“Kala-Harari -Rock” was released in South Africa at the end of 1979. It was the group’s third album and the selection of songs leans heavily on their African roots. This is Harari’s first real return to Africa since ‘Rufaro’ which was the genesis of the Harari sound.
The concept of ‘Kala-Harari -Rock’ is based the raw wildness of the jungle, translated into music acceptable to the Western ear. File under Afrobeat, Funk, Disco. The standout track on this album is easily the instrumental ‘Soweto Sunset’ a mesmerizing funky groove, relaxed and powerful. Other favourites are’Safari’, ‘Jikeleza’ and ‘Elephant Dance’. But why not judge for yourself, the full album is available here on these pages for a limited time only. Enjoy!
At the end of 1982 the original line-up of the South African band Harari disbanded. By the early eighties a number of musicians had joined and left the band. Most of these members pursued solo careers.
The disco-related track “You Are The One (Bambo Wangu)” by Om’ Alec Khaoli, released in 1984 worldwide, may be slightly familiar with lovers of electro and hi-nrg but today’s post shines a light on an album released earlier, in South Africa in 1982 ; ‘Magic Touch’, a solo effort from the former bass player and founder member of Harari and Umoja.
The groove is definitely early 80’s, all synthesizers, vocoders, warm fender rhodes, guitars and of course fender bass. An all important groove is present on the six tracks on this album, Om’ Khaoli even sings on a few tracks while Masike Mohapi is responsible for the vocals on ‘Tonight’. Stompie Manana plays the flugel horn and trumpet and Barney Rachabane brings the alto saxophone to life in ‘Be My Wife’, one of the stronger tracks on this album.
side 1.1 -Number One
1.2 -Jog On
1.3 -Magic Touch
side 2.1 -Tonight
2.3 -Be My Wife
All songs composed, arranged and produced by Alec “Om” Khaoli.
Good day to all. On my last South African trip, last January, I unearthed an LP by a group called ‘Black Ink’ or is that just the title of the album? Sipho Mabuse, Alex Khaoli and Selby Ntuli, members of South African group Harari are featured as composers and players…
This album was released in 1975 on an obscure label DJ Productions, a few years before Harari was formed out of the Beaters. In my opinion, this LP may be the missing link between those two groups, since practically the same people play on ‘Black Ink’. But is it just a studio album of moonlighting pre-Harari members or was it a ‘real’ group?
I could not find any information on this album, nowhere. So I decided to get some answers from the source and contact the management of Sipho Mabuse directly. Via via, I got a name and e-mail-address of one Martin Myers who apparently claims to represent Sipho Mabuse, and who said I could mail my questions to him. For 2 months now I have been trying to get answers….
I mailed, waited, mailed again and again and finally decided to phone the number in Cape Town. A grumpy old man who turned out to be Martin Myers, answered the phone. He promised me that ‘I could expect the answers in a few days-pleasure-bye’ but so far, nothing has been received. No sign of life from that side.
Maybe Sipho simply never received my questions? Was my request for an interview ever passed on? Or is Black Ink just another unimportant album that Mabuse does not wants to remember? Who knows? Even the discography on his own website does not mention this album. Too many maybe’s and if’s! So I decided to stop asking for answers and move on.
I looked up some information in one of the best and most detailed books on South African jazz and pop music; ‘Soweto Blues’ by Gwen Ansell. I could not locate anything on ‘Black Ink’ but I found this interview with Sipho Mabuse. I hope that these excerpts from that interview shed some light on the backgrounds of the musicians and the music on the album ‘Black Ink’.
Born in Soweto in the 1950’s, Mabuse began his career as a drummer, dividing his talents between pop music work with the Beaters and Harari and jazz accompaniments for Kippie Moeketsi and Abdullah Ibrahim. Like many others of his generation, his apprenticeship was at the Pelican Club in Orlando. Socially conscious pop music won out for him: he added reeds to his instrumental palette and scored international hits in the 80’s with the compelling, rhythmic disco tracks ‘Jive Soweto’ and ‘Burnout’. At the same time, he was active in ANC underground structures. His banned ‘Chant Of The Marching’ commemorated the youth activism of the last days of apartheid.
By the end of the 1960’s a new style was emerging amongst young South Africans; the hippies, with bell-bottomed trousers, bright, decorative shirts, and sometimes combed-out Afro hairstyles that were the opposite of both the kaaskop (cheese-head shaven head) and the Ivies’ neat coiffure. This was the style of the soul afficionados. Sipho Mabuse was a senior school student just beginning his forays into music, and was about to join Selby Ntuli and others to found a group called the Beaters, later to be renamed Harari.
‘Soweto soul music….came from the American soul music influence with Booker T & The MG’s –that’s how this whole got to be developed along those lines, because we could not relate to mbaqanga because we considered ourselves more….literate, educated you know –we considered ourselves learned students. So we developed Soweto soul music from that premise: that we listened to white Radio 5 and of course soul music was growing in leaps and bounds –all the influence from Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and so on. And, naturally, were influenced by that to start a kind of sound that was essentially South African, and that’s how Soweto soul music was developed. The Beaters were one of the groups; the All-Rounders, The In-Lawes, The TNT’s, The Flaming Souls, The Movers –the list was endless. The Emeralds! The Minerals! The Dolphins! I mean we could not really relate to some of the music that was happening then; mbaqanga and isicthamiya and so on.’
‘There was a nightclub called the Pelican-this is where the musicians were…that place was the real hub of South African musicians. The late Dennis Mpale was there and Wiston Mankunku, who was a giant we could relate to. And of course for us, as youngsters, to be able to sustain ourselves even within the realm of jazz, we were lucky enough to have interacted with such musicians as drummer Eraly Mabuza, bassist Gordon Mfandu –epecially in my case as a drummer Neslon Magwaza and of course Bheki Mseleku was a peer to us. And the only way we could prove that we were good enough to play, was playing jazz. It was the only way we could prove ourselves –even if we had to play pop music. But it was the fact that you were able to play jazz that created a very strong foundation for us to be able to continue in the jazz field. Even though we appreciated pop music, there was always a very strong element of jazz in what we were doing.’
The Pelican at that time was recognized as a kind of music university for Soweto, where young musicians developed and polished their skills. Mabuse makes the important point that the Pelican did not host jazz only. There were also cabaret and pop music acts, even the best of traditional music found a home here.
Excerpts from this interview with Sipho Mabuse come from the book ‘Soweto Blues –Jazz, Popular Music & Politics in South Africa’ by Gwen Ansell (Continuum Intl Publishing Group NYC 2004)
Harari, a blend of cultures. The name taken from the township near Salisbury, the people taken from the township near Johannesburg, the music taken from the heart of Africa. These, together with an unique brand of funk/rock, form the magic sound of Harari.
what a nice surprise it was to find these two albums by Harari. I had no idea that this band had entered the American Disco Charts in the 70’s. That single ‘Party’ is on the album ‘Heatwave’ (Gallo 1980) and ‘Home Brew’ is of later date; 1982 (Gallo). A song like ‘Prayin for the people’ made me think of ‘Going Back To My Roots’ by Lamont Dozier. Other similarities are groups like Rufus & Chaka and Jazz, Funk and Rock…done African style. Both albums give a good impression of the music of Sipho Mabuse and his group Harari at their most enlightened time.
leader Sipho Mabuse, flute, drums, timbales, vocals, piano
Harari dominated the music scene of the 1970s in South Africa, even being invited to perform in the US with Hugh Masekela in 1978. During this tour, the band’s leader Selby Ntuli died, leaving Sipho as the new leader. This eclectic ensemble was impossible to categorise; mixing funk and disco with jazz, while also using traditional African instruments to create a completely unique sound that many tried, but failed to imitate. They were the ultimate party band, yet boasted some of the best musicians around at the time, such as Alec Khaoli and Lionel Petersen. One of South Africa’s most important musical acts – Harari will forever hold legendary status, even after their split in 1982.
Proof of their talent and versatility was their participation in the recording of Pat Matshikiza and Kippie Moeketsi’s album, ‘Tshona’ which featured Basil “Mannenberg” Coetzee.They were invited by producer Rashid Vally of Kohinoor music retailer fame to assist Pat and Kippie on bas and drums. Kippie was sceptical about involving young boys in Jazz music, but once they started recording he was silenced by their brilliance and creativity.
Harari supported and backed Percy Sledge, Timmy Thomas, Letta Mbula, Brook Benton and Wilson Pickett on their South African tours.
In 1981 A&M Records released their albums ‘Harari’ and ‘Flying Out’. Some of their best singles ever were ‘Give’ and ‘Party’, both achieving platinum status and the latter even entering the American Disco Hot 100.
It is not always easy to pinpoint the forces that destroy the team spirit and brotherhood, but it is mostly money, power and fame itself. Sometimes it is simply the need to grow. Harari could also not escape these forces. At the end of 1982 the original Harari disbanded. By the early eighties a number of musicians had joined and left the band. Most of these members pursued solo careers. See also Om’Khaoli -Magic Touch 1982 -Township Soul & Boogie Vol 6
excerpts from the book Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music /author Max Mojapelo
Charlie “Babas” Ndlovu -keyboards, piano, synthesizer