something new from Africa -Kwela with Lemmy

Good day to y’all. Great was my surprise when my good friend John from PE in South Africa walked in with the record ‘Kwela with Lemmy’.

This 10” record contains 8 tracks by rather obscure Kwela artists like Little Lemmy Special and Big Joe, Solven Whistlers, Specks Rampura. Even greater was my joy when the same day I went digging for vinyl at the local charity shop and discovered the album ‘Something New From Africa’.

Little Lemmy & Big Joe -Little Lemmy Kwela

The tracklisting of this album is almost identical to the 10” and further inspection learned that ‘Kwela with Lemmy’ is the South African release as 10” record of the album ‘Something New From Africa’ that came out in the UK in 1959 as an extended album with 10 songs instead of 8.

Solven Whistlers -Something New From Africa

At the start of the album you will hear the Solven Whistlers say ‘something new in Africa’; that was logical enough as for when the record was made Kwela was only just emerging from its origins on the street corners of Johannesburg, and its appearance in Europe was scarcely thought of. That it went through a fad stage once it had arrived in the UK is understandable, for Kwela was seized upon by the craze manufacturers who were at that time making a rather untidy job of burying rock’n roll and were looking for a successor. But the fad was quite a small one and Kwela, as a vogue, went the way of calypso and the mambo. But that doesn’t mean that Kwela was completely finished; like many other musical form which does not fit into the main scheme of popular music, it has it’s following, it’s own special character and an important and interesting place in the history of South African popular music.

musical selections from the album ‘Something New From Africa’ Decca Mono LK 4292, released in the UK in 1959


‘Kwela With Lemmy’ Gallo GLP 119 released in South Africa in 1959

another gallery of South African music on 78

Umtale Chipisa Band -Zuwa Rachona

Alfred Mchunu -Amadumbe 1965

Freddy Gumbi -Jika Jika Jive -1967 Sax Jive

Spokes Mashiyane -Banana Ba Rustenburg

The Lower Buttons – Intogeymy 1967

The Makala Singers -Championi

Three Petersen Brothers -Sugar Candy Cane

thanks to ILAM, Grahamstown SA

hip to the jive

I can’t think of a better way to end  the year 2009 than with a groovy mix for the holiday season. One song chosen for each month of the year with just one more for good luck…13 songs in one mix of 35 minutes. Time to celebrate!

2009 has been a great year for Soul Safari, and I’m very happy to have met, conversed and shared music with so many kindred spirits from all over the world who are hip to the jive…

for the mix I selected several  musical styles from many different ethnic groups from around South Africa; Zulu, Shangaan,  Sotho, mbaqanga, some kwela….and I wanted the mood of the compilation to be happy, vibrant, energetic, just a great danceable jive to fit the festive days ahead.

1. Kid JoJo -Peanut Bump

2. Boyoyo Boys -Daveyton Special

3. Osiyazi -Sibaya Reception

4. Pikinini Khumbuza -Jackpot

5. Elias Mathebula & The Chivani Sisters -Ntlela A Tingangeni

6. Majozi -Ngimbonile Ubaba

7. Umakhathakhathananmachunu -Ezweni Likshaka

8. Majakathatha -Ke Saea Maseru

9. Izazi –Bayesutha

10.Dilika -Ngayishela Yavuma

11. Manka Le Phallang -Khutsana

12. Mzikayifani Buthelezi -Themba

13. Amahlokohloko -Asisangenelani

download ‘hip to the jive’ here

Happy Holidays & best wishes for 2010 from Soul Safari!

Kwela Africa! Black Mambazo, Little Kid Lex

Black Mambazo -Kwela Africa

Little Kid Lex -Witbank

this rare 10″ contains 10 songs by leading penny whistle groups from the 50’s. The bands featured on this record are the genuine article. Here are the musicians who are leading the now worldwide movement towards Kwela as an accepted style in popular music. My other post on Elias and his Zig-Zag Flutes and the African Swingsters has more info and soundfiles

Elias and his Zig-Zag Flutes  :: Black Mambazo ::

Little Kid Lex  ::   Swing Tone Whistlers  ::

Kwela has burst like a bomb on the scene of international popular music. How did it all start?

Wolf Mankowitz, famous British author, came to Johannesburg looking for material for a film script, and found what he wanted, and more. He needed a theme tune, music to set the scene for his thriller on diamond smuggling, and he chose Rubert Bopape’s “Tom Hark”, recorded on Columbia by Elias and his Zig Zag Flutes.

The television screening of the movie  ‘The Killing Stones’ soon created tremendous public enthousiasm for the new sounding rhythm which accompanied it. “Tom Hark” promptly rose to No. 2 in the British Hit Parade against all comers and to No. 1 in the Jukebox Top Ten-all within the space of a few weeks. America itself was not immune; Little Kid Lex released records issued in the States.

excerpts from the original liner notes of “Kwela Africa!” July 1958

the Bleached Zulu

By the dawn of the 1960’s the impact of Zulu music and their culture had reached a worldwide audience, with the release of movies like ‘Zulu’ and popular records that incorporated some of the essential African elements without  giving credits to the originals. Think of ‘Wimoweh/The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and the picture becomes clear.

The banner ‘Zulu’ was merely added for commercial purposes and served the entertainment industry like a watered down, bleached version of a Zulu original. Now here is a collection of records, all with a Zulu-theme, released in the 60’s and mostly produced in South Africa. Music that is galaxies away from the real thing but still worthwile in its own right.

the soundtrack from the epic 1964 movie ‘Zulu’ by John Barry, directed by Cy Endfield and starring Michael Caine, Stanley Baker and Jack Hawkins.

John Barry Zulu OST -Stamp & Shake

John Barry Zulu OST -The Monkey Feathers

A selection of Zulu Stamps are found on the B-Side of the soundtrack LP. These Zulu Stamps stem from an idea by actor Stanley Baker and are actually pop-reworkings of some of the main themes that Baker and director Cy Endfield thought would be a good commercial move to release.

If you are drawn to this disc with hopes of hearing any of the Zulu warriors singing as they gather for battle you will not find any such tracks here.  The Zulu Stamps are amusing though and entertaining. Later to be  released as part of The John Barry Seven catalog.

in 1964  the Zulu Stamps were re-created  by The Monkey Feathers, a Jo’Burg studio group that launched a new dance craze ‘The Zulu Stamp’. The titles on this EP are a  bit more rough than the Barry OST originals although they stay close to those arrangements , adding a touch of Shadows, stomping with additional Zulu vocals.

The Monkey Feathers -Big Shield

The Monkey Feathers -Zulu Maid

The Shangaans -Liwa Wechi

‘Liwa Wechi’ is the missing link between African tribe music and the Western world. Sounds like The Yardbirds with Shaka Zulu as lead singer.

The Petersen Brothers belong to one of the oldest theatrical families in South Africa, and are really brothers. The Three Petersen Brothers are versatile and polished artists, and have appeared on stage, in variety and as cabaret artists in every major town in South Africa, in addition to regular radio programmes. With the presentation of ‘On Safari’, their first LP recording, The Three Petersen Brothers invite the listener to go on a musical Safari through Africa. Through the hills and valleys of Zululand one can hear a song like ‘Fanagalo’, originally a hit for The Woody Woodpeckers or dance to ‘The Joh’burg Samba’ before packing bags to journey into a lovely valley in ‘Pondoland’.

The Petersen Brothers -Fanagalo

The Petersen Brothers -Joh’burg Samba

The Petersen Brothers -Pondoland

Joseph Marais, who had a popular radio show ‘African Trek’  reviews some of the folk songs of South Africa and drastically re-writes the original lyrics of  ‘The Zulu Warrior’, a tradional Zulu war cry. This war cry was first adopted by South African Forces during Word War 2 and the conviviality that usually accompanied its singing in various canteens throughout the world, popularized it with American G.I.’s. Many US veterans will testify to the fact that ‘I-Zig-A-Zimba…hold ’em down you Zulu Warrior’ climaxed many a boisterous evening spent in the company of their South African comrades-in-arms.

Joseph Marais & Miranda -The Zulu Warrior

Now hear the same song in the version by Sam Sklair, South African composer and conductor who scored many film, radio and television documentaries. In addition to arranging and conducting this happy blend of Africa and the West, Sam himself plays all the African instruments on these tunes. See also my previous post on ‘Gumboot dances’ by Sam Sklair.

Sam Sklair -The Zulu Warrior

Penny Whistle Kwela -Alexandra Shamber Boys, Benoni Flute Quintet

pennywhistle kwela cover

Long, long ago, African herd-boys used to play bamboo whistles which are known in the African language as ‘mahlaka’. As time went on these were replaced by tin whistles as the bamboo was not strong enough and did not last. These tin pipes have been greatly improved and are what we now call ‘penny whistles’. The penny whistle became the popular instrument of little African boys and they could be heard playing on street corners and in the townships, where they attracted much interest and attention.

in the mid 1940s Pennywhistle jive was developed. Kwela, a Zulu term means “pick-up” and refers to roving police vans on the look-out for illegal street corner gambling. When the police came in sight all evidence of the game would be hastily hidden and somebody would substitute the event with harmless flute music until the immediate danger was over.

Recording scouts, realizing the talent of these penny whistle players brought them to recording studios and the penny whistle records have proved tremendously popular with Spokes Mashiyane being the biggest star.

pennywhistle kwela label 1

Elias and his Zig Zag Flutes -Sanny Boy Special

music and rhythms of Africa labelAlexandra Shamber Boys -Phazamiza Zacks (tribute to Zacks Nkosi)

The EP “Music and Rhythms of Africa vol. 1”   features four recordings by Benoni Flute Quintet and the Alexandra Shamber Boys. One of the most popular flute groups is the Alexandra Shamber Boys who have made a big name for themselves in Johannesburg. “Phazamiza Zacks’ one of the tunes they play on this record is a tribute to the great Zacks Nkosi. The Benoni Flute Quintet had a big hit with their recording of ‘Skanda Mayeza’. The tune was originally recorded as a vocal and these youngsters picked up the tune on their penny whistles; their playing of it established the tune as one of the all time favourite with the Africans.

Alexandra Shamber Boys

Alexandra Shamber Boys

Alexandra Shamber Boys -Kgokgoma

The Alexandra Shamber Boys -finish labelAlexander Shamber Boys -finish(Tom Hark)

‘Finish’ by The Alexander Shamber Boys is a later version re-recorded version while the original song ‘Tom Hark’  was popular in the mid-fifties.

here is the  original 78 rpm by

Elias and his Zig Zag Jive Flutes -Tom Hark

elijah -tom hark 78

thanks to flatinternational