The mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, with a few natural resources and no significant industrial development, is one of the world’s least developed nations. The country is entirely surrounded and economically dominated by the Republic of South Africa. Muchof the workforce is employed in the mines of South Africa, most of the men work in the gold and coal mines where they stay in men-only compounds on basic 6 months-contracts. This massive volume of migrant labour means that Lesotho is highly dependent on the Republic.
Bohale Ba Dinare may not be a familiar name but his music deserves your attention for sure since this album has been on my turntable for the last few days and its festive mood seems like the perfect soundtrack to welcome the New Year 2016.
Throughout the entire month of May Soul Safari will be listing field recordings, folk, private pressings, township jive & kwela jazz, African jazz, soul & boogie, mbanqaga,and much much more with absolutely no reserves.
Records that have been presented on these pages over the last five years are now on auction. So here is your change to grab some rare African vinyl as I am cleaning out my shelves to make room for new music.
Some highlights; a collection of ultra rare and seldom heard field recordings from ILAM, recorded by Hugh Tracey. These records were purchased many years ago directly from ILAM in South Africa from what was left of their unsold stock. All records come in their original cover with the labels attached to the back cover and are unplayed, in brand new mint condition.
More Soul Safari favs like great 45’s by jive kings The Soweto Boys, mbanqaga queens The Manzini Girls are now on auction.
The International Library of African Music (ILAM), based at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, was founded by Hugh Tracey in 1954. ILAM’s collections of Hugh Tracey’s audio recordings, photographs and films are of great importance in preserving and keeping African musical heritage alive.
The Tracey Collection of African traditional musical instruments is housed at ILAM, as is an extensive collection of shellac 78 rpm discs. In addition to his extensive work researching and documenting the music of sub-Saharan Africa,Hugh Tracey advised Gallo, the biggest South African record company, on which records to release. Most of these selections came out on independent labels such as Gallotone, Hit, BB and New Sounds and included Zulu jive, Sotho vocal, accordion and violin jive – styles that were aimed at the burgeoning black market and helped to create a new black identity.
After two years of intensive collaboration with ILAM, Soul Safari proudly presents ‘Township Jive & Kwela Jazz (1940-1960)’, with many rare gems found in the ILAM archives. This compilation brings the dusty and sometimes forgotten original recordings back to life, truly music treasures from a long gone past.
But I wonder if there is enough interest for releasing these rare gems?? As CD format, download or a vinyl deluxe set? Let me know what you think, it’s appreciated.
In a previous post I have highlighted the work of Miriam Makeba after her departure from South Africa to the USA. As an artist in exile Makeba became an even bigger star then she had ever been before in South Africa. But how many people will realise the fact that Makeba was already a big star in her country of birth in 1959 before her departure? That she had performed in a movie ‘Come Back, Africa’ singing one of her signature tunes? That she had recorded as a solo-artist on Gallotone Records and later with the Skylarks for the same label? Note the advertisement on a Gallotone 78 rpm sleeve for a release by Mariam Makeba ‘Pass Office Special -Hoenene’ (GB 2134).
She had made a name for herself in her early career as singer with the Manhattan Brothers and in the beginning of 1956 –about two years after she had joined The Manhattan Brothers- Sam Alcock, Gallo’s black talent scout, asked Miriam to form a ‘girlie group’ for recording. He wanted to compete with the success that rival labels like Troubadour were enjoying with similar material and particularly with the Quad Sisters who recorded for Trutone, another rival. Miriam recruited her sister Mizpah and a friend, Joanna Radebe, and two songs resulted which were issued as The Sunbeams on the Tropik label, a Gallo affiliate
The style that so interested Alcock was hardly indigenous although there is a tradition of group female singing in some South African tribal cultures. The line of influence was rather, like so much urban black music in South Africa from that period, taken directly from American popular. In the 1930’s, the white Boswell Sisters enjoyed a tremendous popularity as a jazzy, close harmony trio (they had grown up in New Orleans at the same time as Louis Armstrong and the development of early jazz).
The Boswells drew upon Tin Pan Alley pop and contemporary Afro-American vocal styles, religious and secular, that had evolved from traditions developed under slavery. Their success spawned in turn the Andrews Sisters in the 1940’s and the McGuire Sisters in the 1950’s, and all three groups became well known in South Africa through imported recordings. At some point, perhaps by the Second World War, this style was being copied by black female trios on Johannesburg’s concert stages with vernacular lyrics eventually substituting for the English originals. In the 1940’s groups like the V Dolls and the Twisting Sisters had already enjoyed commercial success as ‘girlie groups’ but it would take another decade before female singing groups would become popular with record companies and the general public as well.
By the mid -50’s when the Quad Sisters were at the height of their popularity, ‘girlie groups’ were already regarded as a black show business tradition. The Manhattan Brothers, too, had assimilated virtually identical American roots. They modelled themselves after the Mills Brothers –who had come to international fame in the 1930’s by updating the same Afro-American traditions- and then later, after the equally famous Ink Spots. As the 50’s progressed, the Manhattan’s music came to incorporate more indigenous elements but they had originally become famous by singing American originals in Sotho or Xhosa.
The first Sunbeams record sold well enough to soon warrant the girls’ return to the studio but this time the songs were issued on Gallotone and the name of the group was changed to The Skylarks. On this second session, Mizpah dropped out because of work commitments and Mary Rabotapi joined. By the time Mary joined Miriam’s new group, she had already recorded several discs under her own name and was regularly singing on advertising jingles.
Mummy Girl Nketle, a good looking girl from Sophiatown who could sing well on stage, was the next addition. Miriam had discovered her fronting a group called the Midnight Kids. Her elder brother, ‘Boetie’, a gangster and a member of the notorious Americans, was briefly married to Dolly Rathebe. See my previous post on Dolly Rathebe who recalls her years as a gangster moll. See also my previous post South African Soul Divas pt 3 Dolly Rathebe, Mabel Mafuya, Nancy Jacobs, Eva Madison
According to Mary, the idea of expanding the group to four voices had a practical rather than musical basis, if one member was absent, the requirements of a trio were still provided for. Then, Joahnna Radebe left and a coloured singer from the West Rand, Helen Van Rensburg, came in. She was in turn replaced in late 1957 by Abigail Kubeka from White City Jabavu.
There was an underlying reason for these personnel changes. “It was all Miriam’s doing”, recalls Mary Rotapi, “she was the boss”. Miriam held the recording contract and she was the eldest, a position from which authority had traditionally emanated in African society. There was a feeling that the younger girls were being entrusted to Miriam’s care by their families. Mary adds “Miriam wants hard workers. If you’re slow on your feet, she’ll take somebody else…I was a lucky one. She never got rid of me!” Needless to say, these circumstances often make it impossible, some 35 years later, to exactly determine who was singing on the earlier sessions, but with the arrival of Abigail, the situation stabilized. The line-up of Miriam, Mary, Abigail and Mummy Girl, occasionaly supplemented with Nomonde Sihawu as a fifth voice and Sam Ngakone singing bass, would produce all of the Skylark’s biggest hits such as “Hush”, “Inkoma Zodwa” and “Hamba Bekile” amongst others.
Just how popular were the Skylarks? Unfortunately, no sales figures for the group’s recordings have survived to reveal the true extent of their success. In fact, sales were somewhat irrelevant to the recording artists of that era because they were paid on an ‘outright buy-out’, flat fee basis. Only with the institution of the royalty system in the early 1960’s would the number of ‘units’ sold become a matter of concern. Nevertheless, because of the frequency with which they recorded, the Skylarks discs must have sold very well indeed, perhaps in the region of 100.000 copies or more for the most popular numbers.
In a short history of little more than three years, the group cut well over 100 sides, almost all of which were issued. Few artists of the time could equal that number and certainly no other vocal groups, not even the Manhattan Brothers whose fortunes declined somewhat towards the end of the 50’s.
And then of course, Miriam Makeba played Joyce as a character in the original black cast of the musical “King Kong”. By the time she left South Africa, she had already built a name for herself that would open doors in the United States of America.
‘Miriam Makeba & The Skylarks’ -African Heritage -Teal Records 1991 TELCD 2303
this article contains excerpts from the liner notes by Rob Allingham
dream on…none of the following 78 rpm records will be traced easily in the wild but patience awards those who can wait for the bait. I like to start the year 2010 with some eye candy, a gallery of 78’s pressed in South Africa.
African releases of local talent were marketed for a small group of afficionados, those who could afford a grammophone player or more commonly for the black population, via township radio distribution. During the fifties and sixties many small locally distributed labels flourished, a few were actually owned by black entrepreneurs. Many of these releases were pressed and controlled by the Gallo Record Company. Interesting fact is that ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey was instrumental in choosing the material for those releases. Tracey set up the first arena for the public display of mine dancing, at the Consolidated Main Reef Mine in Johannesburg in 1943. He later paid tribute to the culture of mine dancing in his book ‘African Dances of the Witwatersrand Gold Mines’, published by African Music Society in October 1952
Mambuaulela Makhubela & his Shangaan Drum Dancers -Park Station
The album ‘He O Oe Oe!’ by the Sotho singer Puseletso Seema, backed by the group Tau Ea Linares, translated ‘King of Buffaloes, was originally released in 1985 by Globestyle, the UK label of Ben Mandelson and is long out of print. The recordings on this album are unique because Ben, as a passionate music aficionado, arranged for the meeting of Puseletso Seema and Tau Ea Linare, who normally record separately.
Sotho traditional music is an integral part of Sotho social education and traditionally links hearing with the understanding of the natural and social worlds. The Sotho describe instruments as either liletsa tsa matsoho (those sounded by the hand) or liletsa tsa molomo (those sounded by the mouth). The former category includes the moropa and skupu drums, these days often made from oil cans because of scarcity of wood. The latter category includes the lesiba, a mouth-resonated stick-zither sounded by blowing. The primary use of the lesiba is in cattle-herding; bird sounds and actions are seen to affect cattle; these sounds can be imitated on the lesiba and the instrument is thus used to control the animals’ behaviour. The whistles and yipping are herdboy’s calls as recorded for the particular song.
translated means ‘land can’t be fat’ -the song is about land that cannot receive rain or nourishment or proper care, cannot yield food to feed it’s people
Traditionally there was no professionalism in Sotho music, although this has developed in response to changes in Sotho culture. Broadcasting and exposure to other styles of African and international music and the demands of the pop music market, even the introduction of the accordion, all have their influences on musicians and singers.
excerpts from the original linernotes of ‘He O Oe Oe!’ by Puseletso Seema & Tau Ea Linare. Globestyle ORB 003 UK 1985
the original songs in their full length can be heard in previous posts. Zulu Jive, Marabi Jive, Xhosa Vocal…soul and jazz grooves with an unique South African flavour were selected and highlighted in the YEBO! series. Thank you for all your feedback.
Reader Nick “All I can say is… wow. I love the soul and jazz-infused Makgona Tsohle Band 45rpm, it is one I had never come across previously. Thank you for sharing these musical treasures, they are all sublime and are all very much appreciated.”
all 20 selections of YEBO! in a 33 minute Mix
1- Isazi – Ingabonga Isudu
2- Lazarus Kgagudi And The Neighbours – Mlamu Wami
3- Irene & The Sweet Melodians – Nawulilela
4- Retsi & The Jacaranda Girls – Mongezi
5- Olive Masinga – Indlela Enhle
6- Izintombi Zesi Manje Maje – Lobola Mgca
7- Retsi Pule – s’Dula
8- Korrie Moraba – Ngixulaelawena
9- Indoba Band – Keep On Jiving (Pt 1)
10- Sophie Thapedi – Mabitso Abatho
11- Retsi & The Jacaranda Girls – Manikiniki
12- Lazarus Kgagudi And The Neighbours – Amadoda Asemgodini
13- Makgona Tsohle Band – Take Your Time
14- Patience Africa – Sala Sithanda
15- Kabasa – Burning Splinters
16- Dark City Sisters – Kudelangibuya Khona
17- Vusi Nkosi With Mabone Boys – Amazambane
18- Zacks Nkosi – Kwasibasa
19- The Alexander Shamber Boys – Finish
20- Vusi Nkosi With Mabone Boys – Superman Jive