Various Artists - Jazz & Hot Dance in South Africa 1946 - 1959
Cover
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LINER NOTES

 

The Harlequin series of anthologies is devoted to the development of hot music around the globe. The many not so obvious, even obscure facets documented in this series may serve as eye openers to broader-minded listeners. This LP is no exception as it covers an area which has so far been entirely overlooked by jazz researchers and historians. It explores a kind of "Jazz" that is unique to the black townships of South Africa and Johannesburg in particular, and that cannot be found anywhere else on the continent - or in the world for that matter—Township Jazz. By focussing on Township Jazz it deliberately ignores other aspects, styles and developments in that region, such as the dance tunes of the Zulus, music played by white artists, and jazz in general terms.

Afro-American art forms, as performed by blacks, whites, and whites in blackface, were introduced to South Africa nearly as early as Europe. Joe Brown, one of the world's greatest jig dancers, toured the Cape Colony in 1862 as a member of Nish's Christy Minstrels. Many other artists were to follow, among them Leslie's Anglo-American Minstrels (1883), Burt Shepard (1898), The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Sousa's Band (1911), or England's banjo ragtime king, Oily Oakley (1915). However, all these artists catered for the white settlers and colonialists and, in all probability, left no mark on the African population.

The exploitation of the world's richest gold-bearing reef on the Witwatersrand, in 1886, called for a huge labour force which had to be brought in from outlying areas. By the turn of the century there were already some 200,000 African labourers crammed into the hostels, compounds, and townships in and around Johannesburg. In spite of appalling living conditions, most of these people were determined to settle in the Golden City permanently, rather than return to their distant homes at the end of the contract period. Sophiatown was the best known of these black spots in Johannesburg, and in all South Africa, a name which is as closely linked to Township Jazz as New Orleans or Chicago are to American jazz. Sophiatown had the fanciest shebeens, illegal watering holes, and the best African jazz was played there.

In traditional African societies music is a necessary and integral part of daily life and community, rather than the separate entity it tends to be in western societies, where music is primarily seen as entertainment and a luxury, and maybe as an expression of creativity at best. When listening to the music on this LP one should be aware of a number of characteristics of indigenous African music: It is cyclical and highly repetitive; it seldom changes tempo; performers often have different entry points and even different rhythms; scales are also different, which explains why unprepared westerners usually think that Africans sing or play somewhat out of tune when they perform western music. Although it is the sound of the drum which is most readily associated with the African continent, it should be noted that the only indigenous music in South Africa is vocal. (The exception to this rule is the "holy" drums of the Vendas). The reason for this shortage of instruments in this part of the world may be attributed to the fact that the early tribes, overspilled from the Congo basin, were warlike and constantly on the move, and that in consequence they never developed the kind of society that encouraged a more settled, complex instrumental music.

Given the life in the hard-pressed townships against this background of a rich musical tradition, the shebeens provided some kind of escape from the dreary reality and a noisy solace for this large aggregation of uprooted African labour. In recent years the shebeens have been romanticized, although there was certainly nothing romantic about them judging by what Modikwe Dikobe writes about them in his book The Marabi Dance: - "When it rained, the yard was as muddy as a cattle kraal, and the smell of beer, thrown out by the police in their raids, combined with the stench of the lavatories, was nauseating. The beer business was mostly done on Sundays for the benefit of domestic workers. The skokiaan enabled the men to fight more bravely... Those with stronger heads drank methylated spirits".

It was the necessary adaptation of those newly-weaned from tribal authority and custom to the new environment, combined with the influence of western music, which formed the basis for a new popular music unique to South Africa, Township Jazz. Call it a marriage of contrasts. In this music emanating from the shebeens, African and non-African elements freely mingle and produce a hybrid style in which indigenous features become weakened and maybe refined, and imported characteristics are adapted and often over-simplified and diluted. Particularly the imported 1930s recordings of American swing bands and close-harmony vocal-groups had a strong bearing on the emerging local black jazz scene. Although South African recordings were made - in London - from the 1920s onwards, there are no recorded documents of Township Jazz or black hot music. Unfortunately the record companies chose to ignore African music for decades, with the exception of a few rather polite vocal groups. The music of the shebeens and the first generation of township jazzmen went unrecorded. The local industry had probably little reason to record these early groups when they could so easily make their money out of the imported product and without any up-front investments. At the same time the popular black bands seem to have boycotted the studios in later years, because the few shillings flat fee which the local record companies were willing to offer at the time held little incentive compared with the money any of these bands earned from live engagements. The record industry only began to take note of the local black music scene after the Gallo company had hired actor-impresario Griffith Motsieloa, leader of a vocal-theatrical group, The Pitch Black Follies, and when the company started recording the Manhattan Brothers during the early 1950s. However, it was only during the mid-1950s that black music took off commerically when kwela music hit the local and overseas charts.

The more technically able a band, the more westernized and remote from tribal history the music, and the more sophisticated the audience it attracted. The most successful of the early African bands were alto-player Peter Rezant's Merry Blackbirds. This seven-piece formation, including an unidentified female pianist, [Emily Motsieloa,] never played anything but American music, maybe with an African tinge, and performed almost exclusively before white audiences. Pesheya Kwezo Ntaba, recorded before 1949 and probably as early as 1946, opens the anthology with solos by trumpet and piano (1/1). The vocals are by the Manhattan Brothers, probably the most famous of the many male vocal quartets, that performed Zulu and Xhosa cover versions of American hits, such as Honey Bee (1/2), and the Organ Grinder's Swing (1/8), with solos by clarinet and by trumpet and tenorsax, respectively. The four had first met at school, and as youngsters of 13 and 14 years of age—having just passed Standard III in December 1944—they set off for their first tour. The breakthrough came in early 1946 when they appeared with Griffith Motsieloa's Pitch Black Follies. Since Motsieloa worked as a talent scout for the local Gallo company he organized several recording sessions for that label. As their records appeared on the market, so their popularity grew. During the 1950s the Manhattan Brothers were regularly featured in SABC programmes and toured throughout southern Africa, appearing mainly with the Merry Blackbirds (1/1) and on occasion with the Jazz Maniacs and the Shanty Town Sextet/Seven (2/1).

The band with the most devoted black following was the Jazz Maniacs of shebeen pianist-turned-saxophonist Solomon "Zulu Boy" Cele. After Zulu Boy's mysterious death in 1944, his tenorman Wilson "KingForce" Silgee took over the leadership of the band. He later led his own band, the Jazz Forces, represented here with their 1953 recording of Amafosi, featuring an altosax in addition to the leader's tenor (2/2).

Very little is known about the other groups and musicians on this record. Exact session details are probably impossible to establish, as most ledgers have been destroyed long ago. Furthermore, all recordings were programmed by white producers who had a tendency to blend the music with their perception of the black target market. It was not even uncommon for white studio musicians to be called in for "black" recording sessions.

The final two tracks on this LP feature flageolets, or pennywhistles. Pennywhistle jive was developed by street urchins from Alexandra Township, north of Johannesburg, in the mid 1940s. The Zulu term kwela means "pick-up" and refers to roving police vans on the look-out for illegal street corner gambling. When a van came in sight all evidence of the game would be hastily hidden and somebody would substitute the event with harmless flute music until the immediate danger was over. Kwela music became very popular in 1950 after a locally made film, The Magic Garden, had featured a crippled boy playing a pennywhistle jive. One of the music's biggest successes was Spokes Mashiyane (2/8), who was paid a mere £20 for each single that usually sold between 50,000 and 70,000 copies, until the newly established Union of S.A. Artists succeeded in arranging for a new contract on a royalty basis. Mashiyane's Meadowland Boogie marks about the end of the 78 rpm era. Since then black South African jazz musicians, and most notably Dollar Brand, have been firmly established in the international world of jazz.


1/1 Manhattan Brothers with Merry Blackbirds' Orchestra
Pesheya Kwezo Ntaba (Bantu = Playing On The Mountain Side)
Johannesburg, c. 1946 - 1948
ABC 3128, Singer (GB) GE 973 A
Poss. David Mtimkhulu (trumpet), J.C.P. Mavimbela (sax), Peter Rezant (altosax, leader), unidentified female or poss. Jacob Moeketsi (piano), Jacob Lepere (bass), Willie Malang (drums), possibly Jacob Medumo (unknown instrument), Ronnie Sehume, Joseph Kulwane Mogotsi, Rufus Koza, Dambuza Mdelele (vocal quartet)

1/2 The Manhattan Brothers
Amazw' Amnandi (Honey Be My Honey Bee) (Zulu = Sweet Talk), (Shephard, Foley), Zulu Jive
Johannesburg, between May 1950 - May 1951
ABC 3902, Gallotone (RSA) GB 1277 B
Peter Rezant (clarinet), unknown (guitar), (bass), (drums), Ronnie Sehume, Joseph Kulwane Mogotsi, Rufus Koza, Dambuza Mdelele (vocal quartet); with handclapping by the ensemble

1/3 The Black Broadway Boys
Mia Mia Bounce, Jive
Johannesburg, about mid 1951
N1153, Bantu Batho (RSA) BB 608
Unknown (piano), (vocal group)

1/4 Manhattan Stars
The Jumping Jive (Lawrence Wright), Jive
Johannesburg, about mid 1951
N1194, Bantu Batho (RSA) BB 610
Unknown (piano), (guitar), (bass), (vocal group)

1/5 King Cole Boogies with BB All Star Band
Ndasuka Ekhayo, (Zulu = l Left Home), Jive
Johannesburg, about late 1951 / early 1952
MTS 28/1725, Bantu Batho (RSA) BB 633
Unknown (clarinet), (accordion), (piano), (bass), (drums), (vocal group)

1/6 The African Swingsters. Leader: Ellison "Temba" (sic)
Swazi Stomp (Isaac "Zacks" Nkosi) (sic), African Jive
Johannesburg, about 1952
OAS 620-2, His Master's Voice (RSA) JP 133
Unknown (trumpet), Ellison Themba (tenorsax), Isaac "Zakes" Nkosi (altosax), unknown (bass), (drums), possibly others

1/7 Dorothy Masuka and Her Hot Music
Ba Zali Bami (Zulu = My Parents), (Masuka), Zulu Jive
Johannesburg, about 1953
MATA 1063 / NB2, Troubadour (RSA) AFC 115
Unknown (tenorsax), (piano), (guitar, if any), (bass), (drums), Dorothy Masuka (vocal, leader)

1/8 Jake Ntuli and the Manhatten Brothers (sic)
Organ Grinder's Swing, (Parish, Mills, Hudson), Bantu Jive
Johannesburg, about October 1953
ABC 12041, Gallotone (GB) GB 1914 A
Unknown (trumpet), (tenorsax), (altosax), (piano), (guitar), (bass), (drums), Jake Ntuli (leader), Ronnie Sehume, Joseph Kulwane Mogotsi, Rufus Koza, Dambuza Mdelele (vocal quartet)

2/1 Shanty City Seven
Unoya Kae (Sotho = Where's He Going?), (Lottie Masilo), Jive
Johannesburg, about November 1953
ABC 12310 D2, Gallotone (RSA) GB 1955 A
Robert Pule (trumpet), Mackay Davashe (tenorsax), "Kippie" Moeketsi (altosax), "Boykie" Gwele (piano), "General" Duze (guitar), W. Adam (bass), Norman Martin (drums)

2/2 King Force Silgee's Jazz Forces
Amafosi (Loan word, from English = Forces), (W.Silgee), Jive
Johannesburg, about November 1953
ABC 12340, Gallotone (RSA) GB 1958 A
Isaac "Zakes" Nkosi (trombone), Wilson "King Force" Silgee (tenorsax, leader), Mackay Davashe, M. Xaba (altosax), Jacob Moeketsi (piano), W. Adam (bass), Willie Malang (drums)

2/3 Benny G. Mwrebi And The Harlem Swingsters, with Taai Shomang
U-Mgibe (Zulu = The Snare trap or drum), (Gideon Nxumalo) (sic), Jive
Johannesburg, about 1954
MATA 1251 / N133, Troubador (RSA) AFC 166
Unknown (trumpet), Benny "Gwigwi" Mwrebi (clarinet, sax, leader), unknown (reeds), Todd Matshikiza or Gideon Nxumalo (piano), unknown (bass), (drums), Taai Shomang (unknown instrument)

2/4 The Jazz Swingcopators
Raspberry Jam Blues, Dance Bantu
Johannesburg, about 1954
ABC 12054, Trek (GB) DC 328 A
Unknown (tenorsax), (piano), (bass), (drums)

2/5 Walter Theletsane
U Boogie Woogie Wam (Walter Theletsane), Zulu
Johannesburg, about 1956
CEA 3011-1, Columbia (RSA) YE 156
Unknown (tenorsax), (piano), (bass), (drums), Walter Theletsane (vocal)

2/6 Alexandra All Star Band
Third Avenue Special (E. Piliso), Jive
Johannesburg, about 1956
ABC 13912, Tropik (RSA) DC 583 A
S. Piliso (trumpet), Ntemekwana "Ntemi" Piliso (r.n. Edmund Mtutuzeli Piliso) (tenorsax), Bra Sello (altosax), Aaron Lebona (piano), F. Edgar (bass), S.B. Mokone (drums)

2/7 The Boom Brothers
Take It! (Tshabalala), Jive
Johannesburq, about 1957
MATA 1352/2, Troubador (RSA) AFC 204
Unknown (flageolet), (guitar), (bass), (drums), (vocal group)

2/8 Spokes Mashiyane & France Pilane
Meadowlands Boogie (Spokes Mashiyane), Tin Whistle Jive
Johannesburg, about 1959-1960
T 4504, Quality (RSA) TJ 56 B
Spokes Mashiyane (flageolet, leader), France Pilane (guitar), unknown (bass), (drums)


Producer: Bruce Bastin
Programming Research: Rainer E. Lotz
Original recordings: Horst Bergmeier (side 1, tracks 1,2,3,4; side 2, tracks 5, 6), Rainer E. Lotz
Transfers: John R.T. Davies
Discography: Rob Allingham, Horst Bergmeier, David B. Coplan, Rainer E. Lotz
Sleeve notes: Horst Bergmeier
Photograph: Rainer E. Lotz
Design: Nigel Goodall

Product of: Interstate Music Ltd. PO Box No. 74, Crawley, West Sussex RH11 OLX, England.
Made in England ©1985
 

VARIOUS ARTISTS
JAZZ & HOT DANCE IN SOUTH AFRICA 1946 - 1959


recorded 1946-1959
issued 1985
Harlequin
Interstate Music
made in UK
produced by various
published by various
HQ 2020
33 rpm
source: flatinternational Archive

TRACK LISTING

 

1.1MANHATTAN BROTHERS WITH MERRY BLACKBIRDS' ORCHESTRA
Pesheya Kwezo Ntaba

(uncredited)

1.2MANHATTAN BROTHERS
Amazw' Amnandi

(Shepard, Foley)

1.3BLACK BROADWAY BOYS
Mia Mia Bounce

(uncredited)

1.4MANHATTAN STARS
Jumping Jive

(Lawrence Wright)

1.5KING COLE BOOGIES WITH BB ALL STAR BAND
Ndasuka Ekhayo

(uncredited)

1.6AFRICAN SWINGSTERS
Swazi Stomp

(Zacks Nkosi)

1.7DOROTHY MASUKA AND HER HOT MUSIC
Ba Zali Bami

(Dorothy Masuka)

1.8JAKE NTULI AND THE MANHATTAN BROTHERS
Organ Grinder's Swing

(Parish, Mills, Hudson)

2.9SHANTY CITY SEVEN
Unoya Kae

(Lottie Masilo)

2.10KING FORCE SILGEE'S JAZZ FORCES
Amafosi

(Wilson Silgee)

2.11BENNY G. MRWEBI AND THE HARLEM SWINGTERS WITH TAAI SHOMANG
uMgibe

(Gideon Nxumalo)

2.12JAZZ SWINGCOPATERS
Rasberry Jazz Blues

(uncredited)

2.13WALTER THELETSANE
U Boogie Woogie Wam

(Walter Theletsane)

2.14ALEXANDRA ALL STAR BAND
Third Avenue Special

(Ntemi Piliso)

2.15BOOM BROTHERS
Take It!

(Tshabalala)

2.16SPOKES MASHIYANE AND FRANS PILANE
Meadowlands Boogie

(Spokes Mashiyane)

ARTISTS

 

MANHATTAN BROTHERS WITH MERRY BLACKBIRDS' ORCHESTRA
MANHATTAN BROTHERS
BLACK BROADWAY BOYS
MANHATTAN STARS
KING COLE BOOGIES WITH BB ALL STAR BAND
AFRICAN SWINGSTERS
DOROTHY MASUKA AND HER HOT MUSIC
JAKE NTULI AND THE MANHATTAN BROTHERS
SHANTY CITY SEVEN
KING FORCE SILGEE'S JAZZ FORCES
BENNY G. MRWEBI AND THE HARLEM SWINGTERS WITH TAAI SHOMANG
JAZZ SWINGCOPATERS
WALTER THELETSANE
ALEXANDRA ALL STAR BAND
BOOM BROTHERS
SPOKES MASHIYANE AND FRANS PILANE
MERRY BLACKBIRDS
DAVID MZIMKULU - trumpet
J.C.P. MAVIMBELA - sax
PETER REZANT - alto sax & leader
EMILY MOTSIELOA - piano
JACOB MOEKETSI - piano
JACOB LEPERE - bass
WILLIE MALANG - drums
JACOB MEDUMO - unknown
RONNIE SEHUME - vocal
JOSEPH MOGOTSI - vocal
RUFUS KHOZA - vocal
NATHAN MDLEDLE - vocal
ELLISON THEMBA - tenor sax
ZACKS NKOSI - alto sax
DOROTHY MASUKA - vocal
JAKE NTULI - leader
MACKAY DAVASHE - tenor sax
KIPPIE MOEKETSI - alto sax
BOYCIE GWELE - piano
'GENERAL' DUZE - guitar
W. ADAM - bass
NORMAN MARTIN - drums
WILSON SILGEE - tenor sax & leader
HARLEM SWINGSTERS
TAAI SHOMANG
GWIGWI MRWEBI - clarinet & sax & leader
TODD MATSHIKIZA - piano
GIDEON 'MGIBE' NXUMALO - piano
SHADRACK PILISO - trumpet
EDMUND NTEMI PILISO - tenor sax
AARON LEBONA - piano
F. EDGAR - bass
S. 'BOOIKIE' MOKONE - drums
SPOKES MASHIYANE - pennywhistle
FRANS PILANE - guitar
ROBERT PULE - trumpet
DAVID SELLO - alto sax
MICHAEL XABA - alto sax