Monday, November 4, 2013

Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens (South African Mbaqanga Music)

Edited by Azizi Powell

As part of an ongoing series on South African Mbaqanga music, this post showcases four songs by Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens.
Information about Mbaqanga music is also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

From ttp://
"Mbaqanga is a style of South African music with rural Zulu roots that continues to influence musicians worldwide today. The style originated in the early 1960s...

In Zulu, the term mbaqanga means an everyday cornmeal porridge. Mbaqanga aficionados were mostly plebeian, metropolitan African jazz enthusiasts. Many of them were not permitted to establish themselves in the city, but they were unable to sustain themselves in the rural country. Mbaqanga gave them a staple form of musical and spiritual sustenance; it was their "musical daily bread."[2]
Mbaqanga musicians received little money. For example, Simon "Mahlathini" Nkabinde, one of the most well-known mbaqanga singers (and arguably the most famous mbaqanga "groaner", nicknamed the "lion of Soweto"), died a poor man.[3] This was partly due to the exploitation of black South African musicians at home and abroad as Mahlathini pointed out. Mbaqanga groups of the 1960s also found it difficult to get air time on local radio stations,[4] and had to perform outside record stores to attract audiences.

Mbaqanga developed in the South African shebeens during the 1960s. Its use of western instruments allowed mbaqanga to develop into a South African version of jazz. Musically, the sound indicated a mix between western instrumentation and South African vocal style. Many mbaqanga scholars consider it to be the result of a coalition between marabi and kwela...

Mbaqanga's popularity faded during the 1970s because of the influence of Western pop, soul and disco into South Africa. Public performances declined because labour migrants no longer wanted to be in the spotlight. Additionally, audiences sought more urbanised language, vocal, and instrumental styles.[2] However, it was revived between 1983 and 1986. The reversal of fortunes was in part due to Paul Simon's incorporation of South African music into his Graceland album (1986) and subsequent tour. Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens' appearances at festivals in France and at Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday concert in Wembley Stadium, London in 1988."...
More information about Mbaqanga music can be found in soukousman's publisher's comment that is posted for "Amaswazi Emvelo - U Nowa (South Africa Mbaqanga)"

Here's an excerpt of that comment:
"In 1965, Rupert Bopape, one of South Africa's great black producers, discovered a group of young domestic workers from Pretoria. The Makhona Tsohle Band—the name meant "jacks of all trades"—played electric township pop with the sweetness of kwela and the drive of American R&B. Muscular bass lines pioneered by the country's first great electric bassist, Joseph Makwela, synched up with sharp offbeat snare hits to nail the band's fierce grooves to the floor, while guitar leads by innovator Marks Mankwane wove joyful abandon overhead. This band, which evolved into the legendary Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, became the model for a whole wave of mbaqanga groups. This was music for the workers, new and exciting, but loudly affirming tradition.

The name mbaqanga gets various translations—porridge stirred up hot in a hurry, or fried dumplings heavy as the music's beat. Mbaqanga was an important turning point in the development of South African urban music. It later involved into township jive, township soul, South African disco and, most recently, the house and hip-hip oriented kwaito sound."

(These videos are presented in chronological order with the videos with the oldest dates posted first.)

Example #1: Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens - Mbaqanga (1991)

NickLotay, Uploaded on Dec 30, 2007

Music video to one of the group's hit songs, "Mbaqanga", from 1991. Featuring the late, great 'groaner' Simon Mahlathini Nkabinde, the everlasting Mahotella Queens (left to right: Nobesuthu Shawe, Hilda Tloubatla, Mildred Mangxola), and the unstoppable backing band Makgona Tsohle Band.

Original music video with improved soundtrack.
Click to read interesting comments about Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens and about the exploitive South African music industry that left destitute great artists such as this group.

Example #2: Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens - Melodi Ya Lla

henkrut, Uploaded on Feb 25, 2012

There's A Sound - Music Comes From The Same Pot. Accompanied By The Makgona Tsohle Band

Example #3: Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens - Lilizela Milizeli

henkrutPublished on Feb 16, 2013

Clapping And Whooping. Accompanied By The Makgona Tsohle Band
Here's a comment from that video's viewer comment thread that provides a translation of these lyrics from Zulu to English nIn

Thembz Zuks, 2013
"sangena zintombi zomgqashiyo, kwathula umoya - Rejoice, the Queens of Mgqashiyo are here
sagiya zintombi zomgqashiyo - watch the Queens of Mgqashiyo dance
Lilizela Mlilizeli - Ululate/Rejoice"

Example #4: Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens ~ Thokozile (Official African Video)

Brotherwhitelion, Published on Sep 12, 2013

Thokozile is a South African mbaqanga township jive 1986 hit, which appears also on the album of the same name released in 1987. (1988 in the UK).
The song is a re-recording of their 1960's song Sithunyiwe.
Thokozile is a girls name, meaning to praise, to be happy.
In the song, Thokozile is praised and congratulated on her marriage.

Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde (aka The Lion Of Soweto), and The Mahotella Queens, (Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Mbadu and Mildred Mangxola), backed by The Makgona Tsohle Band.
(West Nkosi - sax, penny whistle, Marks Mankwane - lead guitar, Joseph Makwela - bass guitar, Lucky Monama - drums, Vivian Ngubane - rhythm guitar)

Sadly Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde died in 1999,
West Nkosi, and Marks Mankwane, both died in the early 1990's.

Thanks to Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens & the Makgona Tsohle Band for their musical legacy. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube and those who I quoted in this post.

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