The 1964 Castle Lager Jazz Festival, organised by Union Artists, attracted 40,000 Jazz Lovers to the Orlando Stadium on the 26th September, 1964. Dressed in gay and what-have-you styles, the "guys and dolls" had a real ball, and the musicians were in the groove.
The set piece—BAG'S GROOVE—was played in as many ways as there were groups; the drum duet, featuring Early Mabuza and Sipho Ndlela, was a skilful conception, but the day's honours went to the MALOMBO JAZZ MEN led by Philip Tabane.
Malombo Jazz, which is on the first side of this disc, caused a great stir among the crowd. Primitive, yet sophisticated, it is a simple and soulful music.
FOOLISH FLY is a description of a man who thought he was taking the Malombo Men for a ride — they saw through his scheming.
MALOMBO MEN'S PRAYER is a reference to the gods that have inspired the whole musical concept of the Malombo Men. The prayer is said in varying tempos, typical of the freedom enjoyed by these musicians in their music.
YOUR NEIGHBOUR, is a 12 bar which seems to have neither beginning nor end, something similar to the wind blowing over the veld.
EMKOBOLA (Chief's Kraal) will remind anyone of the tribal influence in this music. It is actually the name of a chief's kraal in Vendaland. Drummer, Julian Bahula, has a ball here.
BLUES FOR YOU, another 12 bar, is a good epitome of Malombo Jazz. Witness the mood and what Philip does behind Abe's flute.
ZANDILE has to sound so well. It is the name of Philip's grand-mother. Pity it's so short!
The influences on the Malombo Men are varied. They range from the music and dances of the Pedi and Venda tribes to the flute-playing style of Roland Kirk. Some people have brought in Bach and other classical music Masters, yet, the Malombo Men claim they hardly listen to any discs, jazz or highbrow. It is just soul!
Incidentally, if you listen hard, you can hear Philip talking to his guitar—he gets so involved! The entire repertoire is Philip's compositions.
The flip side of the disc is made up by the Early Mabuza Quartet, with guest artist Sipho Ndlela. For the date, little Bunny Rachabane stood in for Kippie Moeketsi on alto. He did more than just stand in, he stepped in by contributing several originals! His attack and swing is reminiscent of Sonny Stitt. For Early, the drum duet was the cachet of his work. Witnessed, it came off very well indeed. MAXHEGWANA (Little Old Man), is an outstanding composition executed expertly. Note the change in beat and Bunny's swinging solo. It might be of interest to relate this composition to Malombo Jazz. Their origins are common—tribal. Maxhegwana is Transkeian, Malombo Jazz, Venda-Pedi. Now you just take it from there!
This classic album features the original line-up of the Malombo Jazz Men with Phillip Tabane, Abbey Cindi and Julian Bahula. The group would soon split in 1966.
After the break-up, Tabane worked with Gabriel 'Mabi' Thobejane and continued recording under the name Malombo Jazzmen and then later simplified it to just Malombo.
Bahula and Cindi teamed up with Lucky Ranku and formed the Malombo Jazz Makers. Their first LP after this recording was titled Malompo. Bahula and Ranku would go on to form the group Jabula while in exile in London.
Read more about Malombo at 3rd Ear Music—David Mark's fantastic website on South African music. Read more about Julian Bahula here.