rare gems from the ILAM Archives-Township Jive & Kwela Jazz

Hugh Tracey

The International Library of African Music (ILAM), based at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, was founded by Hugh Tracey in 1954. ILAM’s collections of Hugh Tracey’s audio recordings, photographs and films are of great importance in preserving and keeping African musical heritage alive.

 The Tracey Collection of African traditional musical instruments is housed at ILAM, as is an extensive collection of  shellac 78 rpm discs. In addition to his extensive work researching and documenting the music of sub-Saharan Africa,Hugh Tracey advised Gallo, the biggest South African record company, on which records to release. Most of these selections came out on independent labels such as Gallotone,  Hit,  BB and New Sounds and included Zulu jive, Sotho vocal, accordion and violin jive – styles that were aimed at the burgeoning black market and helped to create a new black identity.

After two years of intensive collaboration with ILAM, Soul Safari proudly presents ‘Township Jive & Kwela Jazz (1940-1960)’, with many rare gems found in the ILAM archives.  This compilation brings the dusty and sometimes forgotten original recordings back to life, truly music treasures from a long gone past.

But I wonder if  there is enough interest for releasing these rare gems?? As CD format, download or a vinyl deluxe set? Let me know what you think, it’s appreciated.

See also previous my post Soul Safari presents Township Jive & Kwela Jazz (1940-1960) for the full track-listing.

Josiah Khuzwao & His String Band -Emkhumbane

Lulu Sibeko & Sedgewick Brothers -Chaba Chaba

South African Soul Divas Pt 4 -The Skylarks

Good day to all.

In a previous post I have highlighted the work of Miriam Makeba after her departure from South Africa to the USA. As an artist in exile Makeba became an even bigger star then she had ever been before in South Africa. But how many people will realise the fact that Makeba was already a big star in her country of birth in 1959 before her departure? That she had performed in a movie ‘Come Back, Africa’ singing one of her signature tunes? That she had recorded as a solo-artist on Gallotone Records and later with the Skylarks for the same label? Note the advertisement on a Gallotone 78 rpm sleeve for a release by Mariam Makeba ‘Pass Office Special -Hoenene’ (GB 2134).

She had made a name for herself in her early career as singer with the Manhattan Brothers and in the beginning of 1956 –about two years after she had joined The Manhattan Brothers-  Sam Alcock, Gallo’s black talent scout, asked Miriam to form a ‘girlie group’ for recording. He wanted to compete with the success that rival labels like Troubadour were enjoying with similar material and particularly with the Quad Sisters who recorded for Trutone, another rival. Miriam recruited her sister Mizpah and a friend, Joanna Radebe, and two songs resulted which were issued as The Sunbeams on the Tropik label, a Gallo affiliate

The style that so interested Alcock was hardly indigenous although there is a tradition of group female singing in some South African tribal cultures. The line of influence was rather, like so much urban black music in South Africa from that period, taken directly from American popular. In the 1930’s, the white Boswell Sisters enjoyed a tremendous popularity as a jazzy, close harmony trio (they had grown up in New Orleans at the same time as Louis Armstrong and the development of early jazz).

The Boswells drew upon Tin Pan Alley pop and contemporary Afro-American vocal styles, religious and secular, that had evolved from traditions developed under slavery. Their success spawned in turn the Andrews Sisters in the 1940’s and the McGuire Sisters in the 1950’s, and all three groups became well known in South Africa through imported recordings. At some point, perhaps by the Second World War, this style was being copied by black female trios on Johannesburg’s concert stages with vernacular lyrics eventually substituting for the English originals. In the 1940’s  groups like the V Dolls and the Twisting Sisters had already enjoyed commercial success as  ‘girlie groups’ but it would take another decade before female singing groups would become popular with record companies and the general public as well.

By the mid -50’s when the Quad Sisters were at the height of their popularity, ‘girlie groups’ were already regarded as a black show business tradition. The Manhattan Brothers, too, had assimilated virtually identical American roots. They modelled themselves after the Mills Brothers –who had come to international fame in the 1930’s by updating the same Afro-American traditions- and then later, after the equally famous Ink Spots. As the 50’s progressed, the Manhattan’s music came to incorporate more indigenous elements but they had originally become famous by singing American originals in Sotho or Xhosa.

The first Sunbeams record sold well enough to soon warrant the girls’ return to the studio but this time the songs were issued on Gallotone and the name of the group was changed to The Skylarks. On this second session, Mizpah dropped out because of work commitments and Mary Rabotapi joined. By the time Mary joined Miriam’s new group, she had already recorded several discs under her own name and was regularly singing on advertising jingles.

The Skylarks –Siyavuya 1959

Mummy Girl Nketle, a good looking girl from Sophiatown who could sing well on stage, was the next addition. Miriam had discovered her fronting a group called the Midnight Kids. Her elder brother, ‘Boetie’, a gangster and a member of the notorious Americans, was briefly married to Dolly Rathebe. See my previous post on Dolly Rathebe who recalls her years as a gangster moll.  See also my previous post South African Soul Divas pt 3 Dolly Rathebe, Mabel Mafuya, Nancy Jacobs, Eva Madison

According to Mary, the idea of expanding the group to four voices had a practical rather than musical basis, if one member was absent, the requirements of a trio were still provided for. Then, Joahnna Radebe left and a coloured singer from the West Rand, Helen Van Rensburg, came in. She was in turn replaced in late 1957 by Abigail Kubeka from White City Jabavu.

Miriam Makeba –Dubula 1963

There was an underlying reason for these personnel changes. “It was all Miriam’s doing”, recalls Mary Rotapi, “she was the boss”. Miriam held the recording contract and she was the eldest, a position from which authority had traditionally emanated in African society. There was a feeling that the younger girls were being entrusted to Miriam’s care by their families. Mary adds “Miriam wants hard workers. If you’re slow on your feet, she’ll take somebody else…I was a lucky one. She never got rid of me!” Needless to say, these circumstances often make it impossible, some 35 years later, to exactly determine who was singing on the earlier sessions, but with the arrival of Abigail, the situation stabilized. The line-up of Miriam, Mary, Abigail and Mummy Girl, occasionaly supplemented with Nomonde Sihawu as a fifth voice and Sam Ngakone singing bass, would produce all of the Skylark’s biggest hits such as “Hush”, “Inkoma Zodwa” and “Hamba Bekile” amongst others.

The Skylarks w Makeba & Spokes Mashiyane -Inkomo Zodwa 1959

Just how popular were the Skylarks? Unfortunately, no sales figures for the group’s recordings have survived to reveal the true extent of their success. In fact, sales were somewhat irrelevant to the recording artists of that era because they were paid on an ‘outright buy-out’, flat fee basis. Only with the institution of the royalty system in the early 1960’s would the number of ‘units’ sold become a matter of concern. Nevertheless, because of the frequency with which they recorded, the Skylarks discs must have sold very well indeed, perhaps in the region of 100.000 copies or more for the most popular numbers.

In a short history of little more than three years, the group cut well over 100 sides, almost all of which were issued. Few artists of the time could equal that number and certainly no other vocal groups, not even the Manhattan Brothers whose fortunes declined somewhat towards the end of the 50’s.

The Skylarks -Goodbye To Africa 1959

And then of course, Miriam Makeba played Joyce as a character in the original black cast of the musical “King Kong”. By the time she left South Africa, she had already built a name for herself that would open doors in the United States of America.

 

‘Miriam Makeba & The Skylarks’ -African Heritage -Teal Records 1991 TELCD 2303

this article contains excerpts from the liner notes by Rob Allingham

Miriam Makeba performs “Into Yam”

Come Back, Africa (1959)

 

hip to the jive

I can’t think of a better way to end  the year 2009 than with a groovy mix for the holiday season. One song chosen for each month of the year with just one more for good luck…13 songs in one mix of 35 minutes. Time to celebrate!

2009 has been a great year for Soul Safari, and I’m very happy to have met, conversed and shared music with so many kindred spirits from all over the world who are hip to the jive…

for the mix I selected several  musical styles from many different ethnic groups from around South Africa; Zulu, Shangaan,  Sotho, mbaqanga, some kwela….and I wanted the mood of the compilation to be happy, vibrant, energetic, just a great danceable jive to fit the festive days ahead.



1. Kid JoJo -Peanut Bump

2. Boyoyo Boys -Daveyton Special

3. Osiyazi -Sibaya Reception

4. Pikinini Khumbuza -Jackpot

5. Elias Mathebula & The Chivani Sisters -Ntlela A Tingangeni

6. Majozi -Ngimbonile Ubaba

7. Umakhathakhathananmachunu -Ezweni Likshaka

8. Majakathatha -Ke Saea Maseru

9. Izazi –Bayesutha

10.Dilika -Ngayishela Yavuma

11. Manka Le Phallang -Khutsana

12. Mzikayifani Buthelezi -Themba

13. Amahlokohloko -Asisangenelani

download ‘hip to the jive’ here


Happy Holidays & best wishes for 2010 from Soul Safari!



Puseletso Seema & Tau Ea Linare -Lesotho

The album ‘He O Oe Oe!’  by the Sotho singer Puseletso Seema,  backed by the group Tau Ea Linares, translated ‘King of Buffaloes, was originally released in 1985 by Globestyle, the UK label of Ben Mandelson and is long out of print. The recordings on this album are unique because Ben, as a passionate music aficionado, arranged for the meeting of Puseletso Seema and Tau Ea Linare, who normally record separately.

Sotho traditional music is an integral part of Sotho social education and traditionally links hearing with the understanding of the natural and social worlds. The Sotho describe instruments as either liletsa tsa matsoho (those sounded by the hand) or liletsa tsa molomo (those sounded by the mouth). The former category includes the moropa and skupu drums, these days often made from oil cans because of scarcity of wood. The latter category includes the lesiba, a mouth-resonated stick-zither sounded by blowing. The primary use of the lesiba is in cattle-herding; bird sounds and actions are seen to affect cattle; these sounds can be imitated on the lesiba and the instrument is thus used to control the animals’ behaviour. The whistles and yipping are herdboy’s calls as recorded for the particular song.

Mathabo

‘thabo’ is a name given to a Sotho boy and by adding ‘ma’ it means ‘mother of Thabo’ and also has the meaning ‘to ever be glad’

Leshano

translated means ‘lies’ -the song is about the fact that lies get one in trouble especially lovers

Vatse Halenone

translated means ‘land can’t be fat’ -the song is about land that cannot receive rain or nourishment or proper care, cannot yield food to feed it’s people

Traditionally there was no professionalism in Sotho music, although this has developed in response to changes in Sotho culture. Broadcasting and exposure to other styles of African and international music and the demands of the pop music market, even the introduction of the accordion, all have their influences on musicians and singers.

excerpts from the original linernotes of  ‘He O Oe Oe!’ by Puseletso Seema & Tau Ea Linare. Globestyle ORB 003 UK 1985

more African tribal dances from the Witwatersrand Gold Mines

YEBO! greetings from South Africa!

I just came back from a few weeks in South Africa where I was on a vinyl  safari throughout the land.  Some real great moments spent this time with a few hunters and  kindred spirits alike and brought back a big selection of rare vinyl and some books as well. Watch these pages the coming months as I will share some of these treasures …

On one of my hunting trips I found this beautiful book with gorgeous photographs by Merlyn Severn. The content is very well documented and researched as the dances have been selected by Hugh Tracey at the Witwatersrand Gold Mines. Hugh Tracey has long been known for his intimate studies of the music, dances and stories of many of the Bantu Tribes of South and Central Africa. His enthusiasm for the art of the genuine African musician, dancer and storyteller was largely responsible for the establishment of the African Music Society.

Merlyn Severn has specialised for many years in the photography of dance action. Her two well-known books on ballet placed her in the front rank of dance photographers in England many years before she visited Africa and collaborated with Hugh Tracey to produce this series of brilliant studies of African mine dances.

African country dances have been transported into the environment of modern industry and undergone a corresponding mutation, but these excellent illustrations convey at once the eternal fascination and sincerity of this age-old recreation,  the most important of  all the African arts.

here is a selection starting with the Mchopi tribe. The Chopi or Mchopi tribe may well be one of the most musical of all Bantu tribes. Their xylophone orchestras have made them famous. The skill with which they make their instruments, the complexities of the dance itself, the excellence of their lyrics, all combine to place their music, poetry and dancing on a plane well above those of most African peoples.

Mchopi tribe -Timbila dance


one of the rattle players or ‘mdoto wanjele’

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there are three distinct dances performed by Xhosa men. The first is done by the Amakwenkwe or youths; the second is danced ritually by the Abakweta, the initiates to manhood; and the third is performed only by the Amadoda, grown men after their initiation and acceptance into full social responsibility.

Amakwenkwe Xhosa tribe -dance for young men accompanied by concertina and whistle

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The Shangaan people are distantly related on their father’s side to the South African Nguni. They are one of the splashes thrown out by the Zulu melting pot of the early 19th century. Today they are a conglomerate of tribes speaking  three or four languages in the Tsonga group all calling themselves ‘Shangaan’.

Amakwaya Shangaan tribe -Makwaya Dance

The song with miming gestures often sung in mine patois, ‘Fanakalo’.

all photographs by Merlyn Severn, excerpts from the book ‘African Dances of the Witwatersrand Gold Mines’ by Hugh Tracey. Published by African Music Society, first edition October 1952

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all musical selections from ‘African Tribal Dances at the Witwatersrand Gold Mines’. CBS ALD 6624


YEBO! Sotho Vocal, Zulu Jive pt 2

izazi

Izazi -Ingabonga Isudu

Lazarus Kgagudi, “The Silver Fox”, was not born blind. His fate was the result of a bicycle accident at an early age. He was born in Mohlaletse. Lazarus received his education at Siloe School for the Blind. That is where he first met Steve Kekana. Some of the individuals who played part in the shaping of his music career were producers Roxy ‘Black Cat’ Buthelezi, Banzi Kubheka, Phiri Morale and his executive producer, Emil Zoghby. His backing bands were mainly Black Cat Trio, The Neighbours and Step Ahead.
Disease cut short the life of this down-to-earth royal star. On 31 March 2007, Lazarus was posthumously honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at a festival dubbed Golden Oldies Music Festival in Polokwane.

lazarus kgagudi and the neighbours label

Lazarus Kgagudi and the Neighbours -amadoda asemgodini

Lazarus Kgagudi, “The Silver Fox”, was not born blind. His fate was the result of a bicycle accident at an early age. He was born in Mohlaletse. Lazarus received his education at Siloe School for the Blind. That is where he first met Steve Kekana. Some of the individuals who played part in the shaping of his music career were producers Roxy ‘Black Cat’ Buthelezi, Banzi Kubheka, Phiri Morale and his executive producer, Emil Zoghby. His backing bands were mainly Black Cat Trio, The Neighbours and Step Ahead.

Disease cut short the life of this down-to-earth royal star. On 31 March 2007, Lazarus was posthumously honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at a festival dubbed Golden Oldies Music Festival in Polokwane.

excerpt from “Beyond Memory” by  Max Mojapelo (published by African Minds)

steve kekana -uthando ulungana  sikhwele

Steve Kekana -Uthando Ulungana Sikhwele

sophie thapedi  label

Sophie Thapedi -Mabitso Abatho

vusi nkosi with mabone boys label


Vusi Nkosi with Mabone Boys -Superman Jive



yebo cover ontwerp 3