The Bachelors with Thoko Tomo – Zulu Jive & Isicathamiya

just unearthed this beautiful single with one side sung in the Doo Wop Jive style and a surprising b-side. The Bachelors and Thoko Tomo is a South African vocal group unknown to me, maybe a reader can shine a light on their origins? The label mentions Jive and as far as I can find out this must be Zulu Jive while the b-side is sung in English.

Gibson Kente wrote the song ‘I Got Troubles’. His name appears on the credits for two other productions,’Ekoneni’ and ‘Inkomo Zodwa’,  recorded by The Skylarks with Makeba & Spokes Mashiyane. See also my previous post Soul Safari presents Township Jive & Kwela Jazz (1940-1960)

‘I Got Troubles’ reminds me of Isicathamiya by the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, even American Gospel. Such heavenly voices! This single was probably released in the early 1960’s following an earlier release as shellac 78 rpm. This was normal practice in the days when the 45 single format replaced the old breakable 78’s. The label New Sound is a subsidiary of Gallo Records, hence the image of the cock in the logo.

The Bachelors -I Got Troubles  

a hymn for the Rainbow Nation -Africa come together

photo AP

by the time this post reaches you, dear reader,  you might just as I am, probably be sick and tired of the f* word. Football, soccer, I mean.  In case you are excited just like the rest of the world about the coming Fifa World Cup 2010 well, just enjoy the fun.  All the others are welcome to this refuge. Over the last few weeks soccer fever has hit Holland hard. Everything around me turns orange these days, no way out!

So I thought it was time to escape the f* madness and dive into my record collection and dig up some Negro spirituals, heavenly voices, group harmonizing…also a team sport but a more melodic counterpart to the noise of the galvanized masses in f*  stadiums. And I do hope that this post will soothe and bring a piece of calm to you, dear reader. I dedicate this selection also as an anthem, a tribute to South Africa, the country that organizes the World Cup 2010.  Finally, the time has come to realise the full potential of this great nation and Bafana Bafana will need all divine power to win.  So  all musical selections in this post come from South Africa, some are really rare, others are more common but all praise the spiritual power and belief of the Rainbow Nation. Africa come together!

Zwelitsha Adult Choir-Sing The Lord Ye Voices All

History of Ford Choirs

Ford Motor Company of South Africa introduced the idea of a sponsored National Choral Music Competition in 1978 and within five years, the Ford Choirs competition had established itself as the premier cultural event on the choral music scene. In its first year the contest attracted 30 choirs from all over South Africa. Support for this community based Ford sponsored project has grown by leaps and bounds and in 1982, the project’s  fifth anniversary, the contest drew 236 entries from thirteen regions. The choirs sang live to the delight of audiences through radio and tv.

Lubabalo Dyasi -Ndikhumbule Nkosi

this is a live recording of a concert that was held in Port Elizabeth on Saturday March 5th 2005 in honor of the visit of Chief Apostle R. Fehr. The title ‘Ndikhumbule Nkosi’ (Remember me, O Lord) was written by Lubalalo Dyasi and performed by the choir of the New Apostolic Church of Cape Town with boy soprano Sinethemba Matshaya. A divine piece of choral magic imo…

Sizwe Usindiso -Uhlatshelo Wezono

SA Jazz -Tete Mbambisa -Tete’s Big Sound

Tete Mbambisa was one of the most gifted pianists and composers of the 1950’s. He has kept the original and unique 1950’s sound alive, and has nurtured many of today’s best young jazz talents. With his inventive piano playing, Tete Mbambisa helped to preserve South Africa’s acoustic jazz tradition during the genre’s decline in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In addition to performing as a soloist, Mbambisa often accompanies vocalist Ncediwe Sylvia Mdunyelwa.

here’s the b-side to ‘Past Time’ released in 1979 as a 45 on The Sun label.

Tete Mbambisa -Trane Ride

In the middle of the 1976 uprising, Tete Mbambisa took an octet into the studio to record ‘Tete’s Big Sound’. The date of recording sessions were in February 1976 and the LP was reissued by Roots in 1989 as well on CD in 1995**

For three decades the big sound of Tete Mbambisa had not been heard. This is despite general agreement amongst musicians that the 67-year old musician is one of South Africa’s greatest composers and pianists.

Fellow blogger Matt@Matsuli added the following additional info; …in addition to the February 1976 sessions that resulted in the Tete’s Big Sound LP there are a number of unreleased reels that Matsuli Music/As-Shams will be releasing later this year. Stay tuned…

At the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival 2008 Tete hosted a sextet to play his own compositions. Joining Mbambisa on stage were Barney Rachabane (alto saxophonist); Ezra Ngcukana (tenor and soprano saxophone); Feya Faku (trumpet and flugelhorn); Herbie Tsoaeli (contrabass) and Ayanda Sikade (drums). Rachabane is the only member apart from Mbambisa of the 1976 octet who is still alive. Rachabane’s association with Mbambisa goes back to 1964 when they were members of a quintet. Ngcukana was a guest in a recording of The Brothers – a band that was made up of Mbambisa, saxophonist Duke Makasi, bassist Victor Ntoni and Lulu Gontsana. Ngcukana and Mbambisa also played together in Xhosa Nostra. Feya Faku comes out of the Soul Jazzmen school – a band that is a music institution in Port Elizabeth. In the 1970’s, Mbambisa was not only with the Soul Jazzmen, he is featured in the recordings of the group such as Intlupheko. Faku and Mbambisa have played together as sidemen of Winston Mankunku Ngozi and Sylvia Mdunyelwa. The path of the two musicians also crossed recently when they worked on the soundtrack of the movie Sophiatown. Although now based in Johannesburg, Tsoaeli’s musical career began in Cape Town where Mbambisa currently stays with his family. Like Mbambisa, Tsoaeli is known for his lyricism and is bassist of choice for many jazz musicians in South Africa. He is currently based in Johannesburg and is a member of the Zim Ngqawana Quartet.*

*excerpts from a press release for the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival 2008 and thanks to Craig Harris, All Music Guide

** thanks to Chris@ElectricJive for the additional info

On December 4th 2012 @Macazozo and @Ndumiso added the following update

Greetings, you can find Bra Tete’s latest album online: (for the CD) (for download)

The African Music Store (Long Street, Cape Town) and High Fidelity (Killarney Mall, Joburg) have copies too.

You can keep up to date on his music via Facebook:

YEBO! Zulu Vocal & Jive pt 4

Mbaqanga developed in the South African shebeens during the 1960s. Its use of western instruments allowed mbaqanga to develop into a South African version of jazz. Musically, the sound indicated a mix between western instrumentation and South African vocal style. Many mbaqanga scholars consider it to be the result of a coalition between marabi and kwela. Check  YEBO! Zulu Vocal & Jive, Marabi Jive pt 3 for  ‘Lobola Mgca’  by Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje.

Here is a 45 by an another band that uses the same name  but only with a slightly different spelling; Izinsizwa Zesi Manje Manje.  Can it be the backing band of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje without the singers??

Izinsizwa Zesi Manje Manje -Tarfontein

‘Tarfontein’ spells African Jazz,  it’s an instrumental and the date of release is unknown, I guess this was released between 1967-1969.

Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde 1988

Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde (1938 – July 27, 1999) became perhaps the most influential and well-known South African “groaner” of the twentieth century who formed the Mahlathini Queens outfit to record as a studio unit for the Gallo Record Company. During the late 60’s mbaqanga evolved into the more danceable mgqashiyo sound when bassist Joseph Makwela, from the group Makhona Tsohle Band and guitarist Marks Mankwane joined forces with Mahlathini. Their music soon became a national sensation, pioneering mgqashiyo all over the country to great success.

1967 saw the arrival of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, an mgqashiyo female group that provided intense competition for the Mahotella Queens. Both groups were massive competitors in the jive field, though the Queens usually came out on top.

Mahlathini & The Queens -Umkhovu

‘Awufuni Ukulandela Na?’ by Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje and  ‘Umkhovu’ by Mahlathini & The Queens are featured on ‘Next Stop Soweto’, a new compilation by Strut that was released at the beginning of March 2010.

The people at Strut have done a great job; immaculate choice of material, great restoring of the original 45’s, good cover art…even the pressing sounds excellent.

But why does some of the chosen material sounds so distorted?? Is it the mastering? Restoration of the original recordings??

This question can only be answered by listening to the original recordings and after doing so, I have to admit that some of the tracks on this compilation were recorded either in poor conditions or possibly by speedy producers who wanted to record as many tunes as possible within the limited  time scale of a  studio rented for the day.

Many titles are by totally obscure groups whose singles were short lived whilst other groups like Mahotella Queens and Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje gained popularity during their careers and who became South Africa’s best known popular artists.

‘Next stop Soweto’ comes as a double vinyl package whilst the CD package features an extensive booklet featuring detailed notes by compiler Francis Gooding alongside many previously unseen archive photos.


Essential Listening

‘Next stop Soweto’ vol 1 Underground Township Jive 1969-1975 (Strut 054)

compiled by Duncan Brooker and Francis Gooding

Volumes 2 and 3 will be released across Spring and Summer 2010 and cover rare SA soul, funk & Hammond R&B and jazz


sounds & Basotho songs from Lesotho

I could not believe my luck when I found this album; “Lesotho sings”, songs from the kingdom of Lesotho, a mountainous country that is completely surrounded by South Africa. There are a few  recordings by Hugh Tracey that were recorded during his fieldwork in 1957 known to me,  but I must admit that not many records from Lesotho have crossed my path before…

lesotho sings cover

“Lesotho Sings” consists of a collection of hymns and folk songs as sung by The Maseru and Hlotse Methodist Choir conducted by Alex Gwinsta.

The Basotho, like their fellows the Zulus, the Xhosa and Tswana, love to sing! The Negro Spirituals of the deep South, and the natural harmonies of the African in his own habitat, share a bond, indicating a common heritage intensified by the deep felt religious convictions of the African folk at heart.

They sing of their honoured founder, Moshoeshoe; they sing well-loved hymns from their wide repertoire, they sing in English and in Latin, as well as in their sister languages, Tswana and Xhosa and of course in their own Lesotho tongue.

lesotho sings label

Thesela e Mocha

a spirited call to the Basotho to exult in song and jubilation in honour of the young king, son of Moshoeshoe the Great, founder of the Basotho nation


a Latin song of praise to God

Tlong Thaka

a fervent call to all Basotho youth to rise and exult in the natural beauties of the land

Sala Sentle

a Tswana farewell to one’s beloved
alex gwinsta foto

Excerpts from the original liner notes of “Lesotho Sings” The Maseru and Hlotse Methodist Choir conducted by Alex Gwinsta–private pressing Lesotho

…and another excellent compilation of lesiba and sekhankula music, “Lesotho Calling”

The lesiba is a blown mouthbow, whereas members of this family of instruments are struck or plucked. At well over a meter in length, it is among the longest. This ancient instrument of the Khoi people, known as gora was once widespread throughout present day South Africa, as it was readily adopted by several newly arrived Bantu peoples –called ughwali by the Xhosa, kwadi by the Pedi, lesiba by the Sotho. But only the lesiba survives today.

Michael Baird & Dada Moqasa

Dada Moqasa & Michael Baird

‘the beauty of this instrument immediately knocked me out. A meditative sound, almost abstract but definitely breathing, an array of overtones, music of the ancestors, music of birds and mountains, a sound that could only come from Africa’ . Words by Michael Baird who recorded what he found on his trip through Lesotho in 2006; lesiba players and another herdsman’s instrument, the sekhankula bow and some old-style Sotho concertina.

Molalehli Matima with his lesiba Molalehli Matima with his lesiba

Tselane Ngoanak’eby Molalehli Matima

Sehloho Lebusa with his lesiba Sehloho Lebusa with his lesiba

Ntate Nkuebe balha lehlanya “Mr Nkuebe running away from the madman”by Sehloho Lebusa

The title comes from an expression used by some players to announce themselves before starting to play ‘Move aside, I’m the man!’

Another herdsman’s instrument of Lesotho is the sekhankula, also known as maohorong depending on which district. It is a musical bow that is played with a bow stroking the strings and is widely distributed throughout South Africa. A curved stick or sometimes a straight steel rod, of the type used for reinforcing concrete, is put into a 5 –liter paraffin can through the top end, which is open having been removed by sawing and the stick/rod is jammed in place. The string is a length of tin iron wire, which is attached to the top of the stick and fixed to the outside of the far corner of the can; the can acts as a resonator, sometimes with an opening cut in the bottom and small holes punctured in the sides.

Mocholoko satane “Graduate of witchcraft by Motsoetla Letsie.

Motsoetla plays instrumental only, no singing. At the beginning of this track, we can hear him rubbing his bow across the top of his instrument a few times where he had his resin reserve. This is something all the sekhankula players do before commencing a piece.

Samuel Tolosi en Motsoetla Letsie with his sekhankula Samuel Tolosi and Motsoetla Letsie with a sekhankula

Excerpts from the original liner notes and photographs courtesy of “Lesotho calling” SWP 033

Recommended listening

“Lesotho calling” SWP 033

lesotho country cover

see Lesotho kids singing in a traditional smoke hut

Basotho young men and kids are singing traditional songs.

Filmed in nightshot in a traditional basotho housse ( full of smoke) during the Afropeaks pan african mountain expedition in Lesotho.

King Kong -Original London Stage Cast 1961

king kong UK LP voorkant

King Kong 1961 -King Kong

King Kong 1961 -Damn him

…in a previous post I have highlighted the original South African stage production and LP release of “King Kong, All African Jazz Opera“. Now here is an alternative version released in 1961 that surprisingly  has far more production numbers and new songs than the  original play and LP of 1959

Recorded in Johannesburg , South Africa by the original cast of King Kong, without Miriam Makeba, whose musical opened at the Princes Theatre, London, on 23 February 1961, after having taking South Africa by storm.

princes theatre london
The Princes Theatre, London UK 1961

The sleeve carries this message on the back:  “No theatrical venture in South Africa has had the sensational success of King Kong. This musical, capturing the life, colour and effervescence – as well as the poignancy and sadness – of township life, has come as a revelation to many South Africans that art does not recognise racial barriers.”

King Kong 1961 -In the queue

King Kong 1961 -Gumboot Dance

Décor and costumes for the King Kong musical were by Arthur Goldreich, who also designed the LP cover. Goldreich was a leading architect and visual designer living in Johannesburg, a Jewish Communist who was arrested by the Apartheid regime in one of the clampdowns in the early 60’s.

King Kong 1961 -Crazy Kid

King Kong 1961 -Wedding Hymn

Also the orchestral arrangements and vocals have been altered, probably to suit European tastes and preferences and to add more drama and dynamics to the new stage version. The credit “Jack Hylton presents” on the cover seems to have been added simply as some assurance of quality entertainment. Later pressings of this LP have the subtitle ‘All African Opera’ without mentioning the word ‘Jazz’…

king kong UK LP voorkant

King Kong hoes 1961 achter

King Kong 1961 -Be smart, be wise

King Kong 1961 -Sad times, bad times

Jack Hylton presents ‘King Kong’ Decca stereo SKL 4132 UK first issued 1961

about the Nguni Sound

What  really stroke me when listening to these recordings of Nguni music is that the singer is accompanied by just one instrument; the string bow. The emotional effect of this string instrument on the voice is beautiful and unique, intensely haunting. Sometimes the music  reminds me of  American styles like early Jazz, Delta Blues,  Doo-Wop and Negro spirituals…A cappella or unaccompanied group singing without the contemporary instruments.  Different forms of Nguni bringing out the superb South African harmonies…the nquni woman playing the bow copy

umakhweya, a string bow, made from a calabash with an upstanding arm.

Xhosa -Ilizwe lifile kuzimfazwe zadwa

Xhosa -Gealeka -Ndemka Nehlungululwana

Xhosa Ngqika -Inkulu into ezakwenzeka

A bow is held vertically so the opening in the calabash resonator rests high on one side of the player’s chest and can be moved off and on to change the resonance. A bow can be fingered i.e. the string pinched or pressed so it gives a higher fundamental. All bows now used in southern Africa give at least two fundamentals, thus two corresponding harmonic series and it is from these pitches that the scales have arisen

the nquni sound cover

The words are often improvised on the spot, and may touch on several subjects in one song, about domestic or community affairs, the misbehaviour of the young, and often of their husbands who are usually far away working in some big city.

The Zulu Songs of Princess Constance Magogo Kadinuzulu

Princess Constance Magogo Kadinuzulu -Uyephi na (where has he gone?)

this is a lullaby which the singer has often sung to her children and grandchildren to put them to sleep.

Princess Constance Magogo Kadinuzulu -Helele Yiliphi leliyani (which regiment is that?)

A song composed during the reign of Mpande (1840-1872)

The girls in the royal village would watch the impis, the regiments, on parade and remark upon their appaearance dressed in all their Zulu finery.

Which regiment is that so beautifully dressed??

The hissing in the background would be the response made by the soldiers as they sang and marched.

Princess Constance Magogo Kadinuzulu -Umuntu ehlobile singemjabise yini tina (however well dressed this man may be)

this is a girl’s song well known to her contemporaries at the Royal villages in which they demonstrate their right to disapprove of any young man as they are not impressed by fine clothes alone

However well dressed this man may be, we can still refuse him, can’t we?

the nqui sound inside 1

Like all cattle loving peoples of South Africa, Nguni music is almost entirely vocal. The few instruments they do have do not take a central role in any part of life. If the Nguni lack in the typical African instrumentarium they make it up however, in vocal power, in the strength of their melodies and the richness of their harmony. Commentators on South African Jazz and Pop music have sometimes been struck by the affinity of South Africans, and particularly Nguni speakers, with US music forms like Jazz and Doo Wop.  Some would account for this from the largely vocal basis of both forms of music. It is certainly true that South Africa is by far the ‘jazziest’ country on the continent.

Xhosa -Mfengu Unonkala

the nqui sound inside 2

photographs and excerpts from  the  original liner notes of ‘The Nguni Sound’1955-1958 SWP Records SWP 020

Recommended listening

The Nguni Sound –South Africa & Swaziland 1955-57-58  SWP Records SWP 020

The Zulu Songs of Princess Constance Magogo Kadinuzulu by Hugh Tracey

Music of Africa series 37 ILAM

about Township Jazz & Jive

to American ears, South African pop sounds utterly blithe. It lilts along with harmonies that are always consonant, and it revolves around the three major chords -and, usually, the 4/4 beat and four-bar phrases – that are also basic to rock-and-roll. British, East Indian, European, North African and American music have all had a continuing impact on South African pop

Zulu choruses, for instance, made connections with hymn-singing (via British missionaries), jubilee songs (from black American minstrels) and more modern gospel and soul music, while retaining vocal interjections and a rhythmic sophistication that are unmistakably African. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the a cappella Zulu-Swazi chorus that recorded with Paul Simon and that has three albums available in the United States, won’t sound alien to anyone who’s heard the Five Blind Boys, the Four Tops or the Persuasions.

Within South Africa, the music carries mixed meanings. Under Apartheid, the Government worked to segregate blacks into tribal groups, as if decades of urbanization and shared culture had not occurred; separate, state-controlled radio stations, for instance, broadcast in Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho. Explicitly and implicitly, performers are steered away from political songs. So when a group sings in Zulu about the perils of urban life, it can be seen as endorsing a return to some rural homeland, away from the wealth and power of the cities.

Yet the sound and form of the music itself represent a triumph of African styles – call-and-response singing, overlapping instrumental lines, traditionalist melodies, the accents and rhythms of indigenous speech – as they continue to transform foreign influences. Outside South Africa, local symbolism recedes and the dignity, originality and sheer moxie of the music come through.

Mbaqanga (literally, in Zulu, ”maize bread”) is dance music that reaches blacks who work in cities but still have ties to rural life -migrant laborers and others who don’t identify with the ”sophistication” of American-style pop and jazz.

It’s citified rural music. Call-and-response vocals mix traditional melodies with the imperatives of pop catchiness; tinny electric guitars, and sometimes fiddles or accordions or pennywhistles, recall the the sound of African instruments above saxophones, keyboards, electric bass and American trap drums. While the bands vamp, the vocal melodies expand and contract; familiar as the music sounds to rock-trained ears, singing along isn’t easy.

excerpts from an orginal article
By JON PARELES/New York Times
Published: Sunday, February 8, 1987