In Tune with South Africa -Albie Louw

today’s post features a series of records that fits perfectly into my favorite category ‘Music For Restaurants, Nightclubs & Hotel Lounges’ with gorgeous covers. After a few years of digging I finally completed a full set of 5 volumes of ‘In Tune with South Africa’ by keyboard player Albie Louw. And after some research I found out that the guy was more then just tickling the ivory….read more

The following is extracted from Volume III of the 1986 edition of South African Music Encyclopedia (J.P. Malan, ISBN 0 19 570363 4) 

ALBERTUS JOHANNES (ALBIE) LOUW, baritone, born 10 February 1926 near Malmesbury, South Africa

After initial training in pianoforte and singing at Stellenbosch, Louw continued his study at the College of Music in Cape Town. His pianoforte playing was supervised by Cameron Taylor and Lili Kraus and for singing he successively had Lucy Greathead, John Andrews, Alessandro Rota and Gregorio Fiasconaro as teachers. During his College years he became a member of the University’s Opera Group for whom (up to 1970) he interpreted a range of repertoire operas which included Don Giovanni, Tosca and Le Nozze di Figaro. He accompanied this group on their tour to England and Scotland in 1953 and sang in The Consul by Menotti. He had an exceptional occasion in 1961 when he interpreted the title role at the premiere of John Joubert’s Silas Marner in Cape Town. As a pianist he played with the Cape Town City Orchestra at least once in a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Since the establishment of the Regional Councils for the Performing Arts (1962) he has undertaken concert tours and the singing of opera roles for CAPAB, NAPAC and PACT. 

Springbok Radio’s “Shell Show”

His main interest, and the one to which he has devoted the most time and attention, lies in the domain of light music, especially in the world of broadcasting for which he has performed both as pianist and as singer and in combination with his own Albie Louw Salon Orchestra in the transmission of innumerable entertainments. His orchestra became renowned through years of participation in Springbok Radio’s “Shell Show”, often in arrangements by Louw himself. Another popular group which owes its existence to his initiative were the Safari Singers, who interpreted his arrangements of folk songs, as well as his original lyrics. Their performances were characterised by Louw directing, singing and playing the piano at the same time. 

In 1978 he orchestrated and conducted for NAPAC the musical “Aladdin” and in 1979 he conducted “Annie” during the last two weeks of its season in Cape Town. In the same year he undertook a concert tour with his Safari Singers for CAPAB, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the FAK. He has supported the tenor Gé Korsten in various shows, e.g. in the TV show for which he composed the song In die Kaap Maak die Boere Lekker Wyn. Albie Louw also had a studio in Cape Town where he taught singing and pianoforte playing.


not an unusual practice with the big record companies…when no individual art work was available for a certain record then another cover was used. Just like this original 7″ ep by the Benoni Flute Quintet and the Alexandra Shamber Boys and Girls that became a twin cover for Albie Louw ‘In Tune with South Africa Volume 5 -Kwela’

see also The Don Albert Combo -Dinner (not breakfast) at Tiffany’s

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

In my previous post Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part One Italian born singer Viviana remembers working and partying in Johannesburg and around the clubs, restaurants in East London in the mid 1960’s.

This is part two of an exclusive Q&A I had with Viviana. Thanks so much for the memories.

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part Two

Viviana + Rene Moya
Viviana + Rene Moya

Q-did any black artists performed in Jo’burg nightlife around 1965? Was jazz music popular in the circuit you worked in?

A- a few black artists performed, but not many. I didn’t know most of their names and frankly personally I only saw a few, one of them was Hugh Masekela. As musicians we didn’t differentiate with races, and accepted talent and technique only. It was different with the laws of the country, but to all of us it never made any difference. I know they were required to enter the premises from the back door, but the clients liked them very much. As for jazz venues, I don’t recall any specific one, but I do remember a combo with Hennie Bekker (piano), Johnny Fourie (guitar), Johnny Boshoff (bass), Tony Moore (drums) they played excellent fusion and being good musicians they eventually played and produced at SABC. I worked with all of them on one nighters, shows and functions later on after they disbanded

 Q-were there any specific discotheques/places for dancing or only restaurants with dancing facilities. How safe was it to go out at night?

A- I don’t remember many discotheques except Bella Napoli in Hillbrow. Every restaurant had a band and everywhere you could dance till very late. Nobody had any problems walking around at any time at night. It was extremely safe. In fact until 1983/84 Johannesburg was still safe enough, as I remember walking in Hillbrow to go to Fontana’s to get a roast chicken at 3am, in my jammies. At that time the guys from club 58 (gay club) used to come to my flat and wake me up when they finished working, so we would make coffee and go and get food.

Johannesburg night scene around Market Street -Albie Louw ‘In Tune With South Africa vol. 6’

Q-what neighbourhoods of Jo’burg were frequented for the nightlife? Around Market Street, around the theatres?

A-Mainly the scene was in Hillbrow , Market Street, Joubert Park and Downtown. Now all these places are impossible to go to, very dangerous, and have deteriorated dreadfully.

Q-I understand that lots of the music that was featured in the restaurants/nightlife was called ‘Continental’. French, Italian, etc. Why do you think that was? Was there a certain taste for European music? Was any typical South African music performed?

A- Continental music was extremely popular and I guess I was lucky to arrive at that time as I did not have to make many changes to my repertoire. I don’t know why, or who started the trend. I guess also the Latin-american trend in movies was to blame. Typical South african music, and by that I mean afrikaans was not considered trendy enough for clubs. But there were a lot records in Afrikaans. The one modern band that was upcoming was Rabbit, they were young and rock, but they were sort of “squashed” by the media, Trevor Rabin was in that group. Eventually they left the country and I see that Trevor writes a lot of huge movie soundtracks in the USA.

 Q-you mentioned Bez Martin, a saxophone player. I do own a record by him “Shuffle With Bez, Cha Cha with Martin” on which he plays cha cha and shuffle styles of music. Were these styles played a the nightclubs/restaurants mainly or were there more styles of dancing that were popular at the time?

Bez Martin 1965
Bez Martin 1965

A-Bez was a friend for many years and I did many functions with him at the Superbowl in Sun City many years later as well. Continental music was played everywhere, but also we played a lot of swing and American classics. Whatever came from the States and we heard on the Radio, we rehearsed in the afternoon and played the same night.

A-were your bookings for a longer period or for just one night?

Q- I was always booked with a minimum 3 months contract or longer. Although we did one nighters on our night off (Sunday). Weddings etc. We worked very hard, I still can’t believe I had all that energy and still had time to party some nights after work.

A-were you touring the country and working the circuit?

Q- After Johannesburg I went on the circuit, and that means you can never take a holiday, as the bands change every 3 or 6 months (I did stay in some Hotels for a year and longer) we had an agent Maurice Fresco (after Keleti) and he kept on booking us from place to place for many years. Only top 5 stars Hotels.

Rene Moya & His Band feat Viviana LP  cover

Q-what about Lourenco Marques in Mozambique. What sort of nightlife entertainment was on offer? Were the records released by the bands/singers manufactured as a souvenir or commercially released by the record companies?

A- I know Rene’ worked at the Polana Hotel, that was very famous and came to South Africa after working in Mozambique and Angola, that was also a swinging place. I am not aware of records released commercially, but I really don’t know.

The Polana Hotel -1965
The Polana Hotel -1965

Q-have you ever performed in Afrikaans speaking places of interest. Like Loch Vaal Hotel?

A- I have never performed in Afrikaans speaking places. I only did a concert once on a sunday with an Afrikaans band, it was in a huge tent and in a little dorp (village, place) outside Johannesburg. Frankly I should have kept on doing those concerts as everyone that sang there became extremely famous in the country. Lol.

Q-does any of these places ring a bell?? The Beachcomber in Durban. The Caravelle in Johannesburg. The Balalaika Hotel – a popular country type of hotel/restaurant-. Franco Italian restaurant in Johannesburg. Tiffany’s Restaurant in Commissioner Street, Jo’burg.

A- Yes all of them, very famous. I ate at Franco’s often and got special treats (being Italian and speaking the lingo) I did sing at the Balalaika on occasions, and then much later we did a contract there for 6 months, but not in the 60s, in the 70s.

a night at Franco's


Q-have you ever heard of a singer called Eduardo Jaime? He was Portuguese and very famous in South Africa if I’m well informed.

A-Yes I met Eduardo, he was working with Rene’ at the Mikado before me, I believe I got the job because Dan called Rene’ when him and Eduardo were having a lot of differences and Eduardo just got fired. Rene’ and Eduardo were both very fiery. They were partners in crime though when it came to parties and girls. Yes he was Portuguese. I have no idea how long he worked at the Mikado.

The Mikado restaurant logo

Last Night At The Mikado –Q&A with singer Viviana…Part One

My collection of records from South Africa consists of many colours, mainly black music but my heart is also weak for the sound of pop music that was popular in the 1960’s in the swanky restaurants, hotels and nightclubs of Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London. The circuit reached as far as the holiday resorts in Mocambique, Portuguese Angola, even the Belgian Congo.

Around 1965 Mediterranean music became hugely popular in South Africa. Dance styles like the Twist, the Mambo and the Cha Cha, originally born and bred in the United States first swept Italy and the Mediterranean region before being exported to South Africa where performers catered for the refined taste of the well heeled visitors and sophisticated dancers that frequented the big hotels and nightclubs of the capital. More and more European musicians, singers and bands landed in eGoli, the city of gold & diamonds where riches and fame was to be found aplenty. There existed a circuit of hip places and palaces of nocturnal pleasures; nightclubs, bars and restaurants where live music was an extra attraction to the fine dining and luxurious surroundings. Valet parking included.

This exclusive Q&A tells the story of nightlife in Johannesburg in 1965 through the memories of Italian born singer Viviana. Part One.

In 1965 singer Viviana came to the city of Pretoria with a head full of dreams and a voice that could charm birds out of trees. She followed her father Prof. Carlo Pacchiori who was head-hunted in Trieste, Italy by Maestro Leo Quayle and Mr Bosman de Kock, who came to hear her dad and offered him the position of First Lead Violin in the PACT, South Africa’s first symphonic orchestra with musicians from all over the world.

While growing up in Italy, Viviana made her first pop broadcast over Radio Trieste when she was nine. She was an established nightclub singer in Europe when she came to South Africa. She sang in seven languages and made her first South African LP “Réne Moya featuring Viviana”

Viviana + Réne Moya

 Q-please tell me when you arrived in South Africa and what drove you there. Were you already a professional singer?

A-I arrived in Pretoria in 1965, from Trieste Italy. My father had been head-hunted to be to first lead violin of the PACT orchestra. He came to South Africa in 1964 when the PACT Orchestra was created, my mother and I followed a few months later. I had already been singing professionally on weekends and some gigs at night as I was finishing school too. My first public appearance was when I was nine and I sang in concert and Italian Radio. I was well liked. When I arrived in Pretoria I was introduced to a pianist whose name I cannot remember. I did a few gigs and concerts with him, but, pushed by my parents I was also working as a secretary at Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria. This pianist thought it was a disgrace for me to work in an office and he organized for me to have an audition with Dan Hill, so we drove to Johannesburg.

Viviana + Dan Hill & His band at the Orange Grove Hotel Johannesburg Sept 1966
Viviana + Dan Hill & his band at the Orange Grove Hotel -Johannesburg Sept 1966

Q-Dan Hill was one of the leading artists/arrangers/band leaders at the time.Can you tell me more about your collaboration with him?

A-Dan liked me, but at that time he already had a singer and he immediately phoned Réne Moya to tell him he had a vocalist for his combo. I started working with Réne, then Réne left for a few months and I joined Dan at the Grove. –The Grove was a nightclub at the Orange Grove Hotel, situated at 192, Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg –note of the editor

see also ‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli

We did many gigs together too, weddings, functions. Dan Hill was one of the best musicians in S.A. and very well respected. Unfortunately I was not with him for a very long time. He was a very kind man and nice to the musos. Then Réne returned and I went back to work with him, Dan asked us to do an LP together, he previously had done an previous album only with Réne when I wasn’t on the scene yet. I only did one LP with Dan Hill that was released as “Réne Moya featuring Viviana”. After that I did a few radio transcriptions with Rollo Scott. He was a big personality/producer at SABC. The song “Lost in Love” I co-wrote with Rollo Scott, the musical arrangement is by Bez Martin, a brilliant saxophone player. I worked a lot on gigs with him.

Q-describe the nightlife scene in Johannesburg at the time. What sort of people did visit the restaurants/nightclubs. Were there any foreigners? Were people of different race & colour allowed in as guests?

A-I must say I was a bit unaware about any laws at that time, I did not see any blacks as patrons. Yes there were people of other races in the restaurants, Chinese, Japanese, Indians too, all countries. People were extremely elegant in those days. The men wearing suits and ladies always in evening dresses. Lots of jewels and fur coats. Very high standard, opulent clients. There was a lot of happiness at that time and fun everywhere. Those times where swinging.

The Mikado restaurant logo

The Mikado Restaurant was a top spot opposite Joubert Park, very luxurious and it belonged to Francesco and Janice Miller. A fantastic restaurant with bands and shows at every corner.

Réne Moya was considered one of the top pianists of that era and I was a very young girl with a passion for singing. Everyone was much older than I was, and I learnt a lot. We used to play until very late, starting at 8pm and finishing at 2am, the places were always full. All the rich and famous came to the Mikado.

Much later the Mikado became the Garden of Allah ( a curry place), I don’t know what it is called now, but years ago it looked totally deteriorated, so sad. It used to be an amazing place. We all knew each other (I mean all the bands), musos from one place would visit other spots if they finished earlier. Many times I found myself at Fontana’s in Hillbrow at 3 am getting food, and there I would see other musos from other spots coming for a bite to eat. We had theme nights too at the Mikado, mainly continental inspired.

Viviana +RéneMoya band at The Mikado restaurant Johannesburg 1965
Viviana +Réne Moya band at The Mikado restaurant Johannesburg 1965

We were there when the big train robbery happened and were very puzzled by some English men, very showy, gangster types who looked extremely rich and came to the Mikado every night. They only came for a short while and then we never saw them again.

Of course being in the band has a lot of perks as everyone invites you to their table for drinks and you get close to everybody. I never drank, but there was a lot of happy drinking going on. It wasn’t just the restaurants and the clubs, the movie houses were popular too, beautiful places decorated with balconies and statues inside them. They looked incredible. People dressed up to go to movies just as much as going to clubs.

see also Johannesburg Night Club Festival 1964

I remember that here was one striptease artist only, Glenda Kemp, that scandalized the scene a bit. I personally thought she was very good. I met her again 30 years ago and she was selling clothes in a boutique in Jo’burg, subsequently she moved to Durban, she had become a Christian, keeping to herself, and was very ashamed about her past. I tried to tell her she had nothing to be ashamed of, but she felt very guilty. Very sweet girl that had been exploited by her partner.

Lourenco Marques restaurant & nightclub flyer July 27 1967
Lourenco Marques restaurant & nightclub -advertisement July 27 1967

Q-did International artists perform in the circuit?

A-I remember when Marlene Dietrich came, in fact she was on the plane I was on coming to South Africa, Liberace I remember. But mainly they were not working on the circuit since they gave performances in theaters and came to the clubs after that as patrons. Otherwise some restaurants imported Continental bands. Even a friend of my dad, from Trieste Italy, came with his band and played at Ciro’s for 6 months. His name was Giorgio Paoletti. Of course we had Renatino di Napoli. When I was working in Port Elizabeth at the Mark, the daughter of Winston Churchill, there on holiday, was always wanting to spend time with us, even during the day, she was a lonely lady and loved music.

see also Last night at the Carlton, Johannesburg with Renatino di Napoli

next post will feature Part 2 of Last Night At The Mikado

‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli

Regular visitors may have noticed that I have a weak spot for music that was popular in restaurants, lounges and ballrooms of the hotels in Johannesburg in the 1960’s. Creating a map of the musical nightlife in Johannesburg from that period has fascinated me ever since I found the first records within the theme.  By now, there is  enough material for a compilation.

Today’s  post is another addition to that ever expanding collection.  See also  Celebration at Ciro’s and Johannesburg Night Club Festival 1964

As the 60’s blew a wind of change into the country and  South Africa’s main capital ruled the cultural landscape,  many national and international artists flocked to the City of Gold  in search of fame and fortune. But the gold of Johannesburg was not for everyone, not in 1964…

Apartheid laws forced the black and colored population out of the city centre after work during daytime so people had to find inventive ways to come out to play after dark. Entertainment became more than ever The Big Escape out of the slums and townships.

Since racial separation was not so strict at some restaurants and hotels in the city, guests from all over of the world could be found mingling with the locals.

The Orange Grove Hotel had separate entrances reserved for Restaurant Parisien and the Cocoanut Grove nightclub where jockeys of Jo’burg mingled with Sowetan she-been Queens who were serving napkins, French food and sunshine smiles to a sophisticated crowd.  Local food specialties served in luscious surroundings accompanied by the house band starring featured singers and dancers;  Showtime!

Ladies and gentlemen,the Orange Grove Hotel proudly presents…

Dan Hill with Dana Valery -From Russia With Love

Discothèque entertainment in 60’s Jo’burg was found mainly in the bigger hotels with restaurants, like the Orange Grove or the Carlton where international stars stayed for the night or played long-term contracts. Local stars were discovered here. Una Valli  was introduced to Jo’burg’s well-heeled clientèle of the Orange Grove Hotel at the tender age of 14!  Bandleader Sam Sklair started out as a crooner accompanying himself  with a small dinner combo at  the famous restaurant “The Colony”.

Dan Hill, South Africa’s top bandleader, got a residency at The Orange Grove  where he provided the entertainment. His music was described at the time as ‘instant night club’ and consisted of his own material and new arrangements of popular hits of the day. Mostly Bossa Nova, Cha Cha, Fox Trot, Baion and of course the Twist.

Shortly before taking residency Dan Hill had made an extensive trip to Britain, Europe and the United States to study the latest recording techniques and observe the current trends. He worked with artists as Louis Armstrong, Stan Kenton, Andy Williams, Eydie Gorme, Steve Lawrence and Barbara Streisand, to mention a few.

Dan Hill with Una Valli -Really Gone Shake

Dan Hill with Una Valli -Just So Bobby Can See

On this record from 1965 you will hear Dan’s new vocalist –Una Valli. Una was only 14 years old when she recorded this material and performing with a man who knew the routine of the entertainment business, must have helped her career tremendously. Una Valli later recorded with the Durban group The Flames and The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and gained a crowd with her strong performance in the soul and pop universe.

excerpts from the liner notes of ‘Dan Hill At The Grove’ featuring Dana Valery and introducing Una Valli.

CBS ALD 6721 South Africa  1965

Mediterranean Cocktail at Franco Restaurant with Vasco Cordoni

Now here’s a disc that features singer Vasco Cordoni at the cocktail bar of the famous ‘Franco Restaurant’ in Johannesburg,  specializing in Mediterranean food and spirits

singer Vasco Cordoni must be of Italian origin and born in South Africa. He worked mainly in the restaurant/lounge–circuit in Johannesburg in the 60’s,  singing a well groomed repertoire of Mediterranean origins while specializing in Italian songs.

Vasco Cordoni -La Notte

Vasco Cordoni -Tasseparo na fioume

The album ‘Mediterranean Cocktail’ was released in 1966 while Vasco worked at the ‘Franco Restaurant & Cocktail Bar’. He can be seen on the cover posing happily at the bar, probably with the band that accompanied him, or maybe the guys may have been working at the bar, shaking cocktails.  No credits nor any liner notes to verify that…But the repertoire on this album is pretty and comfortable to listen to, the usual cocktail bar/lounge fare but only more ‘poppy’ at times and with a few unexpected turns in mood and style, like ‘Sha-La-la’ and ‘O Barquinho’, that beautiful Brazilian Bossa Nova….

Vasco Cordoni -Sha-la-la

Vasco Cordoni -O barquinho

Vasco Cordoni -Se to vieni con mico

Vasco Cordoni -Volare


Have a go, order a Limoncello Martini and sip away those blues


  • 1/2 ounce limoncello
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1 lemon twist
  • Directions

Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Sam Sklair -Gumboot Dance vol 1 & 2

gumboot vol 1 -side 1

Sam Sklair -Zambesi

gumboot vol 1 cover

Sam Sklair -Gumboot Dance

Of course Sam Sklair did not invent the  ‘gumboot dance’. He merely adapted the rhythms and sounds that are typical for the original style. The origins of ‘gumboot dancing’ can be traced back to the gold mines of South Africa at the height of the migrant labour system and during the oppressive Apartheid Pass Laws. The original name is ‘Isicahulo’ in the Baca language. ‘Gumboot dancing’ was performed by mine workers who worked in the Witwatersrand goldmines near Johannesburg.

Sam Sklair -Gumboot Dance nr 2 in E sharp

At best, working in the mines was a long, hard, repetitive toil. At worst, the men would be taken chained into the mines and shackled at their work stations in almost total darkness.

The floors of the mines were often flooded, with poor or non-existent drainage. For the miners, hours of standing up to their knees in infected waters brought on skin ulcers, foot problems and consequent lost work time. The bosses discovered that providing gumboots (Wellington boots) to the workers was cheaper than attempting to drain the mines. This created the miners uniform, consisting of heavy black Wellington boots, jeans, bare chest and bandannas to absorb eye-stinging sweat.

The workers were forbidden to speak, and as a result created a means of communication, essentially their own unique form of Morse Code. By slapping their gumboots and rattling their ankle chains, the enslaved workers sent messages to each other in the darkness. From this came an entertainment, as the miners evolved their percussive sounds and movements into a unique dance form and used it to entertain each other during their free time.

Sam Sklair -Tula Baba

Gumboot dancing has developed into a working class, South African art form with a universal appeal. The dancers expand upon traditional steps, with the addition of contemporary movement, music and song. Extremely physical, the dancing serves as a cathartic release, celebrating the body as an instrument, and the richness and complexities of South African culture.

Adapted. Original text can be found on

gumboot vol 2 cover

Sam Sklair -Swingin Safari

Sam Sklair -POP goes the gumboot

Sam Sklair….instrumentalist, arranger, composer

all over the world musicians, arrangers, producers and artists are constantly seeking that “new sound” that is going to set the music world alight. Very few find a sound that is fresh and original, and of those that are succesfull, even fewer produce the sound that catches the fancy of the public.

Sam Sklair -Grazing In The Grass

pop goes the gumboot cover

Sam Sklair -I can’t help myself

When Sam Sklair made ‘Gumboot Dance’ the sound, tailored to fit the African style of the numbers, caught the ear of record buyers in many parts of the world, and the demand for more of the ‘Gumboot Sound’ became irresistible. But first it appeared that another record of African type songs would be essential to give voice to the distinctive rhythms of Gumboot, Sam had different views on the subject and decided to take current ‘pop’ tunes and give them the treatment. The result was ‘Pop goes The Gumboot’, an album that was released in 1969. It features great versions of ‘Aquarius’, ‘Grazing in the grass’ and hits like ‘Swinging Safari’ and ‘I can’t help myself (sugar pie, honey bunch) originally a US smash for The Four Tops. That the ‘Gumboot Sound’ moved so effectively from its natural element to an entirely new medium is not only adequately proved on this record but is also a tribute to Sam Sklair’s sound.

Sam Sklair -Aquarius

pop goes the gumboot detail

A multi-instrumentalist, Sam has scored many feature films, documentaries, and has written for several BBC radio and TV productions. He has recently completed his 10th international album, and has been awarded 6 international gold albums for his work.

See Sam Sklair’s You Tube mini biography