Thursday, 16 April 2015

Sax Jive Special - Vol. 3

Following on from Accordion Jive Special – Vol. 1, we present the next in our series of South African jive specials. We’re sticking with the instrumental theme for now, and onto another popular form of dance music during the mbaqanga era. Sax Jive Special – Vol. 3 spotlights 20 more musical gems originally released on 45 rpm singles between 1965 and 1977.

Our opening tune “Hamba Phepha Lami No. 2”, a 1967 recording from the estimable Makgona Tsohle Band, is a remake of a huge vocal jive hit by the Mthunzini Girls. The original recording – featuring Windy Sibeko on lead vocals – was made just a short while before the sax jive reinterpretation, but was already making waves in Durban where broadcaster K.E. Masinga gave the tune regular airplay on the then-Radio Bantu operation. This was not an unusual situation: two other numbers in this compilation, “Tetemuka” (from Abafana Bama Big Bag – or the Big Bag Boys, as they were more commonly known) and “Izulu Liya Duduma No. 2” (another Makgona Tsohle Band masterpiece) had alternate vocal recordings that were hits of their own accord.
Alto saxophonist West Nkosi blows both his trusty horn and a melodica in “Hamba Phepha Lami No. 2”. It appears that there was a fashion for the melodica at the time, as the instrument pops up again in “Theogedi” – an atmospheric 1965 sax jive from Makgolokgolo, in reality a cover name for the same Makgona Tsohle Band – and in the intro to “Tetemuka”, featuring Sipho Bhengu on alto sax duties. Tom Vuma was the lead guitarist for Abafana Bemvunge, the band the backed the Mthunzini Girls who performed “Tetemuka No. 2”. In the early 1970s, Vuma left Mavuthela and moved over to EMI where he began honing a career as a producer, continuing to play his guitar on dozens of vocal and instrumental mbaqanga sessions. One of his sax jive numbers, “Shake Shake No. 500”, has a brilliantly pacey beat and loose sax phrases.
As with Monday’s compilation, I have a few favourites that I feel the need to single out: “Bye Bye” presents the Makgona Tsohle Band at their peak, with excellent rubber-thick melody from rhythm guitarist Vivian Ngubane. “Ezamabone” and “Taxi Driver” are the two numbers that represent the wild ‘jive mabone’ craze of 1973, both of which feature West Nkosi on alto sax but performing with two different instrumental outfits. “Taxi Driver” just edges it for me with its tough mabone drumbeat and rocking guitar rhythms. Another gem is the superbly swift “Hamba Nami”, credited to Big Mukwebo and His Home Boys. ‘Mukwebo’ refers to James Mukwevho – not the alto sax player but in fact the leader and bass guitarist of the Zwino Zwino Boys, the second-tier Mavuthela backup team (behind the first-tier Makgona Tsohle Band) that actually performs this number. (‘Zwino zwino’ is Venda for ‘now now’, denoting ‘ultra-modern’.)
Going back to West now and his 1972 recording “Intambo”, which is marvellous. It’s a beautifully melodic sax-and-accordion-jive tune with yet another of those brilliant spoken intros, which – as far as I can tell – sings the praises of a new Mavuthela recruit, groaner Paulus ‘Mgodlagodla’ Mabunda. Strange! Mavuthela boss Rupert Bopape provides an amusing spoken intro to “Stop Press” by Mathwalimbuzi, featuring ace musician Sello Mmutung fronting the Makgona Tsohle Band with his alto sax. As the 1970s wore on, the beats became harder and tougher – “Is Out Now” (by Albert Motha’s Amazulu Amnyama) and “Take Time” (by Fastos The Great, aka sax jiver David Khanyile) are from that late 1970s period which saw the final evolution of mbaqanga. Eventually the sound was completely usurped by a new mixture of jive, soul and disco.

A big thanks from me to Laurent Dalmasso for providing Electric Jive with 45 rpm transfers of “Intambo” and Shasha and Jackey’s “Makgona Tsohle”.

What are you waiting for? Download this mix and get your groove on! YEBO!! ☺

SAX JIVE SPECIAL – VOL. 3
COMPILED BY NICK LOTAY

01) MAKGONA TSOHLE BAND – HAMBA PHEPHA LAMI NO. 2 (1967)
02) WEST NKOSI AND HIS ALTO SAX – BYE BYE (1965)
03) MAKGOLOKGOLO – THEOGEDI (1965)
04) ABAFANA BAMA BIG BAG – TETEMUKA (1968)
05) MAKGONA TSOHLE BAND – IZULU LIYA DUDUMA NO. 2 (1967)
06) PAULUS MASINA AND HIS SAX – MADUNA (1969)
07) MAMBAZA NABAFANA BOMSHOSHOLOZO – HILLS OF JIVE (1971)
08) MAZEICKS – SHAKE SHAKE NO. 500 (1972)
09) ABAFANA BOMCIKICO – BAROTHO (1973)
10) WEST NKOSI NABASHOKOBEZI – TAXI DRIVER (1973)
11) MARKS MANKWANE AND HIS SHALUZA BOYS – EZAMABONE (1973)
12) BHENGU & BHENGU – EKHONENI (1972)
13) BIG MUKWEBO AND HIS HOME BOYS – HAMBA NAMI (1974)
14) WEST NKOSI NABASHOKOBEZI – INTAMBO (1972)*
15) SHASHA AND JACKEY – MAKGONA TSOHLE (1972)*
16) HAMILTON NZIMANDE – GIG 74 (1974)
17) MATHWALIMBUZI – STOP PRESS (1976)
18) AMAZULU AMNYAMA – IS OUT NOW (1977)
19) FASTOS THE GREAT – TAKE TIME (1977)
20) MARKS MANKWANE AND THE SHALUZA BOYS – N.Y. 4 (1976)

MF

VOL. 1 | VOL. 2

Monday, 13 April 2015

Accordion Jive Special - Vol. 1

Right - I think it's about time Electric Jive delved deep into the mbaqanga archives for some more special compilations! Over the next two weeks, we will present a number of township jive anthologies. Today we draw our attention to an infectious dancefloor music of choice for many of South Africa's township-dwelling population of the 1970s. EJ has previously shared a number of fantastic accordion jive albums and individual singles, but never before have we devoted an entire post to the hugely successful genre. So here we are! Accordion Jive Special - Vol. 1 draws together 20 instrumental hits originally released on 45 rpm format between 1973 and 1985.

 

The idea for this post actually came about after digitising a large batch of recently accumulated singles of varying styles - sax jives, soul pop, bump jive, girl groups, solo male numbers, and so on. To me, much of the accordion jive material that popped on and off my turntable actually sounded rather uninteresting and repetitive compared to the other 45s. It took me a few singles more to get into the groove and subsequently realise what accordion jive was intended for. It wasn't music to be analysed or deconstructed… it was dance music with a distinctly 'traditional' influence; music to be played if one felt in the mood to jump and jive until they dropped; the perfect accompaniment to hectic dancefloor moves.

It's difficult to pin down exactly when the first accordion jive recordings were produced. But the style almost certainly developed after the arrival of the first famo musicians to the recording studios of Johannesburg in the late 1960s. Some of the early stars of Basotho famo included Forere Motloheloa, piano-accordion player for the legendary Tau ea Matsekha which began recording for EMI (Coplan, 1994). The earliest known accordion jives were produced at Gallo's Mavuthela Music division under the supervision of producer Rupert Bopape in 1969. Piano-accordionist Mtabhane Ndima, backed by the Makgona Tsohle Band, recorded a few instrumental singles for Mavuthela's popular Inkonkoni label (some of these singles were later released onto the LP Thala Thala, a 1971 compilation of Mavuthela instrumental hits which can be downloaded from Electric Jive here).

A lead accordion backed by the elastic mbaqanga rhythm suddenly developed into a craze. Some of those who followed Ndima into the music industry included Walter Ndaba, Delford Ngcemu, Johannes Lenkoe, Joseph Mazibuko, Jeremia Luvuno, Mzwandile David, Johnson Mkhalali and a whole host more. For the entirety of the 1970s and well into the 1980s, singles categorised as 'accordion jive' or 'sax and accordion jive' were recorded and pressed in their hundreds. All of the major mbaqanga instrumental teams of the day produced accordion jives - from the Makgona Tsohle Band to Abafana Bentuthuko to the Boyoyo Boys. In Accordion Jive Special - Vol. 1, Electric Jive presents some of the best hits from back in the day.

Every track is enjoyable and certainly danceable but I have a few particular favourites. “Kagiso Special”, from Johannes Lenkoe and His Accordion, has a tetchy percussive beat and - aside from the airy piano-accordion melody - memorable rhythm and bass lines. Mzwandile David improvises a striking introduction to “Repairs”, credited to Marks and The Shaluza Boys, but actually the Makgona Tsohle Band complete with West Nkosi on alto saxophone. Alfred Makalima's “Station Tsikisa” is another gem for me. Makalima and his Township Boys provide an unashamedly rough-and-ready beat with bright percussion and sharp guitars, which I always find myself tapping my foot to if at the computer desk. Then there's “Transkei Special” with its watery guitar repetition and arresting accordion work from Johnson Mkhalali. Mzwandile David returns with his majestic accordion rhythms in “First Stop Mapetla”, but the real star of that number for me is Jerry Mthethwa with his superb springy guitar rhythm. “Hela Manyewu”, as recorded by Sebaka Borena (actually a session band led by Elias Lerole on lead guitar and named after a huge early 1970s sax jive hit), rather unusually features male vocals and a rather huge rhythm section comprising accordion, violin, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, drums and tambourine.

“Nomonde”, from the always-solid Mzwandile David (and West Nkosi on alto sax) represents a change in direction with a new pop-style drum backing, recorded when the African music scene was being dominated by a new distinctive fusion of mbaqanga, soul and disco. So, the accordion was made more strident and the drums made harder, as evidenced by Lulamile Simoyi's “Blythswood Special” (from 1980) and Johnson Mkhalali's “Lusikisiki Special” (from 1985). Shortly after the recording of “Lusikisiki Special”, Paul Simon's Graceland album made its mark on the western world and helped to introduce mbaqanga music to an entirely new audience of listeners. (One of the numbers on the album, “Gumboots”, was directly influenced by an early 1980s accordion jive hit by the Boyoyo Boys. Simon tried to recreate the number in the studio but his efforts - and those of the reconstituted Boyoyo Boys - proved futile, so he placed his vocals and horn melodies on top of a recording of the original song.)

Well, there's nothing more I can tell you than this: download Accordion Jive Special - Vol. 1, get your dancing shoes ready, and work yourself up into a frenetic dance frenzy. YEBO!

ACCORDION JIVE SPECIAL - VOL. 1
COMPILED BY NICK LOTAY

01) MAKHONA ZONKE BAND - BUSHMAN ROCK (1976)
02) JOHANNES LENKOE AND HIS ACCORDION - KAGISO SPECIAL (1975)
03) MARKS AND THE SHALUZA BOYS - REPAIRS (1976)
04) TOWNSHIP BOYS - STATION TSIKIZA (1976)
05) MR. V. MZWANDILE - SAKHILE (1977)
06) JOHNSON MKHALALI - TRANSKEI SPECIAL (c1975)
07) MR. V. MZWANDILE - HELELE MAKOTI! (1975)
08) ABAFANA BAMARABI - TJOTJO (1973)
09) DELFORD NGCEM' AND HIS ACCORDION - NTLALAKAHLE (1973)
10) SIPHO MTHETHWA & HIS FRIENDS - FIRST STOP MAPETLA (1973)
11) ABAFANA BESI MANJE MANJE - BATHINI NZIMANDE (1974)
12) JOHANNES LENKOE AND HIS ACCORDION - KELEBONI (c1975)
13) SEBAKA BORENA - DIKOMPONENG (1977)
14) MR. V. MZWANDILE - EMTHIMDE (1976)
15) MATHWALIMBUZI - TICKY DRIVE (1977)
16) SEBAKA BORENA - HELA MANYEWU (1977)
17) MR. V. MZWANDILE - NOMONDE (1976)
18) SHASHA BOYS - MAKOTOPONG (1979)
19) SIMOYI & HIS ACCORDION - BLYTHSWOOD SPECIAL (1980)
20) JOHNSON MKHALALI - LUSIKISIKI SPECIAL (1985)

MF

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Abacothozi: Thema Maboneng (1975)

Finally! Another fantastic rarity that Electric Jive has long been looking out for. "Thema Maboneng" is the first of two known albums recorded by what was at the time, the core of Soweto's famed Pelican Club house band. 

Siemon outlines the history and context of Abacothozi in posting their second album "Pelican Fantasy" here

"Abacothozi were formed in 1973 by bassist, Berthwel Maphumulo, formerly of the Elite Swingsters. Together with Mac Mathunjwa on organ, his brother Innocent Mathunjwa on drums and Joe Zikhali on guitar, they recorded at least two albums: Thema Maboneng (Soul Jazz Pop, BL 59, December 1975) and Night in Pelican(Soul Jazz Pop, BL 66, February 1976). The two Abacothozi albums were recorded six weeks apart and predate the Chapita sessions with Dick Khoza by eight months. Mac Mathunjwa would go on to play keyboards with the Peddlers backing Mpharanyana."

These six sizzling tracks were "compiled" by West Nkosi for the Mavuthela label. As with "Pelican Fantasy" this music is sunny, funky and danceable.

To paraphrase Jonatan Eato, there is a slow burn to the  emergent benefits and possibilities of this blog. For Electric Jive it feels like the idea of "digitally archiving" out of print and inaccessible South African musics is being embraced by a growing band of collectors and fans. More people are coming forward and offering to share otherwise lost gems from their collections. Today's thanks are due to Vusi over at The Fly Machine Sessions. Vusi also pointed out that "Thema Maboneng" is pretty much borrowed from this 1974 Isaac Hayes track (Hung Up On My Baby - from the Tough Guys sound-track):


Since Kon and Amir featured the track "Thema Maboneng" on their 2008 compilation  Off Track Volume 2 - Queens (BBE, 2008) a small number of us have been searching in the hope of hearing the full album.  

Another recording involving the Pelican Club house band is the 1977 "Funny Things" by the "Ensemble of Rhythm and Art".

Download here

Monday, 6 April 2015

Electric Jive Jukebox: Isitimela Sase Tekwini


This jukebox idea came from an idle daydream about how much space would be needed to store one of every record that was ever made and pressed in Johannesburg since 1932 when Eric Gallo established South Africa's first press.

South Africa's recorded music heritage is one such "jukebox" with too many lost, forgotten and out-of-print musical creations. An uncounted large number of recordings have been made to cater for diverse and eclectic musical, tribal and sub-cultural tastes. In the course of digging for records I have turned up some great music on 78rpms or 45rpms that I cannot find on albums. So, how then to present them on this blog?

The original records were bought by a sizable urban African populace and enjoyed  at household parties, shebeens, fund-raising dances in halls. While I cannot find evidence of jukeboxes having played much part in this scene, the idea of a "jukebox selection" makes for a comfortably loose way of grouping some rare and out of print records together for a post on Electric Jive.

Imagine if you will, a massive jukebox filled with the most diverse representation of sounds that were recorded and sold in cities and towns across the country. Traditional tribal "trance" recordings made by visitors to the studios, gospel and religious choirs, mbaqanga, soul, jazz, disco, funk - it was all very much part of the possible "selection" from what was available.

Electric Jive Jukebox Number One is a selection of  60s mbaqanga with some swing and jive themed around a train-ride holiday-to-Durban. Some great female vocal jive, swing and mbaqanga for a sub-tropical Durban holiday feeling ... just like it has been this long-weekend. Enjoy

1. Isitimela Sase Tekwini - Trutone Dolls (78rpm Stokvel ST.019).
2. Kumnandi Ethekwini - Reggie Msomi's Love Birds (45rpm Gumba Gumba MGG698) (1977).
3. Gijima Mfana - Mthunzini Girls (78rpm Motella MO120).
4. Big Brain Jive No.2 - Transvaal Rocking Jazz Stars (78rpm Columbia YE6039).
5. Ndode Khohlanele - Thandi & Lo Six (78rpm Zonk TV.222 )
6. Lucky Star Twist No.2 - Golden City Sisters (78rpm Tempo KT.525)
7. Ngaliwe - Durban City Queens - (78rpm DRUM DR166)
8. Dudu - Thandi & Lo Six - (78rpm Zonk TV.222)
9. La Conga - West Nkosi (78rpm Gallo USA USA321)
10. Erautini - Shanty Town Trio with Thandi Mpambani (78rpm Colombia YE55)
11. Wongkhonzela - Durban City Queens (78rpm DRUM DR166)
12. Madison Square No.2 - Golden City Sisters (78rpm Tempo KT.525)
13. Union Express - Albert Ralumini (78rpm RCA Victor Top Beat RCA291)
14. Durban Road - Makhona Zonke Band
15. Iwisa Lakho - Johnson Mkhalali with the Mabone Boys (45rpm GoGo GGB612) (1977)
16. 1968 Special - Mr V. Mzwandile & His Accordeon (45rpm Up Mavuthela UPM812) (1973)
17. Mthathe Masaka - Boy Masaka (78rpm Columbia YE0658)
18. Ungalile - Joyce Mogatusi & Boy Masaka (78rpm His Master's Voice JP876).

Download link here

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Disco Jive with The Zombies (1979)



Changing gear during a glorious long-weekend afternoon in Durban, it must be time for some sunny and sumptuous mbaqanga disco jive from "The Zombies".

While we make final preparations to share another long sought-after gem of an album next week (Kon and Amir sampled a tune from it) - herewith thirty minutes of some feel-good upbeat sounds.

Knowing nothing about this polished band I soon learnt it was quite pointless to search "The Zombies" on the internet.

Lively and interesting rhythm and lead guitars, male vocal harmonies that may or may not include Willie and Paul. Rubbery base bouncing around crisp stick-work .... no synthesisers!!.

Produced by the ever-present David Thekwane, the Zombies recorded in Johannesburg on the 29th November 1979. Composer credits go to Bethwell Bhengu - guitarist, bassist and sometime groaner for an array of mbaqanga bands during the '70s. As recounted in Louise Meintjes' excellent 'Sound of Africa', Bethwell performed with Banana City Queens, Amataitai, Jive Boys, The Movers, Abathakathi, and Isigqi Sesimanjemanje among countless others. He also briefly worked with Almon Memela  (Thanks Nick for the details).


DOWNLOAD LINK HERE

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Almon Memela in all his diversity: 78rpm sampler


 In celebrating Almon Memela's "Broken Shoes" album I promised to share a few recordings from my 78rpm collection that illustrate the depth of feel, beauty and diversity of Memela's musical reach.

First up Memela's soothing voice accompanies his maskandi guitar in painting a hauntingly beautiful, yet painful musical canvas of the impact of apartheid in the 1960s.


"Amapoyisa" takes the form of a 'letter' to his rural homestead, and  loved one there, saying how afraid he is of the police in the city. Black migrant workers at the time were required to carry "passes" to enable entry to and residence in specific places. The police were active in enforcing the system, harassing and arresting black people for being in  the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time - completely disrupting their lives.

Almon Memela tells how city life is spent running and hiding from the police, and says to his family in their rural area that it is much more peaceful there as there are no police to harass them.


"Lashona" is a maskandi love-song in which Memela is travelling a long distance to visit the love of his life. While walking he is playing guitar and singing a lament that he is not going to get to his destination before sunset and that he knows he has a lot of explaining to do, and does not know how he is going to do it. He has not been able to keep his promises and fears that because of this his relationship is now lost ("ngaliwe").


 Amapoyisa / Lashona Link

This recording is a languid exploration of the twist style laced with guitar work that always leads  my untrained ear to believe that Almon Memela was not only listening to rock and twist, he was also listening to what was coming out of sixties Congo.

Accompanying Memela is fellow master Rex Ntuli on rhythm. Ntuli is probably most famous as being the guitarist on the original line-up of the Elite Swingsters during the 1960s.

You can  find Rex Ntuli and His Band in a great 78rpm compilation here, and with the Elite Swingsters here. and in Funky Mama here.

In Baca Twist Memela's lead glides across Ntuli's rhythm, referencing rock, soul and twist in a comfortable understated manner.

Umfezi Twist (an Umfesi is a Mozambican Spitting Cobra) is my current favorite, conjuring up moving images of a slowly swaying cobra - no drama this time, just delightful guitar that  sometimes sounds like it could be one of the Diabate brothers from Guinea.


 Baca Twist / Umfesi Twist Link

"Skilpad" (Afrikaans for 'tortoise') and "Uiydoda"  are classic Marabi Jazz compositions framed by banks of (uncredited) horns and defined by rhythm and lead guitar.

Almon's Jazz Kings and Almon's Jazz 8 were but two of the bands Memela pulled together for various recording dates.

In addition to the Soul diversion on AM Stragglers, Memela played (and produced) a lot of Mbaqanga - producing "Mine Jive Special" which features Kid Moncho.

Bump Jive and Phata Phata also were blessed with Memela's attention. Give "Highway Soul" a listen for his melting-pot blend of soul, bump and mbaqanga.

If you do have access to other recordings that Memela was involved in - we would like to hear from you.                       
Uyidoda / Skilpad Link


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Almon Memela: Broken Shoes (1976)


Finally, herewith another holy grail the Electric Jive team has long been searching for. As Siemon said in his earlier post on Almon Memela's Funky Africa:  "The album is tight and excellent, but we might reserve the title of “holy grail” for Memela’s even scarcer album Broken Shoes (1976, Highway Soul, HSL 2009)… or at least until we listen to it!"

In my view Siemon, you will not be disappointed by these two fifteen-minute tracks of musical chemistry from guitar wizard Almon Memela and the stalwarts of Soweto's Pelican Club house band.

Memela's musical journey was a rich and diverse one. His earlier recordings start off with maskandi, move through penny-whistle and swing (I will share some 78rpm recordings at a later date), take a delightful diversion via Soul in the late 60s - you can find the A.M. Stragglers recording here. In the 70s Memela's music branched out into jazz, bump, mbaqanga and funk, to reach the pinnacle shared here with you today. You can read more about Memela and browse a partial discopgraphy on Flatint here.

Thank you Manzo for making it possible to access this crisp and clean recording.
Download link here