Dorothy Masuka was one of the great South African jazz singers of the 1950s. Together with Dolly Rathebe and Miriam Makeba she became an iconic singer and writer of memorable tunes like Pata Pata, Kwawuleza and Into Yam. Many of her songs were recorded by artists like Makeba.
“ Her music was the soundtrack of some our most joyful moments, the light of or souls during our darkest hours” said Nathi Mthethwa, South Africa’s Arts & Culture minister following her death.
Masuka had been suffering from complications related to hypertension, after having a mild stroke in 2018. One of her last stage performances was at Winnie Mandela’s funeral in that same year.
Go Go Suffering
Dorothy Masuka was born in 1935 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Her parents migrated to South Africa when she was 12 years old. Despite her parents’ disapproval, Masuka dropped out of school at 16 to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer.
She signed a deal to record with Troubadour Records and after a spell with the African Ink Spots she left for Zimbabwe to join The Golden Rhythm Crooners. But she was soon on her way back to Johannesburg and in the train she penned ‘Hamba Hamba Nontsokolo’ loosely translated as ‘go, go suffering’.
The song became her biggest hit and one of the most popular songs of the 1950s. It is regarded as an African classic and remains her signature tune to this day. By 1953, when she was 18, Masuka was already a fully fledged professional musician and, along with Makeba and Hugh Masekela, she toured with Alf Herbert’s African Jazz & Variety Show and with the musical King Kong.
She also performed with the Harlem Swingsters in the mid-1950s and endeared herself to a wide audience with her provocative compositions that riled the apartheid regime. In 1961, the Special Branch seized the master recordings of her composition ‘Lumumba’ which paid tribute to Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Congo. She also dared to write a political song about the then Prime Minister Dr Malan and was exiled for over 30 years. In Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and the UK Masuka campaigned for the liberation of SA through her music.
After many years working as a flight attendant for Zambian Airways, she returned to South Africa at the beginning of the 1990’s. A few years later she was a recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga Silver from the SA government. Dorothy Masuka was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in the US in 2002.
Bongi Makeba (20 December 1950 – 1985) was a South African singer/songwriter. She was the only child of singer Miriam Makeba with her first husband, James Kubay.
Makeba was born in South Africa. She recorded only one solo album, ‘Blow On Wind’ (pläne-records) before she died after a traumatic miscarriage in 1985. She was buried in Conakry, Guinea. Some of her songs could be heard years later in her mother’s repertoire. See and hear mother and daughter together on stage at the North Sea Jazz Festival 1980.
Bongi Makeba – Blow On Wind (pläne – 88234) released in 1980 -her only solo album produced in Germany by Conny Plank.
Bongi Makeba -Sikhumbula (Liberation)
Bongi Makeba -Kilimanjaro
Miriam Makeba left South Africa in 1959, after landing a lead role in the jazz musical King Kong, a tragic story about a boxer, Ezekiel “King Kong” Dlamini. After moving to the US, Bongi started a singing career with Judy White, the daughter of blues singer Josh White. The duo released a few singles in 1967 on American labels under the name Bongi & Judy. Although written and produced by some of the then big names, Bert Keyes and Ashford & Simpson, both singles did not stir up big waves.
With her American husband, Nelson Lee, she made two 7″ records in the early to mid-1970s that were more successful. “Bongi and Nelson” features two soul tracks arranged by George Butcher: “That’s the Kind of Love” and “I Was So Glad” (France: Syliphone SYL 533) & “Everything For My Love” and “Do You Remember Malcom ” (France: Syliphone SYL 532).
hi World…here is a new initiative from Soul Safari. A podcast to highlight and celebrate some great unknown South African music!
For this very first show I selected 12 really cool and rare 45 singles by the best of South African Soul Jazz groups, all records from my own collection. Different styles ranging from vocal to instrumental tunes, recorded and released between 1969 to 1982. Seldom heard on any radio-show…but exclusively now for your ears here on Soul Safari as a podcast. 35 minutes of great South African soul jazz.
I do hope you will enjoy this new initiative!
Here is the playlist and pics from all records played….
Already posted in 2013 but still such a real gem that I’d like to share again….a great LP by one of the best groups in soul-jazz style that ruled from mid 60s to mid 70s in South Africa.
Only a few studio-albums and a bunch of rare 7″ singles are known. In addition to the information found on electricjive I add the lp ‘Soul Time’ by The Flaming Souls as today’s post. This obscure group definitely deserves a higher ranking in popularity.
The Flaming Souls were produced by Teal record scout West Nkosi and members included Simon Twala, Philip Malela, Gerald Khoza, Herman Fox, Kenny Mosito and Condry Ziqubu. Their sound is based on a slow jam of groovy organ, guitar and funky drums, drifting loosely to the style of American counterparts like Booker T & MG’s with clear references to Newport jazz as well. Hence a title like ‘Newport Soul’ or the remake of ‘Take Five’. But it is ‘Monks Beat’ that steals the show in this category.
‘Soul Time’ contains a selection of moody instrumentals and grooves that breathe African soul, jazz ala Jimmy Smith or Monk Higgins, even the instrumental organ-based period by James Brown pops up, when he recorded for Mercury/Smash Records.
Different South African indepent labels like Up, Up, Up and Atlantic City have released the group’s recorded output but only locally,which might explain why their records are so unknown and hard to get nowadays. Surprisingly in 1969 , ‘Soul Time’ was released in South Africa on Number One Records, a sub-division of the budget label MFP, Music For Pleasure. Essential album that I like to share here today.
Legendary South African trumpeter and anti-apartheid movement figure, Hugh Masekela has died at aged 78, after a battle with prostate cancer, according to his family and the government.
Born on April 4, 1939, Masekela first picked up a trumpet after seeing the film “Young Man With a Horn” and encouraged by activist Father Trevor Huddleston. Often described as the “father of South African jazz”, Masekela was an icon of South Africa’s Sophiatown, the political and cultural enclave of Johannesburg that was razed by apartheid police but remains a symbol of black freedom.
‘Masekela introducing Hedzoleh Soundz’ is probably one of the most impressive excursions of a jazz trumpeter into the deep heartlands of Africa; Hugh Masekela meets Nigerian band Hedzoleh Soundz.
After his big hit success with ‘Grazing in the grass’, which went to #1 in both the pop and R&B charts in 1968, Masekela joined his former wife Miriam Makeba in Guinea, Africa for a tour. It was there that he met the Ghanian band Hedzoleh Soundz, an extremely talented band known for blending the ancient rhythmic traditions of their native Ghana with American jazz and Latin music.
At the time Fela Kuti was taking Africa and the world by storm with his brand of Nigerian Jazz Funk. The interlocking rhythms over which his saxophone could endlessly groove were reminiscent of the style of funk patterns that James Brown pioneered in the U.S.
Hedzoleh Soundz combines the rhythmic traditions of their native Ghana while Masekela adds the improvisational drive of jazz. The album ‘Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz’ was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973 and features such tracks as ‘Languta’, an irresistible chunk of infectious Afro beat with an inspired Masekela singing and blowing on top.
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