobody had any problems walking around at any time at night. It was extremely safe. In fact until 1983/84 Johannesburg was still safe enough, as I remember walking in Hillbrow to go to Fontana’s to get a roast chicken at 3am, in my jammies. At that time the guys from club 58 (gay club) used to come to my flat and wake me up when they finished working, so we would make coffee and go and get food.

Johannesburg night scene around Market Street -Albie Louw ‘In Tune With South Africa vol. 6’

Q-what neighbourhoods of Jo’burg were frequented for the nightlife? Around Market Street, around the theatres?

A-Mainly the scene was in Hillbrow , Market Street, Joubert Park and Downtown. Now all these places are impossible to go to, very dangerous, and have deteriorated dreadfully.

Q-I understand that lots of the music that was featured in the restaurants/nightlife was called ‘Continental’. French, Italian, etc. Why do you think that was? Was there a certain taste for European music? Was any typical South African music performed?

A- Continental music was extremely popular and I guess I was lucky to arrive at that time as I did not have to make many changes to my repertoire. I don’t know why, or who started the trend. I guess also the Latin-american trend in movies was to blame. Typical South african music, and by that I mean afrikaans was not considered trendy enough for clubs. But there were a lot records in Afrikaans. The one modern band that was upcoming was Rabbit, they were young and rock, but they were sort of “squashed” by the media, Trevor Rabin was in that group. Eventually they left the country and I see that Trevor writes a lot of huge movie soundtracks in the USA.

 Q-you mentioned Bez Martin, a saxophone player. I do own a record by him “Shuffle With Bez, Cha Cha with Martin” on which he plays cha cha and shuffle styles of music. Were these styles played a the nightclubs/restaurants mainly or were there more styles of dancing that were popular at the time?

Bez Martin 1965
Bez Martin 1965

A-Bez was a friend for many years and I did many functions with him at the Superbowl in Sun City many years later as well. Continental music was played everywhere, but also we played a lot of swing and American classics. Whatever came from the States and we heard on the Radio, we rehearsed in the afternoon and played the same night.

A-were your bookings for a longer period or for just one night?

Q- I was always booked with a minimum 3 months contract or longer. Although we did one nighters on our night off (Sunday). Weddings etc. We worked very hard, I still can’t believe I had all that energy and still had time to party some nights after work.

A-were you touring the country and working the circuit?

Q- After Johannesburg I went on the circuit, and that means you can never take a holiday, as the bands change every 3 or 6 months (I did stay in some Hotels for a year and longer) we had an agent Maurice Fresco (after Keleti) and he kept on booking us from place to place for many years. Only top 5 stars Hotels.

Rene Moya & His Band feat Viviana LP  cover

Q-what about Lourenco Marques in Mozambique. What sort of nightlife entertainment was on offer? Were the records released by the bands/singers manufactured as a souvenir or commercially released by the record companies?

A- I know Rene’ worked at the Polana Hotel, that was very famous and came to South Africa after working in Mozambique and Angola, that was also a swinging place. I am not aware of records released commercially, but I really don’t know.

The Polana Hotel -1965
The Polana Hotel -1965

Q-have you ever performed in Afrikaans speaking places of interest. Like Loch Vaal Hotel?

A- I have never performed in Afrikaans speaking places. I only did a concert once on a sunday with an Afrikaans band, it was in a huge tent and in a little dorp (village, place) outside Johannesburg. Frankly I should have kept on doing those concerts as everyone that sang there became extremely famous in the country. Lol.

Q-does any of these places ring a bell?? The Beachcomber in Durban. The Caravelle in Johannesburg. The Balalaika Hotel – a popular country type of hotel/restaurant-. Franco Italian restaurant in Johannesburg. Tiffany’s Restaurant in Commissioner Street, Jo’burg.

A- Yes all of them, very famous. I ate at Franco’s often and got special treats (being Italian and speaking the lingo) I did sing at the Balalaika on occasions, and then much later we did a contract there for 6 months, but not in the 60s, in the 70s.

a night at Franco's


Q-have you ever heard of a singer called Eduardo Jaime? He was Portuguese and very famous in South Africa if I’m well informed.

A-Yes I met Eduardo, he was working with Rene’ at the Mikado before me, I believe I got the job because Dan called Rene’ when him and Eduardo were having a lot of differences and Eduardo just got fired. Rene’ and Eduardo were both very fiery. They were partners in crime though when it came to parties and girls. Yes he was Portuguese. I have no idea how long he worked at the Mikado.

The Mikado restaurant logo

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part One

My collection of records from South Africa consists of many colours, mainly black music but my heart is also weak for the sound of pop music that was popular in the 1960’s in the swanky restaurants, hotels and nightclubs of Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London. The circuit reached as far as the holiday resorts in Mocambique, Portuguese Angola, even the Belgian Congo.

Around 1965 Mediterranean music became hugely popular in South Africa. Dance styles like the Twist, the Mambo and the Cha Cha, originally born and bred in the United States first swept Italy and the Mediterranean region before being exported to South Africa where performers catered for the refined taste of the well heeled visitors and sophisticated dancers that frequented the big hotels and nightclubs of the capital. More and more European musicians, singers and bands landed in eGoli, the city of gold & diamonds where riches and fame was to be found aplenty. There existed a circuit of hip places and palaces of nocturnal pleasures; nightclubs, bars and restaurants where live music was an extra attraction to the fine dining and luxurious surroundings. Valet parking included.

This exclusive Q&A tells the story of nightlife in Johannesburg in 1965 through the memories of Italian born singer Viviana. Part One.

In 1965 singer Viviana came to the city of Pretoria with a head full of dreams and a voice that could charm birds out of trees. She followed her father Prof. Carlo Pacchiori who was head-hunted in Trieste, Italy by Maestro Leo Quayle and Mr Bosman de Kock, who came to hear her dad and offered him the position of First Lead Violin in the PACT, South Africa’s first symphonic orchestra with musicians from all over the world.

While growing up in Italy, Viviana made her first pop broadcast over Radio Trieste when she was nine. She was an established nightclub singer in Europe when she came to South Africa. She sang in seven languages and made her first South African LP “Réne Moya featuring Viviana”

Viviana + Réne Moya

 Q-please tell me when you arrived in South Africa and what drove you there. Were you already a professional singer?

A-I arrived in Pretoria in 1965, from Trieste Italy. My father had been head-hunted to be to first lead violin of the PACT orchestra. He came to South Africa in 1964 when the PACT Orchestra was created, my mother and I followed a few months later. I had already been singing professionally on weekends and some gigs at night as I was finishing school too. My first public appearance was when I was nine and I sang in concert and Italian Radio. I was well liked. When I arrived in Pretoria I was introduced to a pianist whose name I cannot remember. I did a few gigs and concerts with him, but, pushed by my parents I was also working as a secretary at Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria. This pianist thought it was a disgrace for me to work in an office and he organized for me to have an audition with Dan Hill, so we drove to Johannesburg.

Viviana + Dan Hill & His band at the Orange Grove Hotel Johannesburg Sept 1966
Viviana + Dan Hill & his band at the Orange Grove Hotel -Johannesburg Sept 1966

Q-Dan Hill was one of the leading artists/arrangers/band leaders at the time.Can you tell me more about your collaboration with him?

A-Dan liked me, but at that time he already had a singer and he immediately phoned Réne Moya to tell him he had a vocalist for his combo. I started working with Réne, then Réne left for a few months and I joined Dan at the Grove. –The Grove was a nightclub at the Orange Grove Hotel, situated at 192, Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg –note of the editor

see also ‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli

We did many gigs together too, weddings, functions. Dan Hill was one of the best musicians in S.A. and very well respected. Unfortunately I was not with him for a very long time. He was a very kind man and nice to the musos. Then Réne returned and I went back to work with him, Dan asked us to do an LP together, he previously had done an previous album only with Réne when I wasn’t on the scene yet. I only did one LP with Dan Hill that was released as “Réne Moya featuring Viviana”. After that I did a few radio transcriptions with Rollo Scott. He was a big personality/producer at SABC. The song “Lost in Love” I co-wrote with Rollo Scott, the musical arrangement is by Bez Martin, a brilliant saxophone player. I worked a lot on gigs with him.

Q-describe the nightlife scene in Johannesburg at the time. What sort of people did visit the restaurants/nightclubs. Were there any foreigners? Were people of different race & colour allowed in as guests?

A-I must say I was a bit unaware about any laws at that time, I did not see any blacks as patrons. Yes there were people of other races in the restaurants, Chinese, Japanese, Indians too, all countries. People were extremely elegant in those days. The men wearing suits and ladies always in evening dresses. Lots of jewels and fur coats. Very high standard, opulent clients. There was a lot of happiness at that time and fun everywhere. Those times where swinging.

The Mikado restaurant logo

The Mikado Restaurant was a top spot opposite Joubert Park, very luxurious and it belonged to Francesco and Janice Miller. A fantastic restaurant with bands and shows at every corner.

Réne Moya was considered one of the top pianists of that era and I was a very young girl with a passion for singing. Everyone was much older than I was, and I learnt a lot. We used to play until very late, starting at 8pm and finishing at 2am, the places were always full. All the rich and famous came to the Mikado.

Much later the Mikado became the Garden of Allah ( a curry place), I don’t know what it is called now, but years ago it looked totally deteriorated, so sad. It used to be an amazing place. We all knew each other (I mean all the bands), musos from one place would visit other spots if they finished earlier. Many times I found myself at Fontana’s in Hillbrow at 3 am getting food, and there I would see other musos from other spots coming for a bite to eat. We had theme nights too at the Mikado, mainly continental inspired.

Viviana +RéneMoya band at The Mikado restaurant Johannesburg 1965
Viviana +Réne Moya band at The Mikado restaurant Johannesburg 1965

We were there when the big train robbery happened and were very puzzled by some English men, very showy, gangster types who looked extremely rich and came to the Mikado every night. They only came for a short while and then we never saw them again.

Of course being in the band has a lot of perks as everyone invites you to their table for drinks and you get close to everybody. I never drank, but there was a lot of happy drinking going on. It wasn’t just the restaurants and the clubs, the movie houses were popular too, beautiful places decorated with balconies and statues inside them. They looked incredible. People dressed up to go to movies just as much as going to clubs.

see also Johannesburg Night Club Festival 1964

I remember that here was one striptease artist only, Glenda Kemp, that scandalized the scene a bit. I personally thought she was very good. I met her again 30 years ago and she was selling clothes in a boutique in Jo’burg, subsequently she moved to Durban, she had become a Christian, keeping to herself, and was very ashamed about her past. I tried to tell her she had nothing to be ashamed of, but she felt very guilty. Very sweet girl that had been exploited by her partner.

Lourenco Marques restaurant & nightclub flyer July 27 1967
Lourenco Marques restaurant & nightclub -advertisement July 27 1967

Q-did International artists perform in the circuit?

A-I remember when Marlene Dietrich came, in fact she was on the plane I was on coming to South Africa, Liberace I remember. But mainly they were not working on the circuit since they gave performances in theaters and came to the clubs after that as patrons. Otherwise some restaurants imported Continental bands. Even a friend of my dad, from Trieste Italy, came with his band and played at Ciro’s for 6 months. His name was Giorgio Paoletti. Of course we had Renatino di Napoli. When I was working in Port Elizabeth at the Mark, the daughter of Winston Churchill, there on holiday, was always wanting to spend time with us, even during the day, she was a lonely lady and loved music.

see also Last night at the Carlton, Johannesburg with Renatino di Napoli

next post will feature Part 2 of Last Night At The Mikado