The Bachelors with Thoko Tomo – Zulu Jive & Isicathamiya

just unearthed this beautiful single with one side sung in the Doo Wop Jive style and a surprising b-side. The Bachelors and Thoko Tomo is a South African vocal group unknown to me, maybe a reader can shine a light on their origins? The label mentions Jive and as far as I can find out this must be Zulu Jive while the b-side is sung in English.

Gibson Kente wrote the song ‘I Got Troubles’. His name appears on the credits for two other productions,’Ekoneni’ and ‘Inkomo Zodwa’,  recorded by The Skylarks with Makeba & Spokes Mashiyane. See also my previous post Soul Safari presents Township Jive & Kwela Jazz (1940-1960)

‘I Got Troubles’ reminds me of Isicathamiya by the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, even American Gospel. Such heavenly voices! This single was probably released in the early 1960’s following an earlier release as shellac 78 rpm. This was normal practice in the days when the 45 single format replaced the old breakable 78’s. The label New Sound is a subsidiary of Gallo Records, hence the image of the cock in the logo.

The Bachelors -I Got Troubles  

Caluza’s Double Quartet -makwaya music on 78 rpm

Good day all. Today’s post shines a light on two more 78’s found in my Karoo-box, see also previous post Zulu Motor Trophies 2011 -Carnival Coon Minstrels

The compositions on these shellac discs have a long history, the songs go back to the early days of the 1920’s when a church minister called R.T. Caluza started writing music. His work proves to be  the missing link to modern day SA vocal styles like isicathamiya and mbube.

But as usual, a little historical perspective is helpful here.

All recordings of the original 78 discs have been processed to improve the listening experience.

The following excerpts from ‘Soweto Blues’ by Glen Ansell (Continuum New York 2004)….

R.T. Caluza

R.T. Caluza was a minister  who composed and performed  hymns for school and church halls, traditional music, songs of social commentary, dance tunes and even vaudeville and ragtime. He taught at the Ohlange Institute in Natal, originally founded by the Reverend John Dube on the model of Tuskegee, where he had studied –another instance of the impression made by African-American models of self-reliant development. Caluza turned the Institute Choir into a profitable touring group, then branched out into other kinds of performance, playing for rowdy location dances as well as the stylish and refined clerks and domestic servants who frequented Johannesburg Inchcape Hall.

Caluza’s Double Quartet -Si Kuyo Mdhlela Ye Lizwe Lo Bomi

Caluza became a national hero when he wrote the song ‘iLand Act’, the first anthem of the South African Native National Congress (founded in 1912, the NNC was the forerunner of today’s African National Congress (ANC).

‘We cry for our land, Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho, Unite! We are mad over the Land Act. A terrible law that allows sojourners, to deny us our land’.

The cities in the early 20’s and 30’s in South Africa were home not only to poor laborers crushed together in compounds and slum yards. There were also teachers, clergymen, clerks, and others aspiring to equality with whites on the basis of their very real social and economic achievements. For this group, the visit of the Virginia Jubilee Singers from the USA had been a key moment, offering as it did a model of progressive civilization. ‘Jubilee music’ fits well into a society that already had a strong choral tradition, musical literacy, and even outlets for composition and music publishing through the ‘Lovedale series’ imprint. Note that the hymns featured here are sung in the Zulu language, recorded in Johannesburg and the discs were manufactured by The Gramophone Co. Ltd, Hayes, Middlesex, England.

Caluza’s Double Quartet -Se Ni Lungile Na?

Songs like ‘iLand Act’ gave voice to both the identity and the aspirations of this group. They were part of a certain repertoire known as makwaya music, whose early development is strongly associated with graduates of the missions in Natal and the Eastern Cape. Makwaya music included European or American-derived hymns, African-composed pentatonic hymns, suitably adapted traditional songs, and ragtime, spirituals and vaudeville pieces.

Caluza’s Double Quartet -Menzi Wetu O Pezulu

In Cape Town, ‘Jubilee’ styles and repertoire reached beyond the working men’s clubs. They were heard by singers in the Malay choirs. They were taken up by the players of violins and guitars (along with bones and banjos) performing at social occasions where the vastrap, with its rhythms borrowed from Dutch farmer’s folk tunes, and the fast-paced tickie draai –whose translated title literally exhorted dancers to ‘spin on a three-penny piece’- were danced. But more on that later.

See also this CD release 

Caluza’s Double Quartet 1930

Label : Heritage
Serial Number : HT CD 19

released July 1993


1 Ubungca
2 Ingoduso
3 Influenza
4 Sa ni bona
5 Ixegwana
6 Vul’indhlela mnta ka dube
7 Umteto we land act
8 Bayete
9 Umtshado
10 Zebras
11 Iculo la setafamasi
12 Uhiki nomana
13 Ngi tshele dudu
14 Si xotshwa emsebenzini
15 Kwati be lele
16 M lete jimi
17 Wa q’um udalimede
18 Amanigel coons
19 Idipu e tekwini
20 Ba bulawa ini abakiti

Zulu Motor Trophies 2011 -Carnival Coon Minstrels

Following on from another previous post this week, Zulu Motor in which I described discovering a box on the shelves of a dusty old bookstore in the hinterlands of the Karoo, the moment has come to unveil  its content. A  box  filled with 78 shellac discs  and a few 10” albums that must have belonged to a passionate collector. The  box had been mailed and delivered  in 1959 to a  lover of music who lived in George.

Words fail me to express the joy of finding this. !

An amazing selection of discs, ranging from the usual Italian tenor favourites by the likes of Beniamino Gigli and Joseph Schmidt, and as I flipped through the content some long of out-of-print pristine kwela jazz and black African 78’s turned up. Rare recordings that link the historical connection from the earliest South African choir singing to modern groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and minstrelsy coon sounds that were the prime inspirational source for jazz musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim’s Dollar Brand.

Caluza’s Double Quartet, Solomon Linda’s Original Evening Birds, Michael’s Nightingales, a few hits by the Manhattan Brothers, Spokes Mashiyane …even a bundle of novelty picture discs! Never have seen those African pic discs before but more on that matter later .

The recording of the original 78 has not been processed (take out hiss etc. ) so natural dynamics have been preserved.

Coon Carnival Minstrels -Die Rietjie-More, More Tannie

Coon Carnival Minstrels -Hanover Street Melody

More on Carnival Coon and minstrelsy music in following posts.

30 gems for hunters & collectors

Here are 30 gems from my personal collection, all original 45’s from South Africa from a dusty warehouse find.

African Disco, African Soul, Mbaqanga, Xhosa Vocal, Zulu Jive, Accordion Jive…

Play Of The Day -Letta Mbulu -Kilimanjaro 1981

Play Of The Day is one of Letta Mbulu’s great South African singles released in 1981 on the Munjale label; the disco-influenced “Kilimanjaro” with “Help Me Somebody” on the b-side.

Letta Mbulu -Kilimanjaro

All that’s important on Letta’s career can be found on the authoritative site of Doug Payne so I refer to this site for more info and a (almost) complete biography.

‘Oluwa (Many Rains Ago)’ was originally written by Caiphus Semenya years before it was included as the African theme in the  soundtrack for the TV movie ‘Roots’ (1977), composed and arranged by Quincy Jones.

Letta Mbulu -Oluwa (Many Rains Ago) African version

even more African tribal dances; Shangaan & Makishi dancers & singers

The so called Shonas (named by the Ndebeles) are a mixture of the Ndaus, Karangas, Korekore(kwerekwere). These people  migrated to Zimbabwe from Tanzania (Tanganyika) as the Bantu. They split into many groups , some live in SA, Mozambique and Zimbabwe eg the Shangaan people. The Shangaan are a mixture of Nguni language group which includes Swazi, Zulu and Xhosa, and Tsonga speakers (Ronga, Ndzawu, Shona, Chopi tribes).

Mambuaulela Makhubela & his Shangaan Drum Dancers -Park Station

about Shangaan Dance

In the Shangaan tradition, the storyteller is the grandmother or elder woman of the family who is the respected transmitter of the old stories. The old woman, called Garingani, or narrator, begins her storytelling by saying “Garingani, n’wana wa Garingani!” – “I am Narrator, daughter of Narrator!” after which the crowd cheers “Garingani”. The crowd chants her name after each line of the story.

With a love for music, the Shangaan people have developed a number of musical instruments. The ‘fayi’ – a small, stubby wooden flute that produces a breathless, raspy, but haunting sound, and is often played by young herd boys. The ‘xitende’, is a long thin bow tied on each end by a taut leather thong or wire – which runs across a gourd. This was often used to alleviate boredom on long journeys.

Amakwaya Shangaan Choir

The Shangaan is well known for their mine dances, carried out to the beat of drums and horns and wide variety of musical instruments such as the mbira. Shangaan male dancers performed the muchongolo dance, which celebrated the role of women in society, war victories and ritual ceremonies.

see also previous post Shangaan mine dances at the Witwatersrandmines

about Makishi Dance

As with most African customs, song and dance is crucial to their ceremonies. The makishi are shrouded in secrecy and it is taboo to ask who hides behind the mask. The makishi are spirits that represent the ancestors and they command the utmost respect. The makishi normally appear during the mukanda (circumcision ceremony), then return to their graves immediately afterwards. Their appearance creates an eerie but fascinating atmosphere.

Makishi dancers & singers

Makishi dancers have intrigued and intimidated audiences for centuries. The Makishi attach themselves to the world of spirits and demons and, while dancing, lose their personal identity, becoming the character they portray. The Shangaan, by contrast, are fighters and hunters, boasting of their bravery and strength in vigorous authentic group dancing, stamping their feet on bare earth, raising the dust and rushing at the audience in mock-attacks.

See video Makishi & other dances

A selection of different dances from the Shangaan, Makishi and Nyau tribes.

Musical selections taken from the EP ‘Shangaan Musa’ Gallo FP1 Johannesburg, South Africa.

Pics by Falls Promotion, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Content taken from various sources including the linernotes.

a hymn for the Rainbow Nation -Africa come together

photo AP

by the time this post reaches you, dear reader,  you might just as I am, probably be sick and tired of the f* word. Football, soccer, I mean.  In case you are excited just like the rest of the world about the coming Fifa World Cup 2010 well, just enjoy the fun.  All the others are welcome to this refuge. Over the last few weeks soccer fever has hit Holland hard. Everything around me turns orange these days, no way out!

So I thought it was time to escape the f* madness and dive into my record collection and dig up some Negro spirituals, heavenly voices, group harmonizing…also a team sport but a more melodic counterpart to the noise of the galvanized masses in f*  stadiums. And I do hope that this post will soothe and bring a piece of calm to you, dear reader. I dedicate this selection also as an anthem, a tribute to South Africa, the country that organizes the World Cup 2010.  Finally, the time has come to realise the full potential of this great nation and Bafana Bafana will need all divine power to win.  So  all musical selections in this post come from South Africa, some are really rare, others are more common but all praise the spiritual power and belief of the Rainbow Nation. Africa come together!

Zwelitsha Adult Choir-Sing The Lord Ye Voices All

History of Ford Choirs

Ford Motor Company of South Africa introduced the idea of a sponsored National Choral Music Competition in 1978 and within five years, the Ford Choirs competition had established itself as the premier cultural event on the choral music scene. In its first year the contest attracted 30 choirs from all over South Africa. Support for this community based Ford sponsored project has grown by leaps and bounds and in 1982, the project’s  fifth anniversary, the contest drew 236 entries from thirteen regions. The choirs sang live to the delight of audiences through radio and tv.

Lubabalo Dyasi -Ndikhumbule Nkosi

this is a live recording of a concert that was held in Port Elizabeth on Saturday March 5th 2005 in honor of the visit of Chief Apostle R. Fehr. The title ‘Ndikhumbule Nkosi’ (Remember me, O Lord) was written by Lubalalo Dyasi and performed by the choir of the New Apostolic Church of Cape Town with boy soprano Sinethemba Matshaya. A divine piece of choral magic imo…

Sizwe Usindiso -Uhlatshelo Wezono