Saturday, April 28, 2012

Township Royalty: Mahotella Queens

Mahotella Queens

In 1965, Rupert Bopape, one of South Africa's great black producers, assembled a group of young session musicians-most of them domestic workers from Pretoria- to form the Makhona Tsohle ("Jack of all Trades") Band. Kicking out township pop with the uplift of sax jive and the force of American r&b, the group's bassist Joseph Makwela and guitarist Marks Mankwane in particular forged the all-electric sound that would rock the townships for the next decade. Having produced mbaqanga's seminal vocal group the Dark City Sisters, Bopape took one of their guest male vocalists, Mahlathini, and teamed him with a new female chorus, the Mahotella Queens. Mbaqanga--meaning a homemade dumpling cooked in a hurry--then entered its golden age. The bass "groaner," Simon Nkabinde (1937-1999), earned the name Mahlathini, literally "bush on his head," a reference to his aloof, commanding presence, his link with rural traditions and his unbelievably loud, low voice. Rounded out by the sunny, gospel harmonies of the Mahotella Queens, and by their endlessly inventive dance steps, this supergroup became a sensation throughout southern Africa. The Mahotella Queens took an eight-year break to raise families.

In the early '80s though, three of the original Queens--Hilda Buthelezi, Nobesuthu Mbadu, and Mildred Mangxola--rejoined Mahlathini, and the revived group now kept busy recording and touring internationally through the 1990s. Following the deaths of Marks Mankwane (1998) and Mahlathini (1999), it seemed that an era had ended. But the Mahotella Queens emerged from their grief with new resolve, formed a new band with young musicians, and returned to the recording studio and the road.

This is music that somehow seems, for me at least, to epitomize South African pop. The guitar playing is fab and the harmonizing is out of this world! I wish I could see them dance.

I’m out to dinner tonight so will be too weary to make the Dog bark. So thanks to the good folks at Electric Jive for sharing this great album (circa early 1960s).

         Track Listing:
         01 Kuqale Bani
02 Dinaka
03 Sonny Boy
04 We Boy
05 Hamba Mzala
06 Izinyoni
07 Inxeba Lendoda
08 Elidlubedu
09 Niyi Gcine
10 Ikhula
11 Umoya
12 Amaqawe
13 Izulu Nge Lami
14 Ekuseni


memsaab said...

Oooh, so this is what happned to you :)

I love the Mahotella Queens, and had the good fortune to see them several times in the early 90s with Mahlatinia, who was pretty old by then but could still really move :) They were awesome.

Apurva Bahadur said...

Happy music! Many thanks for sharing. Apurva from Pune, India.