The Kwela Swingsters is Australia’s leading exponents of Kwela, South African penny whistle jive music!
Band leader Andy Rigby learned the Kwela style penny whistle playing while he was living in Botswana in the 80’s. The unique way of ‘bending” the sound of the penny whistle gives the Kwela swing music its distinctive vibe.
With its rhythms rooted firmly in swing, add a lot of South African vibe and you have one happy dancing band.
The Kwela Swingsters have got many a foot dancing at leading Festivals in Australia:
both sides recorded unaltered from the actual 78 rpm
In 1951 Willard Cele and his tin flute appeared in the landmark South African film, ‘The Magic Garden’ (a.k.a. ‘The Pennywhistle Blues’).
It greatly helped to popularize the instrument and inspired many to play, including Spokes Mashiyane, who would become a superstar of Kwela in the mid-1950’s and into the sixties.
This movie is one of the first to feature Kwela for a big audience and Dolly Rathebe, one of my favourite singers is starring in it as well.
The story tells a gentle, wistful tale of life in a black township, with the hero being a small-time thief who plays a penny whistle.
The cast are non-professionals, but the pacing and visuals are certainly of high quality. High point: When the local police lift a garbage can lid and see the thief inside, one looks at the other and says, “Man, the housing shortage is worse than I thought.” Dumb remark, but endearing. Especially since they carefully put the lid back on, and go on their way.
Much of its charm is to do with the age of the film and the success of the Cinematographer in actually teaching the actors to act as this was a first film for all the cast.
This film is used in USA universities as the first of its ilk from the early 1950s with an all-black cast. Fun. Nice countryside and scenery, giving the viewer a taste of South Africa before its troubles.
About Willard Cele
Willard Cele, a crippled South African flageolet player who is regarded as the pioneer of South African Kwela music, often credited as having been the first to bring the inherently upbeat sound of the Pennywhistle to the medium.
On both the South African and English record label he’s credited as playing the Flageolet, which is sort of the refined older cousin to the Tin Whistle or Pennywhistle.
‘The Magic Garden’ (1951)
Also Known As: La soupe à la citrouille
63 min – Comedy | Drama | Music – 5 March 1951 (South Africa)
Director: Donald Swanson
Writers: James H. Brown (story), C.M. Pennington-Richards,
Stars: Tommy Ramokgopa, Harriet Qubeka, Joseph Motuba |
Complete credited cast:
The Thief-Tommy Ramokgopa
Mrs. Shakabona -Harriet Qubeka
Nicholas, store clerk -Joseph Motuba
Lucas Ranku -David Mnkwanazi
John, Lili’s beau-Victor Cwai
Lili Shabulala -Dolly Rathebe
Mr. Shabulala -Grinsell Nogauza
Isaac Wela -Lucas Khosa
Mrs. Wela-Linda Madikisa
Priest -Jonathan Mzamo
Mr. Letuli, the troubled parishioner -George Mabuza
A Constable -Cornelius Moghare
A Constable -Samuel Alcock …
Pennywhistle Player -Willard Cele
Mrs. Shakabona’s Neighbor -Stanley Khali
Country: South Africa
Release Date: 5 March 1951 -South Africa
Filming Locations: Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa