remember District 6?

Running small convenience stores in townships is a dangerous business for foreigners. Often serving their customers through locked gates, they are accused of spreading disease, stealing jobs and sponging off basic government services like electricity, running water and healthcare.

But as violence against them continues, the South African government insists that criminality is behind it, not xenophobia

Remember District 6?

In 1986, District Six – The Musical- by David Kramer and Taliep Petersen told the story of District Six in a popular musical which also toured internationally.

By the turn of the century District Six, originally known as the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town, was already a lively community made up of former slaves, artisans, merchants and other immigrants, as well as many Malay people brought to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company during its administration of the Cape Colony.

After World War II, during the earlier part of the apartheid era, District Six was relatively cosmopolitan. Situated within sight of the docks, it was made up largely of coloured residents which included a substantial number of coloured Muslims, called Cape Malays. There were also a number of black Xhosa residents and a smaller numbers of Afrikaans, whites, and Indians. district 6 the musical pics

Government officials gave four primary reasons for the removals. In accordance with apartheid philosophy, it stated that interracial interaction bred conflict, necessitating the separation of the races. They deemed District Six a slum, fit only for clearance, not rehabilitation. They also portrayed the area as crime-ridden and dangerous; they claimed that the district was a vice den, full of immoral activities like gambling, drinking, and prostitution. Though these were the official reasons, most residents believed that the government sought the land because of its proximity to the city centre, Table Mountain, and the harbour.

On 11 February 1966, the government declared District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, with removals starting in 1968. By 1982, more than 60,000 people had been relocated to the sandy, bleak Cape Flats township complex some 25 kilometres away. The old houses were bulldozed. The only buildings left standing were places of worship. International and local pressure made redevelopment difficult for the government, however. The Cape Technikon (now Cape Peninsula University of Technology) was built on a portion of District Six which the government renamed Zonnebloem. Apart from this and some police housing units, the area was left undeveloped.

Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, the South African government has recognised the older claims of former residents to the area, and pledged to support rebuilding.

District Six also contributed mightily to the distinguished history of South African jazz.

Basil Coetzee, known for his song “District Six”, was born there and lived there until its destruction. Before leaving South Africa in the 1960s, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim lived nearby and was a frequent visitor to the area, as were many other cape jazz musicians. Ibrahim described the area to The Guardian as a “fantastic city within a city..In the late 50s and 60s, when the regime clamped down, it was still a place where people could mix freely. It attracted musicians, writers, politicians at the forefront of the struggle as the school Western province Prep were a huge help in the struggle, but the head boy at the time and an exciptionaly great help was . We played and everybody would be there.”

 district 6 the musical cover back

And the story continues with ‘District 9’, probably the most stunning sci-fi movie I have ever seen.

Released in 2009, directed by Neill Blomkamp, written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, and produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham.

The film won the 2010 Saturn Award for Best International Film presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, and was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2009:

The story, adapted from ‘Alive in Joburg’, a 2005 short film directed by Blomkamp and produced by Sharlto Copley and Simon Hansen, depicts humanity, xenophobia, and social segregation. The title and premise of District 9 were inspired by events in District Six, Cape Town during the apartheid era. The film was shot on location in Chiawelo, Soweto, presenting fictional interviews, news footage, and video from surveillance cameras in a found footage format.

More then a great science fiction action thriller it’s a social commentary. Replace the word “alien” with any legal or illegal inhabitant of a township and the message the movie was conveying becomes clear. Not for the squeamish.

source; Wikipedia, YouTube, Aljazeera

banned records from South Africa

in my previous post Township Soul & Boogie Vol 8; Soul Special -Almon Memela 1975 I promised to shine a light on ‘banned records’ since I became intrigued by one of the albums found on my South African trip, last October.

My curiosity was titillated by the fact that the last track on side B had been censored. The LP came from a radio station and the track ‘Up The Chiefs’ by Kid Manotcha had been scratched completely with a nail so it was unplayable. The typography on the label and artwork on the cover had been obscured.

soul special side 2 banned track cover

soul special side 2 banned track

soul special side 2 banned track detail

Soul Special -Highway Soul HSL 2000

Former censor, Ms. Cecile Pracher, manager of the record library at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, SABC and a white Afrikaander explains why.

‘Within the SABC there were specific rules of what was not allowed. I was there at the time between the 1980’s and 1990’s. It was the time of P.W. Botha and Apartheid was in full swing and the state of emergency was declared and everything became tighter and tighter.

Things that would have been allowed five years earlier were frowned upon so therefore it was a very unnatural society to live in. The lyrics of each and every pop item had to be checked on grounds stemming from the Publication Board of SA by law. Our rules were more defined than those of the government. Things like for example swear words were unacceptable.

Unacceptable sexual references were to be avoided, bad taste, any occult elements in the lyrics were unacceptable, lyrics propagating the usage of drugs, blasphemy, glorification of the devil, unfair promotion of a political party or movement and so it goes on and on. So it had a lot to do with interpretation as well.

Different political periods would influence the way I would have to censor in SABC. It depended very much on what time we are referring to. But I think if we talk about between the 1970s and the 1990s the guidelines I gave you were to be interpreted by the heads of department of radio and TV in the broadcast environment. We did not have an open airwave in the sense that they were only two independent broadcasts and the rest belonged to the state broadcaster, which was the SABC. Therefore this committee consisted of all heads of department and lyrics were scrutinised beforehand by the manager in the record library, which in this case was me, before it was somebody else. Those lyrics would be passed onto meeting once a week. In the years between 1980 and 1990 there were generally about 15 lyrics per week. If you take into account that we only in those days had about 480 LPs or CDs that came in per year then it was quite a substantial amount of lyrics that had to be checked and had to be voted upon. The voting system was open and my impression was that in those days virtually anything that was perceived as damaging to the state, to the SABC or to the National Party was regarded as not acceptable and we would ban it.

Records weren’t banned by the SABC as a record with all the cuts. It was normally one, two or three cuts – but sometimes it was eight, nine or ten. But mostly it was about three or four cuts and we had to put on stickers onto the LP’s and in fact some of the LP’s were scratched so that those cuts weren’t played. With CD’s of course that opportunity was lost.

One of the banned records in 1992 by a South African artist was the album ‘Chant of the Marching’ by Sipho Mabuse, different cuts were “Chant”, “Room of Horror”and “Refugee”.

Ray Phiri is another South African artist and a very distinguished musician who struggled for many years in his homeland. It took Paul Simon’s Graceland to make him world famous but those who knew his music and his group, Stimela, before that, knew that we here had a star of world fame. One of his songs called, “Where Did We Go Wrong”, which he sang with a white lady called Kathy Pannington was banned as well. He even had the unpleasant experience to have a spy in his band. Paranoid? In any society that is ruled by fear you do get such elements whereby you end up not even trusting your spouse.

It is obvious that censorship does affect all creative people in different ways. In South Africa  censorship was based on ideological differences rather than creativity. So creative people were more affected by what the government of the day deemed to be dangerous to society. They had to find ways in which to circumvent the problem by writing songs in different ways. They could convey specific messages in songs so street language became the norm to communicate. Songs were written in such a way that the officials could not detect what the artists meant in their lyrics.

As a consumer the banning made it a bit difficult because the freedom for one to be able to access music was curtailed by the fact that one always had to smuggle the music into the country. So in a way it made it difficult for many people at home to listen to music they felt they wanted to listen to. And because of the censorship the people just did not have access to just any type of music.

But it was not only music by South African artists that was censored, all locally released material by international artists like Fats Domino, Rodriguez and even distinguisted opera singer Maria Callas met the same faith.

One side of a South African released album of  ‘Lucia Di Lammermoor’ -sung in Italian!-Act 2 (first part) was censored with a sharp nail making it impossible to listen to.

callas -lucia di lammermoor cover

Lucia Di Lammermoor -Maria Callas/Tito Gobbi/Orchestra of ‘Maggio Musicale Fiorentino’ -Columbia 33JCX 1131 -South Africa

Even Fats Domino’s song ‘Ain’t That Just Like A Woman’ from the album ‘I Miss You So’ (Imperial IRL 323) was banned, afgekeur so the title was scratched out on the vinyl and cover.

fats domino label -banned track detail fats domino record-banned track fats domino record-banned track detail

Fats Domino -I Miss You So -Imperial Records IRL 232 -South Africa 

One of the artists whose music was smuggled into South Africa was American singer/songwriter Rodriguez whose LP ‘Cold Fact’ contains the song ‘Sugar Man’. Obviously, the lyrics were banned because of the words “…silver, magic ships you carry, jumpers, coke, sweet mary jane…”

rodriguez -cold fact detail sugar man lyrics rodriguez -cold fact cover front blog

Rodriguez -Cold Fact -Sussex Records SXBS 7000 -South Africa

When Mandela was released in 1991 censorship at the SABC became a thing of the past. No form of censorship as far as music or lyrics is allowed at the SABC.

Adapted text from ‘The Censored meet their Censor – Music and Censorship during Apartheid in South Africa’with Sipho Mabuse and Ray Phiri, musicians from South Africa, in a first face to face meeting with former censor, Ms. Cecile Pracher, manager of the record library at South African Broadcasting Corporation, SABC.

original text can be found at freemuse

South African Soul Divas Pt 5 -Margaret Singana, Lady Africa

Belgian 45 rpm release

  in today’s post I want to highlight the work and the voice of a truly great South African singer who had her share of success but who also suffered from bad luck and discrimination. The tragic story of “Lady Africa”, Margaret Singana.

Her biggest hits are the uptempo boogie tracks ‘Where Is The Love’ and ‘We Are Growing’ and I guess that not many people will be familiar with the soul side of this versatile singer.

Just listen to ‘Cry To Me’ and ‘Stand By Your Man’, both sung in a deep heart-felt bluesy voice and backed by equally great musicians. Margaret Singana delivers and knows how to make these standards her own.

Her irrestible singing style was influenced by American R&B, deep Southern Soul, Black Gospel & Disco. Her vocal abilities can stand the test with those of Candi Staton and even Aretha Franklin, America’s First Lady of Gospel & Soul. But it’s Margaret Singana’s  spirit and voice from deep within that defines the moment and accentuates her African roots.

                                               Margaret Singana -Where’s The Love

Margaret Singana was born Margaret M’cingana in Queenstown in 1938 . As a teenager she went to Johannesburg to look for work in the music industry. She became the first black artist to feature on the white-dominated Radio 5 hit parade. Her version of “I Never Loved a Man The Way I Loved You” became a local hit. But due to strict laws for black inhabitants of South Africa she did not succeed to break through and she became a domestic worker, victimized by the ruthless Apartheid’s regime. Her employer however discovered her musical talent and introduced her to a record company.

The featured single here was originally released as JB001 on Jo’Burg Records, both tracks can be found on the 1974 album “Lady Africa”.

Margaret Singana -Cry To Me

Ipi Tombi -original cast recording

Margaret Singana -Gimme Your Love

Margaret Singana’s big moment came in 1973 with the release of  ‘The Warrior called Ipi ‘N Tombia’, a reworking of the musical Ipi ‘N Tombi written by Bertha Egnos and her daughter, lyricist Gail Lakier.

See also my previous posts hey sista, go sista, soul sista -Township Soul & Boogie Vol 2  and SA movies -1965 OST ‘Dingaka’ by Bertha Egnos

In the following years, she released several other albums in South Africa, mostly produced by Patric Van Blerk which were a success in her homeland, but her performances in Europe yielded. Margaret Singana was nicknamed ‘Lady Africa’. In 1978 she had a stroke, but she recovered and came back. In the mid ’80s, she sang “We Are Growing”, the title song of the television series Shaka Zulu. This song became a No. 1 hit in the Netherlands a few years later. The Dutch released 12″ of Shaka Zulu ‘We Are Growing’ contains the original version, the extended remix and a song that is quite special for Margaret Singana as she sings in her native language isiXhosa, not in English. ‘Hamba Bekhile’ is a traditional song that women sing after brewing beer when they pass the calabash around the thirsty men to sample the brew. It’s also the name of an album that was released in 1978

Margaret Singana -We Are Growing -12 inch Extended Remix

Margaret Singana -Hamba Bikhele

But that hit was to be her final bow and the woman affectionately dubbed ‘Lady Africa’ died largely forgotten in 2000 at the age of 63, crippled and bound to a wheelchair and in a financial situation unfitting a star appropriately.

Let her music and spirit live on.

Margaret Singana -When Will I Be Loved

Margaret Singana -Stand By Your Man

Margaret Singana -She Was A Dancer

sources; wikipedia and

Miriam Makeba -Mama Africa- TV docu Mika Kaurismäki

Last night Dutch TV channel The Hour of the Wolf  broadcasted a colorful portrait of Africa’s most famous singer Miriam Makeba . You can watch this documentary in flash or via Microsoft Silverlight.

This documentary gives not only a great visual overview of Makeba’s career but through the many interviews with the singer and guests one can gets a really good impression of the life and circumstances in South Africa before 1994, during Apartheid and Makeba’s struggle against the regime.

Especially the early years of Miriam Makeba are well highlighted; her performances as part of the African Jazz & Variety shows at the City Hall in Johannesburg, her start as a singer with The Manhattan Brothers, her rise and fall in  the USA, living as an exile in Guinea…there is even some rare footage from an unofficial film ‘Come Back Africa’ (1959) by American filmmaker Lionel Rogosin that was smuggled out of the country and contained 2 songs by a very young Makeba. Essential film footage and a treasure to all lovers of the music of  one of South Africa’s greatest singers.

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She married five times, lost her only daughter and lived in exile in the United States, Guinea and Belgium. She was surrounded by President John F. Kennedy, actor Marlon Brando and singer Ella Fitzgerald. She scored an international smash hit with Pata Pata. That precisely this apolitical dance song was so successful made ​​her slightly sad but she was not complaining: “The audience chooses what it wants.”

Makeba was born in a South African township, broke through as a jazz singer and grew under the wing of Harry Belafonte into a musical and political legend. Makeba had enormous presence and never publicly took a mince words: “I do not talk politics, I tell the truth.” In 1963, she said to the United Nations, and became a figurehead of the anti-apartheid struggle in her country. It earned her the nickname Mama Africa and led to thirty years in exile.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela asked her personal “coming home” and return to South Africa. She died in 2008 of a heart attack. This richly documented ode celebrates her unforgettable voice, her charisma and her high-priced idealism.

Director: Mika Kaurismäki
Producer: Starhaus / ZDF

see also my previous posts 

African Jazz & Variety -Alfred Herbert 1952

South African Soul Divas pt 1-Miriam Makeba

King Kong, the first All African Jazz Opera 1956

South African Soul Divas Pt 4 -The Skylarks

see & hear my previous post with MP3 Preview

Township Jive & Kwela Jazz (1940-1960) Available Now!

Soul Safari’s  first compilation featuring 2 rare recordings by Miriam Makeba with The Skylarks & Spokes Mashiyane

 The Skylarks w/ Makeba & Spokes Mashiyane -Ekoneni

 The Skylarks w/ Makeba & Spokes Mashiyane -Inkomo Zodwa

Julian Bahula & Jabula -a call for freedom 1979

To start the week I propose this rare album by South African group Jabula, found just last friday on a local flea-market, not so surprising since Holland has always had a long tradition with the ANC. During the struggle against Apartheid Holland supported the cause and sheltered South African artists in exile. This often resulted in releasing music locally that was banned  in South Africa during those days. The record was recorded and released in London, UK. The pressing is on Jabula Records, and I noticed that it was published in 1979. There are other releases on Virgin and Plaene. See label and cover for more details.

Jabula -Siakala -We Are Sad + Our Fathers

Jabula -Let Us Be Free


side A

1. Jabula Happiness

2. Baile-They are Gone

3. Listen To Me Crying

4. Naledi

5. Badishi-Herdboys

Side B

1. Thandi

2. Siakala -We Are Sad

3. Our Fathers

4. Let Us Be Free

Musicians featured on this album

Vicky Busiswe Mhlongo -lead vocals, Ken Eley -Tenor, Soprano, Madumetja Ranku -Guitar, percusssion, Mgotsi Mothle -Bass guitar, acoustic bass, backing vocals, Graham Morgan -drums, percussion, Sebothane Bahula -leader, African drums, percussion, Willy Cheetham -congas, percussion, backing vocals, Dudu Pukwana -alto, Eddie Quansah -trumpet, George Larnyoh -tenor, flute, Peter Van Der Puije -baritone, Jean Alian Roussel -keyboards, Maureen Koto Lembede -background vocals.

Produced by Dave Bloxham. Artwork and painting by the late South African artist Dumile Feni.

Published Jabula Records 1979 -JBL 2002 UK

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Two other albums; ‘Afrika Awake’ and ‘Zuid Afrikaanse muziek’ are also in my collection and I will happily provide rips in case there is any interest, just let me know! More info on Jabula in future posts…

Jabula was formed in 1974 and consisted of:

Julian Bahula, lead vocals, formerly of Philip Tabane’s Malombo Jazzmen

Ernest Mothle, bass guitar

Lucky Ranku, guitar and percussion

Eddie Tatane, percussion

The four members that became Jabula met in London where they were living after leaving South Africa.  Under the Apartheid regime, traditional African music was largely banned from radio and even private play, and groups who performed it were often forced into exile.

Here is an excerpt from Jabula’s Music own website

The year was 1964; the venue, Orlando Stadium, the era’s music mecca of South Africa; the occasion, the Castle Lager Jazz Festival, organised by impresario Sipho Sydney Sepamla, the internationally known poet. Three young men from Mamelodi, a township in Pretoria, created a great impact on the crowd of 60.000; the new sound of their music heralded a cultural awakening.

 This was the public birth of the Malombo Jazzmen, consisting of leader and guitar wizard, Philip Tabane, flautist and harmonica player, Abbey Cindi and Julian Bahula on traditional African Drums. These drums gave the group it’s distinctive sound and became known simply as Malombo drums.

In the 60’s, festivals in South Africa were run on a competitive basis, and the honours went to the Malombo Jazzmen; primitive yet sophisticated, simple and soulful. The 1964 Castle Lager Festival was the first time that Julian Bahula had played for such a large crowd of people and he describes his drums as sounding like a call for freedom.

see also this excellent post on Jabula at freedomblues

a discography(not complete) can be found here