on the Jazz Train with Dolly Rathebe

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See also previous posts

 South African Soul Divas pt 3 Dolly Rathebe,MabelMafuya,NancyJacobs,EvaMadison

African Jazz & Variety -AlfredHerbert1952

Dolly Rathebe -Thlapi Ke Noga

following  Dolly Rathebe’s film career,her fame as a singer increased. Before there was Miriam Makeba, Dolly was the lead singer of the Manhattan Brothers and she recorded her first tunes with them.

She says: “It was a hectic time because I also worked with the Harlem Swingsters and toured with the African Jazz and Variety Show.”

 At that time, Dolly was under contract with Alfred Herbert, a creative organiser who arranged many concerts and who was a driving force behind the popularization of South African jazz. It was Herbert from whom Dolly Rathebe learned the tricks of the trade. She became the star of the show because of her silky singing and good looks. Her legs were considered so beautiful that a metaphor was coined for them. ‘It’s dolly’ meant ‘it’s wonderful’ and was an abbreviation of the Afrikaans ‘s’Dolly se boude’ (it’s Dolly’s tights).

Dolly Rathebe -Ke Ya Kae Le Bona

Drum cover July 1955 photo Bob Gosani

At the start of the 50’s, Herbert had an extensive series of jazz concerts arranged as the African Jazz Parade, a series of numerous performances and concerts, ending years later in Kenya as the African Jazz and Variety Show. During this period that show became somewhat of an institution inSouth Africa. The theatres of Johannesburg were sold out and the show went on tour around other main cities of South Africa and across the African continent.
The musicians all travelled by train and formed bonds and friendships during those long tours away from home. Inspired by the successful Jazz Train in the United States, a special tour to Durban was  organized. The most important musicians of the South African jazz scene from that era were onboard this train.   On a Wednesday morning in June 1955 the Jazz Train left Johannesburg, full of fans, musicians and groupies, on their way  to Durban.

  • Dolly Rathebe posing for an ad for Max cigarettes in 1951.

Photographer Jurgen Schadeberg. “I took this photo in theWerner studios in Johannesburg to promote a cigarette brand. It was one of the first images of black people who were used for commercial advertising.”

  • Dolly Rathebe on the beach 1952. Photographer Jurgen Schadeberg.

 Excerpt and photographs from the book

‘Familieverhalen uit Zuid Afrika, een groepsportret’ by Paul Faber

KIT Publishers, Amsterdam and Kwela Books Cape Town 2002.

rare gems from the ILAM Archives-Township Jive & Kwela Jazz

Hugh Tracey

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.

See also previous my post Soul Safari presents Township Jive & Kwela Jazz (1940-1960) for the full track-listing.

Josiah Khuzwao & His String Band -Emkhumbane

Lulu Sibeko & Sedgewick Brothers -Chaba Chaba

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

Good day to all. Your reporter is still crossing the southern part of Africa on a safari, hunting for vinyl. My guide and driver Joseph Klaas has proven his weight in gold sofar as he took me  along the Karoo hinterlands to a wonderful dusty old bookstore where the grumpy owner sold us a box of long, long forgotten 78’s. To my surprise these shellac discs were still packed in the same box as they were sent in 1959!

The content of this box will be made public here on Soul Safari soon!!

3 good intentions for 2011

1. Visit Bokoor House, Accra in Ghana

Partly museum dedicated to Ghanian Highlife on shellac 78’s, partly education cultural centre and music recording studio. Run by John Collins who collects photographs, newspaper clippings, old record covers, a unique collection of shellac records and an extensive selection of traditional and modern musical instruments. Bokoor House is also the home of a library and music practice rooms and a private label, ‘Bokoor Beats’ on which many original Highlife music treasures are been re-released.

2. See Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal in concert

Together with the French cellist Vincent Segal, Ballaké Sissoko
pushes the limits of new musical territory at the intersection of Malian court music and jazz. The CD “ChamberMusic” is their joint effort and clearly  a good indication of what a live concert by the duo
and their musicians promises to be.
See a live registration at the Rhino Festival 2009, Lyon France

3. Visit ILAM, Grahamstown, South Africa

ILAM (International Library Of African Music) is the home of the Hugh Tracey archives and a vast collection of traditional African music instruments on show.  The small CD store on the grounds of the institute has a great selection of releases  like, ‘The Music Of Africa’ by Hugh Tracey , produced by him in the early 1960’s as on off-shoot of his 218 volumes ‘Sound Of Africa’ series, in order to present African music to a wider audience. ILAM has re-issued, without modifications, the original LP series in CD format.  SWP Records, the label of Michael Baird, is  also part of their catalogue.

For description of each CD, go to ILAM

Yuletide Griots Riot

last Christmas my review and mix of the past year represented the fertile music of South Africa, this year Soul Safari criss-crosses the whole continent in search of music treasures.

From Sub-Saharan Africa up to Algeria, with the accent on the stringed instrument; guitar, cora, the oud, sekhankula and the Nguni string bow. And poetic stories, in words and mood.

Traditional griot music meets the seductive charm from Algeria, cora from Senegal by Bakary Sissoko and Daouda Diabaté blends seamlessly with pure guitar poetry from Francis Bebey…a Nguni Christmas song by Princess Constance Magogo, jazz & happy Jive from South Africa, Congolese soukous and  rhumba by Orchestre Loga, Nigerian juju dub from Dele Abiodun.

A surprising discovery this year was this album from 1984, ‘Très Fâché, Très Fâché‘ by guitar player and singer Rémi Sah’lomon et Le Matanga from Brazzaville, Congo. Rémi was bassist, singer of varieties, arranger of the National Youth Orchestra of Congo, and at the same time the second bassist in L’ Orchestra Bantou. He made his debut in L’Orchestra Siza Kotoko Ya Gaby. Great soukous tracks on this album!

A selection of  recent finds from the past year mixed with a few timeless classics from the Soul Safari archives. Now, what more can one wish for the Yuletide season?

01. Francis Bebey -Jesu, que ma joie demeure

02. P. Ben Mouhamed & M. Idir -A Vava Inou Va

03. Bakary Sissoko & Daouda Diabaté -Diaka

04. Princess Constance Magogo KaDinuzulu -Bambulal’ uJesu yamaJuda (The Crucified Jesus of the Jews)

05. Raisse Omar Ouhrouche -M’sak Salkhir Awali Ghetella Nite

06. Remi Sah’lomon et le Matanga -Africa Matanga

07. Akendenuge -Aiyan

08. Vicky & L’Orchestre OK Jazz -Mwana Ponaka

09. Opic 17 -Orchestre Lago -Okoyoka Eloko Pona Zuwa

10. Mthunzini Girls -Uyangibiza

11. Elias Mathebula & The Chivani Sisters -Ntela A Tingangeni

12. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje -Omzala Bakho

13. Dele Abiodun -Confrontation Adawa Super Dub

Yuletide Griots Riot / DivShare

Happy Holidays!

best wishes for the Yuletide season from Soul Safari

Township Accordion & Sax Jive 1970’s part one-The Naledi Boys, Wilson Ndlovu, Kid Zondi

Good day all.

In one of my previous posts I introduced singer Mqonga Sikanise, an obscure artist of Xhosa origins who plays the concertina.

The  instrument was originally imported from European shores to South Africa, a variation of the accordion,  sometimes called the “Donkylung” or the “Xmas-worm” in local slang.


The instrument was played originally in South African “boere” music which directly translated means farmer music. “Boer” also refers to Afrikaans speaking Europeans, thus a “Boer” can also be called as such without necessarily being a farmer.

Most of the Boere-tunes are folksongs. The great trek from the Cape in 1838 , inland to the Transvaal has a lot to do with the popularity of the concertina, as well as the distribution thereof. There must have been quite a number of concertinas around in the Cape as it was under British rule at the time. There were quite a few players at the time who mastered the instrument by that time so the concertina was on the move around the turn of the 20th century. Many black musicians made it part of their music and dances.

see also my previous post on Amakwenkwe Xhosa tribe -dance for young men accompanied by concertina and whistle

In later years the accordion became more popular, often played together with guitar or saxophone.

Here is a selection of tunes by a few of the most popular groups and players from the 70’s specialising in Accordion & Sax Jive; The Naledi Boys, Wilson Ndlovu, Boyoyo Boys, Kid Zondi…

Boyoyo Boys-Son Op

The Naledi Boys -Ha! He!

Wilson Ndlovu -Usapho

Kid Zondi -Marabastad Nr. 2

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 -Izinkayezi -Musukumshaya 1985 Zulu Vocal


Izinkayezi -Musukumshaya

That’s right folks! Play Of The Day is a wonderful piece of close harmony singing in Zulu by the group Izinkayezi. A wonderful obscure single released on City Lights Records in 1985.  For your ears only…

Yebo! vol 5 Zulu Vocal & Jive

yebo! summer’s here and during these hot days I am low on words and high on music…enjoy this selection of Zulu vocal & jive tunes.

Abafana Be Nala -Ilanga Lishonile

Shebeleza & Natal Queens -Umbhidi

John Williams -Thokozile