Noise Khanyile -jive violinist w/ Jo’burg City Stars & Amagugu Akwazulu

This album demonstrates Noise Khanyile’s range of both traditional and jive music.  In 1960 he began to play shebeens, and he als learned how to play the violin. His violin playing was influenced by Mareza, probably the most famous jive violist of the early 60’s.

In 1964 Noise was still playing acoustically. He did not begin to play in a band which used drums until 1969. He  went to Trutone Records, made a record, switched to EMI’s Umsakazo label  but although the worked hard at several sessions, the result in being paid was a session fee of about 8 rand ( UKP 2.00) a side.

Noise Khanyile -Dlamini

In 1972 he recorded with the Boyoyo Boys, a big jive band at the time. He worked with the legendary producer West Nkosi on sessions like ‘2 Mabone’ which went gold twice for the FGB label. These ‘Mabone’ records were a bit of a craze among jive musicians. Mabone means headlight and the number describes the number of headlights on a car. There were loads of Mabone titles ‘3 Mabone’, ‘4 Mabone’ etc.

But jive music had not made much progress since it originated and consequently the newer sounding disco took over as a popular form in the mid-70’s. Jive as a music form was put into the shade by disco for some time, but Noise remained optimistic about its survival. Noise has never made disco records, he went back to the traditional music and also marabi, an early jive guitar picking style, where the instrumentation is guitar picking and rhythm guitar, plus occasional addition of saxophone, but no drums or bass guitar.

Noise Khanyile -Via Scotch Land

In 1989 Noise had recorded with Mahlatini, the renowned groaner, and he made a special appearance as member of the Jo’burg City Stars’ that same year. More on this collaboration later…

Noise Khanyile -The Art Of Noise with the Jo’burg City Stars &  Amagugu Akwazulu

Globestyle ORB 045

text from the liner notes by Carol Fawcett

SA Jazz -Rhythms Of Freedom -African Jazz Pioneers, Sabenza 1987 Amsterdam

A good day to all. Monday started with my weekly visit to the Noordermarkt flea-market where I found a few interesting albums this morning.

‘Rhythms Of Freedom’ was originally released in 1987 by Varagram, the label of the Dutch public television and radio. These rare live-recordings were made during the 1987 festival ”Culture in Another South Africa” in Paradiso, De Melkweg and Het Muziektheater in Amsterdam.  Artists as diverse as The Genuines, Ntsikane, Sabenza and the African Jazz Pioneers played Amsterdam’s most prominent music venues during a national manifestation against Apartheid.

African Jazz Pioneers 1987

Contemporary stars such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Jonas Gwangwa, Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba have learned the trade from them; the African Jazz Pioneers, the original Grandfathers of South African Jazz. The Pioneers are not a permanent formation, but are playing in ever-changing combinations. In 1955 we find saxophonist Ntemi Piliso for example, already present at jam sessions in Sophiatown, the famous melting pot of cultures and colors. Then very popular styles like American swing, Marabi and township jazz, are still accentuated by the raw sound of the Pioneers.

African Jazz Pioneers -Woodpecker

The Genuines 1987

The Genuines are a four-piece band from Cape Town (Ian Herman, Hilton Schilder, Gerard O’Brien and Mac McKenzie) who play the traditional ‘Kaapse Klopse”-like goema sometimes is called, in a rock-and funk-jacket. Brutal, challenging and at times sensual, their music openly accuses the apartheid system. Electric banjos, Duma drums, bass, keyboards; The Genuines take position. For example, in South Africa they played a benefit concert for the families of striking workers. Politically conscious musicians with an obvious penchant for lively, happy music from Cape Town. The lyrics are a mixture of English and Afrikaans, “moppies”.

The Genuines -Struggle

Other artists on this album are Ntsikane, a percussion group from Cape Town and Sabenza, the group around Basil ‘Mannenberg’ Coetzee who is accompanied by Paul Abrahams, Paula Goldstone, James Kirby and Tich Arendse.

Sabenza 1987

Sabenza plays not only jazz, even goema, funk and traditional kwela pop up in their music.

Coetzee:“Look brother. The apartheid system would push us in different boxes. Xhosa, Soto, brown, white and so on. But we believe we are one. We are all South Africans and via our music, we try to give that message. ” See also my previous post on Sabenza.

Sabenza -Where Do We Go From Here?


musical selections from ‘Rhythms Of Freedom’ released in 1987 in Holland by Varagram 9190

in the beginning there was Marabi, African Jazz

In the beginning, there was marabi: a raucous, distinctly African mixture of indigenous harmony and structure blended together with Afro-American ragtime and jazz (with an occasional touch borrowed from Tin Pan Alley pop or even British music hall), which was thrashed out of weatherbeaten pianos, harmoniums and guitars in slumyard shebeens, often to the accompaniment of inebriated patrons shaking pebble-filled tins. Marabi was synonymous with the lowest of low life, denounced from pulpits as immoral and branded as a cacophony by music critics, so it is no wonder that the early record companies chose to ignore it.

This particular performance by the otherwise unknown Mabiletsa (who may have been a resident of Alexandra Township near Johannesburg) together with a barely audible guitarist is probably a relatively sophisticated example of the genre but it nonetheless is one of the very few authentic marabi piano pieces ever recorded. Gallo apparently regarded ‘Zulu Piano Medley Nr. 1’ as a poor commercial prospect as the company waited nearly four years before releasing it.

Mabiletsa -Zulu Piano Medley Nr. 1 Part 1

(Gallotone –Singer GE944 released circa 1944)

Manhattan Brothers –Jikela Emaweni

(Xhosa; Turn Around to the Cliffs)

Gallotone released circa 1954

When this recording was made, the Manhattan Brothers were already African show business veterans of over two decades standing at the height of their power and popularity. The quartet had grown up together in Pimville (later a part of Soweto) and began singing as the Manhattan Stars while they were still attending school. Gallo first recorded them in 1947 and the immediate commercial success of their music coincided with an economic and artistic renaissance among urban Africans that ultimately affected a wide range of cultural activities, from drama to journalism.

At first, the Manhattans merely copied the songs and style of several popular Afro-American close harmony groups (most notably the Mills Brothers and the Inkspots whose recordings were well known in South Africa. The original English lyrics were transformed into an African vernacular. At Gallo’s insistence, however, the quartet later began developing material which was more African and ‘Jikela Emaweni’, one of their biggest hits, is a perfect example of the process. The song’s first melodic strains consists of an exact –albeit beautifully harmonized-rendition of an ancient Xhosa melody which was still sung at drinking parties among rural non-Christians as late as the 1930’s. At the conclusion of the festivities, male and female participants would pair off into the night to ‘turn around to the cliffs’. The quartet then composed a new second melodic line, also adding lyrics that contributed to the spirit of the original, and a South African classic was born.

Jazz Dazzlers –Diepkloof Ekhaya

(Xhosa; Diepkloof, My Home)

Featuring Kippie Moeketsi (1st Alto), Benny ‘Gwi Gwi’ Mrwebe (2nd Alto), Mackay Davashe (Tenor), Sol Klaaste (Piano)

USA Recordings -Released 1960

Once upon a time, jazz in South Africa was not a remote elitist art-form but was truly the entertainment music of the masses. Township residents danced and partied to the strains of eight-to-ten piece bands that served up a dynamic mixture which was either referred to as marabi or African Jazz. The essentially circular structure of African music remained a prominent characteristic together with various typically African melodic and harmonic qualities.

These elements were combined with the instrumentation of an overseas swing band which then gave scope for the complex voicings and arranged alternation between sections –usually brass against reeds –that had typified American big band jazz since the 1920s.

‘Diepkloof Ekahya’ is a wonderful example of this homegrown genre and features the sort of shouting, extraverted trumpet work that died forever in US jazz, with the beginnings of bop and the birth of the cool. The exact identity of this group is something of  a mystery but it sounds very much like the Jazz Dazzlers, an aggregration that grew out of the ‘King Kong’ backing band. See also my other post on the original King Kong production from 1959.

Notes by Rob Allingham

Musical selections pic and excerpts from liner notes from the compilation ‘From Marabi to Disco -42 years of Township Music’

Recommended Listening

‘From Marabi to Disco -42 years of Township Music’

Gallo Music Productions CDZAC 61 released in 1994

a gallery of South African music on 78 rpm

dream on…none of the following 78 rpm records will be traced easily in the wild but patience awards those who can wait for the bait. I like to start the year 2010 with some eye candy, a gallery of 78’s pressed in South Africa.

Elias & His Zig Zag Flutes -Tom Hark

Elias & His Zig Zag Flutes -Rij Rij

African releases of local talent were marketed for a small group of afficionados,  those who could afford a  grammophone player or more commonly for the black population, via township radio distribution.  During the fifties and sixties many small locally distributed labels flourished, a few were actually owned by black entrepreneurs. Many of these releases were pressed and controlled by the  Gallo Record Company.  Interesting fact is that ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey was instrumental in choosing the material for those releases. Tracey set up the first arena for the public display of mine dancing,  at the Consolidated Main Reef Mine in Johannesburg in 1943. He later paid tribute to the culture of mine dancing in his book ‘African Dances of the Witwatersrand Gold Mines’,  published by African Music Society in  October 1952

Mambuaulela Makhubela & his Shangaan Drum Dancers -Park Station

Nyasaland Nyo Tribe -Ndano

The Globetrotters -Vuyisile

Patla Pett & his Five boys -Polokwane Nr 4

Morning Lights Choir -Uxazazela -1962 Zulu Vocal acapella

Kid Zondi  -Saley’s Cycle Blues -1967 Sax Jive

with thanks to ILAM Grahamstown, South Africa

hey sista, go sista, soul sista -Township Soul & Boogie

township soul & boogie logo final

In the middle of the 70s, American disco was imported to South Africa, and disco beats were added to soul music, which helped bring a halt to popular mbaqanga bands such as the Mahotella Queens. In 1976, South African children rebelled en masse against apartheid and governmental authority, and a vibrant, youthful counterculture was created, with music as an integral part of its focus. Styles from before the 1970s fusion of disco and soul were not widely regarded, and were perceived as being sanctioned by the white oppressors. Few South African bands gained a lasting success during this period, however, with the exception of the Movers, who used marabi elements in their soul.
In the middle of the 70s, American Disco was imported to South Africa, and Disco beats were added to Soul music, which helped bring a halt to popular Mbaqanga bands such as the Mahotella Queens. In 1976, South African children rebelled en masse against apartheid and governmental authority, and a vibrant, youthful counterculture was created, with music as an integral part of its focus. Styles from before the 1970s fusion of Disco and Soul were not widely regarded, and were perceived as being sanctioned by the white oppressors. Few South African bands gained a lasting success during this period, however, with the exception of The Movers, who used Marabi elements in their Soul.  Our friends at Matsuli have posted an excellent bio on The Movers so I refer to that page for more information on the band.

Olga Mvicane

Olga Mvicane played only a small role in the movie Sarafina! (1992), a story of the courage and spirit of the children of South Africa’s townships in their resistance to apartheid, starring Miriam Makeba and Whoopie Goldberg, but Olga’s records were far more popular than her acting.
Here are a few rare 45 rpm’s by Olga Mvicane, all sides produced by Marks Mankwane.

Olga Mvicane -Gqobokani labelOlga Mvicane -Gqobokani 1979

Olga Mvicane -Ndiyazisola

Olga Mvicane -Ndeyelekini

Olga Mvicane -Ndeyikeleni 1978

Patricia Majalisa

Patricia MajalisaWhen a very young Patricia Majalisa left her home town, East London, in the Eastern Cape in 1978, she had a dream of becoming one of the  most successful local pop female singer. After an initial ten years struggle to have a niche for herself in the music industry, ‘Lady Luck’ came      her way when she met hit producer Dan Tshanda. Like all other artists desperate for a recording deal, they were a frequent sight at the old Gallo Studios in Kerk Street. Fortunately, ace producer Hamilton Nzimande from Gallo Records, listened to their demo tape and he liked what he’d heard. That culminated in them recording their debut album ‘Mr Tony’ which although not a hit, made them realise their potential. The late Mr Nzimande did not give up on them.

This made everyone see that the group had the potential to make it  and that’s when Ray Phiri of Stimela give them the name ‘Splash’ . This really splashed them with the production of the hit album ‘Peacock’ .  As the album attained sales of more than 50 000 copies,  producer Hamilton Nzimande decided Patricia should do her first solo album ‘Cool Down’.  The album sold Gold, that’s when she knew then that she had arrived and the goal she was seeking.

Her second and third albums, ‘Witch Doctor’ and ‘Gimba’ earned her platinum discs with sales in excess of 50 000 copies each.  This shows that Patricia’s talent is not something that fades away, having been in this industry over 16 years she is still hot and her message to youth should be taken seriously.

Patrica Majalisa -swingono

Patricia Majalisa -Swigono 1987

Patrica Majalisa -witch doctor

Patricia Majalisa -Witch Doctor 1987

disco-ball green

Mavis Maseko, Blondie Makhene & The Movers

…and to finish this post here are three 45 rpm records by The Movers, produced by David Thekwane,  each with a different vocalist;  Mavis Maseko, Blondie Makhene and an uncredited male singer .  Soul with a dash of Marabi while the organ and saxophone remain a prominent part of the sound. Each record brings out the diverse qualities of The Movers; they can play “cross-over” Pop, Soul and Disco and still add their own unique touch.

Mavis Maseko -ngonilie mama

Mavis Maseko -Ngonile Mama 1978

Mavis Maseko -Sebenzani 1978

Blondie Makhene with The Movers -hopeless love

Blondie Makhene with The Movers -Hopeless love 1970

The Movers -give me a day

The Movers -Give me a day 1981

afro_funk logo by  brev87 + township soul & boogie

South African Soul Divas pt 3 Dolly Rathebe, Mabel Mafuya, Nancy Jacobs, Eva Madison


1. An operatic prima donna.

2. A very successful singer of nonoperatic music: a soul diva

here is Part 3 in the South African Soul Divas series. I admit that the singers in these series are not  ‘Soul’ singers like  American counterparts  Aretha Franklin and  Lyn Collins et al.  Their specific way of singing could be described as Jazz,  Mbqanga or Township Soul as well.   But they sing from their souls and have often lived a life of hard times  under the brutal repression and exploitative injustice during Apartheid days.

Despite of all this, a singer like Dolly Rathebe developed her artistic career and became a well respected and established artist. Dolly Rathebe was one of the most prominent singers in the 1950’s,  together with Miriam Makeba and Dorothy Masuka.  She was also an actress who starred in a few movies.

dolly rathebe foto jurgen schadeberg

Dolly Rathebe 1949 -photo by Jürgen Schadeberg

Dolly Rathebe was born in Randfontein in 1928 in South Africa but grew up in Sophiatown which she describes as having been “a wonderful place”. She was discovered around 1948 when a talent scout from Gallo approached her and it wasn’t long before she became a star.  Rathebe became the top jazz and blues singer of her generation and considered so beautiful that a metaphor was coined for her. ‘It’s dolly’ meant ‘it’s wonderful’ and was an abbreviation of the Afrikaans ‘S’Dolly se boude’ (it’s Dolly’s tights).

She rose to fame in 1949 aged 19 when she appeared as a nightclub singer in the movie “Jim Comes To Jo’burg ” by director Jürgen Schadeberg, the first film to portray urban Africans in a positive light.  But despite it’s success, ‘Jim comes to Jo’burg’ also became a scornful metaphor among black intellectuals for all back-to-the-homelands literature. And there was  musical cross-fertilisation between urban and traditional styles. Rathebe scored an early hit with the song ‘Sindi’, a bluesed up version of a neo-traditional concertina tune ‘Good Street’, dedicated to a Sophiatown thoroughfare. The record was taken back to the United States by Sidney Poitier and picked up by Johnny Hodges under the title ‘Something to Put Your Foot to’.

When Alfred Herbert’s African Jazz and Variety show opened in 1954, Dolly appeared and stayed as Herbert’s main attraction for many years. She became an international star when she sang with the Afro-jazz group, the Elite Swingsters in 1964 and one of the first performers to make an impact in black TV drama in the late 1970’s. Her career suffered, like all others, from the intensifying repression of the 1980’s, but in the late 1990’s, she began to tour nationally and internationally again.

dolly rathebe and the inkspots

Dolly Rathebe with The African Inkspots -Unomeva 1954

After Sophiatown was flattened by the Apartheid government in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Rathebe found it more and more difficult to perform, especially after an 8pm curfew was imposed. She moved with her family to Cape Town township, and to survive, ran a shebeen for many years.


Elite Swingsters -Thulandiville 1960

the elite swingsters -soul blues label

here’s a rare instrumental Elite Swingsters -Soul Blues

In 1989 she re-united with the Elite Swingsters to perform in a film that was set in 1950s Johannesburg. In her latter years Rathebe was a leading light in Pretoria’s Ikageng Women’s League. In 2001 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the South African Music Awards.

In 2003, at the age of 75, Dolly appeared in a Johannesburg show, Sof’Town, A Celebration!, where she sang “Randfontein”, the story of a drunk miner returning home to find his wife in bed with another man, who is then beaten and chased out.

She was awarded the South African Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for her excellent contribution to music and the performing arts and commitment to the ideals of justice, freedom and democracy in 2004. Dolly Rathebe died on 16 September 2004 from a stroke.

Sharon Katz performs in a legendary house concert at Miriam Makeba’s home on December 26th, 2003 at a party  with Miriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe & Abigail K


Mabel Mafuya

mabel mafuya & the star queens -iMini label

Mabel Mafuya & The Star Queens -iMini

Mabel Mafuya & The Green Lanterns -Nomathemba 1956

Mabel Mafuya was one of the most popular and prolific vocalists of the mid-to-late 1950’s. Sadly, a year or so after the recording of ‘nomahtemba (a woman’s first name)’, a botched goiter operation badly affected her voice and thereafter her musical career began an inexorable downhill decline. Mabel was cast as one of the ‘Chord Sisters’ in ‘King Kong’ and later traveled with the show to London in 1961. After returning to South Africa, she decided to make a name for herself as an actress.  Musically speaking, Mabel is best remembered today for her novelty hit ‘hula hoop’ but ‘nomahtemba (a woman’s first name)’ is her masterpiece. The song’s narrative of broken ties would have encapsulated the dislocating experience of rural-to-urban migrancy for many township residents. Mabel’s searing vocal delivers the message with a direct conviction and intensity that has almost completely disappeared from any form of modern music.

Nancy Jacobs & Her Sisters -Meadowlands 1955

The rather shy and reserved Nancy Jacobs enjoyed a succesful singing career for a few years in the mid 50’s before she married in Cape Town and retired from public life. Her ‘Sisters’ were in reality her mother and first cousin. “Meadowlands” is one of South Africa’s great evergreens, an instantly recognizable melody with a fascinating history.

Eva Madison -an african lullaby

Eva Madison and the Bertha Gray Singers -An African Lullaby (tula baba)1963

Little is known about Eva Madison and The Bertha Gray Singers but this single published in 1963 features a famous lullaby that mothers use to help their crying babies to relax and then sleep.

Tula Tu Tula baba Tula sana Tul’umam ‘uzobuya ekuseni Tula Tu Tula baba Tula sana Tul’umam ‘uzobuya eku…

African Jazz -Elijah Nkwanyane, African Swingsters

music and rhythms of Africa

this rare double gatefolded EP reveals some of South Africa’s most popular tunes and key players in the formation of South African Jazz and popular styles like mbaqanga and kwela; Elijah’s Rhythm Kings (Elijah Nkwanyane), African Swingsters, Benoni Flute Quintet and The Alexandra Shamber Boys.

music from Africa binnenkant

In 1955 jazz lovers formed the Sophiatown Modern Jazz Club, which on Sundays organized a number of jam sessions, led by Pinocchio Mokaleng, in the Odin cinema in which leading musicians like Mackay Davashe, Elijah Nkwanyane, Kippie Moeketsi, Ntemi Piliso (saxophone player in the current African Jazz Pioneers) and many others took part. In Sophiatown for the first time in South African history black and white jazz musicians could meet on such a regular basis on common platform, a unique and typically Sophiatown fact. From these jam sessions emerged a very successful, star-studded band, the Jazz Epistles, featuring among others Kippie Moeketsi (alto), Jonas Gwangwa (trombone), Dollar Brand, now Abdullah Ibrahim (piano), Hugh Masekela (trumpet), Johnny Gertse (guitar) and Makhaya Ntshokr (drums). They laid the basis for a period of modern South African jazz, which was developed further in the 1960s. Jonas Gwangwa and Hugh Masekela were members of the only African high school jazz band ever formed in South Africa – the Huddleston Jazz Band, which was based in St. Peter’s secondary School, Rossettenville, later closed by the government.

Elijah’s Rhythm Kings -Elijah Special

Elijah’s Rhythm Kings -Bop Special

Under a wide interpretation of the pass system, musicians were classified as vagrants. A black musician could only be semi-professional, for they worked in the daytime and performed after hours. For instance, the father of mbaqanga music Isaac ‘Zacks’  Nkosi worked for Gallo, not as a musician, but packing records in their storeroom.  Spokes Mashiyane, the international penny whistle star, who gained world recognition, similarly worked for Trutone Records until Union Artist released him. The penny whistle became one of the symbols of black South African music. Its origins date back to the pre-colonial period of South African history, when herdsmen made instruments out of reeds. It became popular in the 1950’s, thanks to the film ‘Magic Garden’, in which Willard Cele played it.

Willard Cele was born and raised in a segregated South African township, although he was disabled, and although he died young, his impact on South African music was immense. Cele’s innovation was to turn a flute or pennywhistle sideways in the mouth, which created a “thick” sound and allowed the player to vary the tone and range of the instrument far beyond its designed abilities.

music and rhythms of Africa label 2

African Swingsters -Section Z Special

African Swingsters -Liyaduma

excerpt from an original article “A reflection on music” by Jonas Gwangwa and Fulco van Aurich

Willard Cele~ Leon Jackson, All Music Guide