Monday, 28 December 2015

Greatest Soul Hits - Vol. 2 (1972) & Vol. 3 (1973)


Well... I don't have an end-of-year mix per se. But I do have a dedicated Christmas gift for one of our keenest supporters—Manzo—who has patiently waited for these two compilations since I mentioned them in a Teenage Lovers' discography in January 2015. Perhaps therefor it is fitting to end this year with these two sets featuring a wonderful selection of mostly organ-infused soul tracks on the RPM label.

Merry Christmas, Manzo... Chris, Matt, Nick... and all our dedicated supporters!!!
Looking forward to an amazing new year!


GREATEST SOUL HITS VOLUME 2
Various Artists, RPM (RPM 7012), 1972

01) Teenage Lovers - Trinity
02) Moon Brothers - Beautiful Sunday
03) Teenage Lovers - Enemy No.1
04) Teenage Lovers - TX 15 (Playboys)
05) Teenage Lovers - Slaza's Inn
06) The Knights - Song of the Engine
07) Ben Ntoi and Tortoise - Candy
08) All Rounders - Sala Emma
09) Soul Kids - Breakfast Time
10) Teenage Lovers - Sofasonke
11) Teenage Lovers - Toto at Sis' B
12) Teenage Lovers - Victor's Money Belt
13) Teenage Lovers - Botany 700
14) All Rounders - I'm Sorry About That


GREATEST SOUL HITS VOLUME 3
Various Artists, RPM (RPM 7014), 1973

01) The Hurricanes - Expression of Love
02) The Hurricanes - I Can Feel It
03) Teenage Lovers - Let it Be
04) Teenage Lovers - Last Hope
05) Freddie Letsewene and the Young Titles - Cry For My Love
06) The Hurricanes - Love, Peace and Goodwill
07) Question Marks - Mister Moonlight
08) Teenage Lovers - Unfaithful Woman
09) Question Marks - I Won't Sleep No More
10) The Thorns - Celebration
11) Question Marks - Julia
12) The Thorns - Seteng Sediba



Monday, 21 December 2015

Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 5

Happy holidays! Electric Jive welcomes in Christmas week with a brand new volume of our popular Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups series, delving into the music of South Africa's female groups of the 1960s and 1970s. In Volume 5 we take a look at the music of the Mahotella Queens, Mthunzini Girls, Jabavu Queens, Dima Sisters, Izintombi Zomoya, Manzini Girls, Dark City Sisters, Amagugu, Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje and other solid female ensembles from the mbaqanga era. What better way to celebrate the festivities? 

MAHOTELLA QUEENS
Our first song is "Mphemphe Yalapisa", a recording credited to the Dima Sisters but actually recorded by the pool of singers who toured live as the Mahotella Queens. Talent scout and producer Rupert Bopape usually devised several group names with the intention of creating a number of successful girl bands. From 1964, he had a team of session singers record under a variety of different 'band names' for Gallo's Mavuthela Music division, and after two massively successful singles released under the name Mahotella Queens, Bopape spend his time carefully building up a public profile and image for the group. Key to the publicity were close relationships with the influential African announcers on the SABC's Radio Bantu service: K.E. Masinga, Hubert Sishi and Winnie Mahlangu. The line-up of the Queens solidified for impending tour dates, but Bopape continued to recruit more singers to the group before splitting it into two distinct sections around 1967 - the first continued to tour and record with Mahlathini under the name Mahotella Queens (as well as recording under several other pseudonyms), and the other (newer) section recording and touring as the Mthunzini Girls with vocalist John Moriri. In 1968, Bopape took another of the Queens' recording names - the Dima Sisters - and built it into a fully fledged group, and on the practice continued for several more years. It was a shrewd, cunning move designed not only to fill the Mavuthela roster with a selection of top girl groups, but to keep a steady supply of singers flowing through the Gallo building when the walkouts occurred: Bopape would recruit singers in their late teens or early twenties - they were young, naive and easily led by a father figure. A master A&R man, producer and songwriter, Bopape was also a hugely corrupting force who kept his artists ensconced in what could be best described as cheap labour. As the young ladies grew up, they became aware that they were working hard for essentially nothing, so they quit - only for Bopape to replace them with younger, more naive singers.

Talk of harsh pay, busy schedules and strict leadership is associated with almost all of the African music producers, who besides Bopape included Strike Vilakazi of Trutone Records; Cuthbert Matumba of Troubadour Records; then later Hamilton Nzimande of GRC's Isibaya Esikhulu Music; David Thekwane of Teal Records; and West Nkosi of Mavuthela Music to name just some. Exploitation was part and parcel of the industry, especially where young, vulnerable women were concerned. Depending on a producer's personal preference, they were either daughter figures or lovers, and any money doled out from the boss was certainly kept to an absolute minimum. Occasionally producers would succeed in poaching musical stars from their rivals with promises of healthy pay packets and better working conditions - and of course, neither prospect actually materialised. The huge irony is that the sounds that these ensembles made constitute some of the most delightful, energetic and exuberant music ever put down on record. Repetitive cycles of electrifying, lilting guitar hooks; superb female harmonies that danced between smooth blended chorus to brazen wailing; and a solo lead male assuredly bellowing his way through the tunes. Girl groups and mbaqanga music were synonymous with each other as the genre became South Africa's own answer to the Motown sound for a period of nearly twenty years.

MTHUNZINI GIRLS
Though producers liked to stick to recording mbaqanga tunes in the languages that sold the best - isiZulu and Sesotho, the two languages that the lion's share of African consumers spoke - songs were sometimes composed in Pedi (Sesotho sa Leboa), Tswana and Venda to ensure quotas were met. "Ka Tatampela" by the Sweet Home Dames - actually the Mthunzini Girls featuring Virginia Teffo on lead vocal - is a fun, upbeat tune categorised as 'Pedi Vocal Jive' on the 45rpm label; "Emarabini" by the Mthunzini Girls - actually Izingane zo Mgqashiyo led by Beauty Radebe - is labelled as 'Swazi Vocal Jive'. "Emarabini" is more or less a straight cover (without a credit for the original composer!) of "Siyo Ba Bamba" by Joseph Mthimkhulu and The Space Queens. The latter tune - included on Ingwe Idla Ngamabala (CBS LAB 4005) which can be found here - was a huge hit of 1967 for Isibaya Esikhulu, the African division of Gramophone Record Company. Though Rupert Bopape was certainly one of the most successful and influential producers on the scene at the time, he was not the only one. By the 1970s, Hamilton Nzimande stood as the only other producer who actively challenged Mavuthela's crown.

SANNAH MNGUNI
At Isibaya Esikhulu, Nzimande carefully cultivated a hugely successful roster of excellent female vocalists, instrumental players, composers and arrangers. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje was Nzimande's first major success. The girl group, which eventually became a vehicle for the raspy crooning of lead singer Sannah Mnguni, rose so high in prominence that the popularity battle was dominated only by two groups - itself and the Mahotella Queens. Both groups were capable of attracting a staggeringly phenomenal amount of fans who clamoured to township halls, theatres and football stadiums just to see the beautiful voices in person. Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje was supported by the excellent Saul Tshabalala as their groaner and Abafana Bentuthuko, the backing band led by the highly innovative lead guitarist Hansford Mthembu. Nzimande's Isibaya Esikhulu operation was so successful that it became the next port of call for artists who resigned from Mavuthela. The original Mthunzini Girls quit Mavuthela to become Izintombi Zentuthuko for Isibaya in 1969, but it wasn't the fairytale move that they had imagined, and pretty soon the act disintegrated. One of the singers, Windy Sibeko, stayed on for a while, multi-tracking her vocals for certain numbers such as "Mmona Oaka", released as the S'modern Girls. In 1972, most of the original Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje members (as well as Hansford Mthembu) suddenly quit the Isibaya stable. Sibeko followed them to EMI, where they started up a new, even greater chapter of their musical career as Amagugu Esimanje Manje.
MAHOTELLA QUEENS and the MAKGONA TSOHLE BAND
HILDA TLOUBATLA
Under the orchestration of producer Bopape and flanked by a team of ingenious songwriters, musical arrangers and instrumentalists, the Mahotella Queens produced a long, wonderful stream of high quality vocal jive singles from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. The Queens, easily the country's leading mbaqanga group of the era, perhaps benefitted from three distinct elements. The first was Mahlathini, hailed in the townships as 'Indoda Mahlathini' ('Mahlathini the main man'), a thoroughly decent and humble personality who possessed a showstopping stage persona and impressive vocal rawness. The second was Hilda Tloubatla, who Bopape positioned as the main lead singer of the Queens during its early days in 1964. Tloubatla possessed a reassuringly smooth, deeply resonant and thick vibrato-heavy vocal, a beautiful sound that clearly screamed 'Mahotella Queens' to every Radio Bantu listener. The third was the Makgona Tsohle Band. Marks Mankwane was not only the group's acclaimed lead guitarist, he was also the principal musical arranger of the Queens' music. He applied hundreds of melodies, all of them fresh and new and not one like another, to the lyrics written by the group's members, ensuring every Mahotella release was crafted to perfection. "Shaluza Max", recorded by the Queens in 1969, is a contorted celebration of Marks' talent. In 1973's sublime "Abaculi Bethu", the guitar wizard's abilities (as well as the talents of the other Makgona Tsohle Band members) are celebrated more openly. Queens' alto vocalist Juliet Mazamisa is the composer of "Madulo", recorded alongside "Shaluza Max" in 1969 and later covered by the legendary Letta Mbulu for her album Culani Nami.

It's obvious that with the success of these big groups, young women were influenced into forming their own groups and moving up to Johannesburg to try out their luck. The Temptation Kids were a group of singers trained by vocalist, producer and impresario Roxy Jila who brought them up to Johannesburg from Durban around 1970 to record for Mavuthela. Inevitably, the lure of a luxury lifestyle, big pay-packets and plenty of public appearances sent the Kids on their merry way to a rival producer, a move that both left Jila miffed and the Kids completely empty handed. One of the gems from their shortlived career was "Mamezala", a strident up-tempo vocal jive describing the emotions felt by all when a young bride leaves her home after she is married.

AMAGUGU ESIMANJE MANJE
“Kumnandi Ezayoni”, recorded by The Pride in 1976, is an odd one. From a musical perspective, the tune is not a traditional masterpiece but deserves inclusion simply because of its intriguing all-star line-up: the groaner is Mthunzi Malinga from Isibaya Esikhulu; the lead guitarist and arranger is Hansford Mthembu from EMI; the backing band is Mthembu's troupe Intuthuko Brothers from EMI; and the vocalists are a mixture of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje and Amagugu members. All of these artists were under contract to their respective companies during the recording of this and other songs for Mavuthela's Smanje Manje label (the name ‘The Pride’ references the English translation of ‘Amagugu’). So-called ‘underground’ sessions for rival producers and companies were actually commonplace in the industry during this era - the artists had to eke out a living somehow - but it's unusual that both Malinga, Mthembu and manager/arranger Titus Masikane are all given open and honest credit on the 45rpm label rather than fictional pseudonyms as would be the norm. One wonders if they were reprimanded by their EMI bosses. Amagugu continued to record for the company for another four more years before they moved over to WEA, then back to EMI, then disbanded for good.

Four tracks in this compilation are from Izintombi Zomoya, one of Mavuthela's junior female ensembles arguably used by the bosses as a 'testing ground' for new vocalists. But during the early 1970s, the group - backed by the Zwino Zwino Boys, 'Zwino Zwino' being Venda for 'now now!' - began to develop some real attention for the first time. Thandi Nkosi was the face of the group for a while until she was promoted to the Mahotella Queens in 1972. She was replaced by Irene Mawela, whose voice glides sweetly and gracefully over the groans of Robert 'Mbazo' Mkhize and the other singers in "Siphum' Enyakatho" and "Igama Lami (Libizw'emoyeni)". In 1975, the line-up was reshuffled again and Irene began to make recordings under her own name for the first name. Her position in Izintombi Zomoya was taken by Julia Yende, who had recently returned to Mavuthela after several years (she had been the original lead singer of the Mthunzini Girls until 1969). "Sponono Ngiyeke" highlights her mournful, bittersweet lead voice.
IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA
After Yende and the other Mthunzini Girls walked out in 1969, Mavuthela replaced them with an entirely new line-up. The same pattern repeated itself in 1971 as a new third incarnation led by Beatrice Ngcobo started recording under the name. That third incarnation quit in 1972 after being denied their touring fees and found a new recording home at Satbel Record Company in 1973. Under producer C.B. Matiwane, John Moriri and the newly-named Manzini Girls set to work recreating the magic they had worked up in the Gallo studios, complete with lead guitarist George Mangxola and the renamed Soweto Boys. For some of their recordings, they were joined by former Mahotella Queens singer Juliet Mazamisa, whose creative compositions gave Moriri and the Manzini Girls some golden hits including "Baqhubi Bezimoto". Things seemed rosy for a while - Moriri and the Manzini Girls' 1975 single "Isikhova" sold four gold discs and two platinums - but astonishing sales figures do not necessarily translate into fortune for the music makers, and by 1976 they had had enough of Satbel and quit to join WEA's new African operation led by guitarist-producer Almon Memela. It was around this time that the popularity of vocal jive groups began to decline for the very first time. In desperate attempts to keep their groups relevant, producers reworked the mbaqanga format by introducing a keyboard into the band and changing the rhythm patterns to create a new sort of 'disco jive' sound. "Basali Basejoale Joale" by Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje represents a sort of 'last gasp' of the original sound, featuring two guitars - lead and rhythm - competing for the spotlight along with the obligatory organ. "Otla Ntswarela" by the Mahotella Queens is even more distinctly soul-infused, but strangely manages to create that new feel without even a trace of organ or electric piano. If one must choose a favourite from this strange era, "Woza Ungilande" by Izintombi Zomoya - complete with yet another new line-up led by Joana Thango - would have to be mine. It carries an effervescent arrangement seemingly at odds with the solemn lyrical themes of prayer and church.

Mbaqanga girl groups continued to enjoy relevance and popularity for several more years until they were finally eclipsed, first by all-male mbaqanga line-ups, then the solo stars of bubblegum music in the early 1980s. The joyous sounds of mbaqanga music vanished from the pop scene without trace. But the memorable music still exists, buried under the rubble, waiting to be fished out, cleaned up and preserved for eternity. Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups - Vol. 5 presents a selection of 30 female mbaqanga vocal classics from the era when the genre ruled the airwaves. Hit the download link and be prepared to do some serious jiving. YEBO! :-)


CLASSIC MBAQANGA GIRL GROUPS - VOL. 5
COMPILED BY NICK LOTAY
01) DIMA SISTERS – MPHEMPHE YALAPISA (1967)
02) SWEET HOME DAMES – KA TATAMPELA (1968)
03) MTHUNZINI GIRLS – EMARABINI (1968)
04) MAHOTELLA QUEENS – MADULO (1969)
05) MAHLATHINI AND IZINTOMBI ZOMGQASHIYO – HAMBA MINYAKA (1970)
06) S’MODERN GIRLS – MMONA OAKA (1971)
07) DIMA SISTERS – SUKUNDI JEMULA (1969)
08) JABAVU QUEENS – SIDEDELENI (1968)
09) MAHOTELLA QUEENS – SHALUZA MAX (1969)
10) IZINTOMBI ZOMGQASHIYO – NAMHLA KUNGAMI (1970)
11) MASHALASHALA GIRLS – YANGENA INSIZWA (1971)
12) MAHOTELLA QUEENS – LESELESELE (1972)
13) TEMPTATION KIDS – MAMEZALA (1971)
14) MTHUNZINI GIRLS – SANGENA, SANGENA (1973)
15) DIMA SISTERS – BANTWANYANA AWU (1972)
16) IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA – SIPHUM’ ENYAKATHO (1973)
17) JOHN MORIRI & MANZINI GIRLS – TSWANG-TSWANG (1974)
18) IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA – IGAMA LAMI (LIBIZW’EMOYENI) (1975)
19) MAHOTELLA QUEENS – ABACULI BETHU (1973)
20) DARK CITY SISTERS – NTUNTSOANE (1976)
21) JULIET, JOHN MORIRI & MANZINI GIRLS – BAQHUBI BEZIMOTO (1975)
22) MAHOTELLA QUEENS – YAKHAL’INYONI (1976)
23) THE PRIDE – KUMNANDI EZAYONI (1975)
24) AMAGUGU – THULA MNTWANA (1976)
25) OLIVE MASINGA AND THE “T” BONE DOLLS – IZIHLOBO ZIYASISHIYA (1974)
26) IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA – SPONONO NGIYEKE (1975)
27) IZINTOMBI ZESI MANJE MANJE – BASALI BASEJOALE JOALE (1977)
28) MELLOTONE SISTERS – UTHANDO LUPHELILE (1977)
29) IZINTOMBI ZOMOYA – WOZA UNGILANDE (1977)
30) MAHOTELLA QUEENS – OTLA NTSWARELA (1976)

Monday, 14 December 2015

Strange Things: Electric Jive Office Party 2015


Some strange things have afflicted us all this year - though we can't say they were wholly unexpected. South Africa faces some very serious challenges with corruption and leadership. It has been a year of  despair and at times feeling hopeless as we watch people of the world drift apart and resort to bombing and fighting each other. As if such behavior is ever going to solve anything! Time for healing, time for love!

As we approach the holidays I am hopeful that we can all find the time and motivation to step back, step aside, and find that happy musical space where thinking is suspended, time stands still, and your dancing feet switch into automatic pilot mode.

I invite you to groove to some timeless and rare funky disco soul produced during those tough times in South Africa. No matter the trauma on our door-steps, we took care to feed our souls and dance among those we loved, always feeling re-inspired!

So, enough venting and sermonising, let me share the Electric Jive Durban Office Party 2015 menu with you.
We kick off with the S.A. Supremes in 1973 chasing a funky rhythm guitar and organ-led groove, singing "Strange Things":  Oh, these strange things in my life, Why, they do go to me, Oh I need someone to save me, Oh, somebody come and help me. These Strange Things, they worry me so!".

We then slide off into 1977 for a beautiful funky and emergent disco anthem recorded by "The Drive", their last recording, just two weeks before Henry Sithole (that's him in Ian Huntley's picture above) and Bunny Luthuli (guitar) were taken from us in a car accident. Stretching out at over 16 minutes, the shimmering guitar, soothing brass, and rock-solid bass-lines of "Thando's Mood" will transport you to that  place where you slowly peel away those troubles, and decide it is OK just to let go, and go with the flow.

We slip back into 1976, with the wonderful collaboration between the members of the pop band "Rabbit" Trevor Rabin and Neil Cloud, along with Malcolm Watson, John Galanakis, Mike Makhalemele, Thomas Masemola and The Jo'Burg Strings. Written by Patrick Van Blerk and Trevor Rabin, "For you Only" is an extended 14-minute laid back disco-funk groove.

"Spirits Rejoice" hardly need an introduction, though not everyone knows they were the core of "Dr Rhythm", backing Paul Petersen's guitar upfront. Recorded in 1981, and written by keyboard player Mervyn Africa, "Hook It Up" offers up more than eight minutes of upbeat funky disco, with the likes of Duke Makasi blowing up a brass storm, underlined by Sipho Gumede on bass, and Gilbert Matthews on drums,

Rounding it all off for this Office Party is the full sixteen minute version of the 1978 hit by the "Nzimande All Stars", "Sporo Disco". Not yet featured on Electric Jive!

I wish all visitors to Electric Jive lots of love and peace over this holiday period - whenever, it finally gets to come your way.

My hands are a little too full to find the time to be able to put up two downloads - one with separated tracks, along with the tradtional mix-tape. So, please bare with with me and understand - I promise, in the New Year,  I will share the full albums that feature the tracks in the office party mix. Enjoy!
MF download here

And just when you thought that was all! No wait, there is more! Thanks to an anonymous person with a big heart, there is now a site where you can hear South African and African music recordings that you did not know existed. Taken from master tapes and sound-desk recordings of live shows over the twenty five years, you can hear the likes of Tananas, Oliver Mtukudzi, Marcus Wyatt, Toumani Diabate, Gito Baloi, Kesivan Naidoo, and more to come. Phew! 


Monday, 7 December 2015

2015 - Dancing at the End of Time Mixtape



Tracks of fancy, persistence and resilience. A random lucky dip of personal favourites from Global Warming to Atlantis and beyond...including amongst others:
Lenine - Castanho
Wodem - Mowa
Matthew Halsall - Longshan Temple
Bassekous Kouyate and Ngoni Ba - Bassekouni
Amadou Balake - Naaba
Orchestre du Boabab -Ma Penda
Dieuf Dieul de Thues - Jirim
Mara Toure - Lamento Cubano
Omar Souleyman - Leil El Bareh
Mbongwana Star - Suzanna
Arthur Russell - Hiding Your Present from You
Franciso - Wache
Out of Addis - Yisare Hinena
Mamman Sani - Samari Da Yan Matan
John Grant - Global Warming
Kamasi washington - The Rhythm Changes
John Zorn - Atlantis
Mary Afi Usuah - Ima Mma Uyem
Greg Foat - Dancers at teh End of Time
Sacri Cuori - La Marabina
Nigerian Union Rhythm Group - Abeni
Marcus Miller - We Were There
Tribo Massahi - Madrugada

Enjoy the holidays! All the best for 2016!


Download link: MF