Monday, May 15, 2017

Pacific Express 1976 debut Black Fire remastered, repackaged and reissued

Matsuli Music is proud to announce the re-issue of Black Fire, the 1976 debut album of legendary Cape Town jazz funk band Pacific Express. The band was home to jazz musicians Chris Schilder, and Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee as well as fusion and soul musicians Robbie Jansen, Issy Ariefdien, Paul Abrahams, Jack Momple and Zayn Adam.
This album is hard evidence of that 1976 musical moment in which Pacific Express forged an entirely new South African sound and musical identity out of what was ‘Cape Town Jazz’, Latin, R&B, soul, pop and fusion. 

From the political heat of 1976 come the militant, upbeat and irresistible funk tracks Black Fire and Brother - where singer Zayn Adam calls out for hope and optimism in spite of present difficulties. The pace moves down a gear for heart-felt ballads and Latin-tinged jazz instrumentals. Group leader Chris Schilder, after his deep jazz beginnings with Winston Mankunku Ngozi and the cream of Cape Town’s jazz crop had already spent some time with seminal black fusion group The Drive in the early seventies. Black Fire lays down a fusion of jazz funk and soul that was later picked up on and developed by Spirits Rejoice and others.

Black Fire presents the core repertoire that made Pacific Express the resident band sensation they became at the Sherwood Lounge in Manenberg, Cape Town in the mid-seventies. The ‘coloured’ township of Manenberg – about 20km away from Cape Town’s city centre, and cut off from the black settlements of Gugulethu and Nyanga by a railway track – had been officially established in 1966, based on the apartheid regime’s belief that what they defined as different “racial groups” could not live harmoniously together. Residents had been forcibly removed from and ‘relocated’ from the various suburbs now being allocated to ‘white’ people. Manenberg and surrounds were “quite a rough place” reflects Chris Schilder (now Ebhrahim Kalil Shihab).  “But the Sherwood Lounge was located close to the highway, so people could come in without getting mixed up in whatever was a happening on the streets. And once we opened – people flocked.”
Matsuli Music is proud to add the debut album of this Cape Town ‘supergroup’ among our growing catalogue of high-quality re-issues of classic South African afro-jazz on vinyl. New liner notes from acclaimed jazz historian Gwen Ansel claim this album as the first successful confluence of multiple styles delivering a uniquely South African but also globally accessible new musical expression.
Officially released on 1 June 2017

Monday, April 03, 2017

African Songbird Repressed

Available once more this is Sathima Bea Benjamin's 1976 masterpiece African Songbird. Its been repressed on 180g virgin vinyl in a single hard board cover and printed inner sleeve containing the new essay by Francis Gooding and portrait photograph by Ian Bruce Huntley. This follows numerous requests from customers who were unable to purchase copies of the first gatefold reissue we did in 2013. 


This is shipping now via our bandcamp site here and will be in global independent record stores soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Black Disco's Night Express available now




“One of the labels deserving a big shout out is Matsuli Music.”
- GILLES PETERSON, BBC 


Matsuli Music continues its mission of restoring classic out-of-print South African afro-jazz with the release of this landmark album from Pops Mohamed’s Black Disco group. Originally entitled Black Discovery/Night Express, this was changed to avoid censorship.

Part Philly-soul, part Cape Jazz and part bump-jive, the album not only achieved instant acclaim in South Africa’s townships, its appeal tore right through apartheid’s racially defined boundaries. Along with bassist Sipho Gumede, saxophonist Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee, and drummer Peter Morake, Black Disco were exploring a new hybrid sound. This music offered hope in the midst of growing repression. “It was our way of saying we are with you”, recalls band leader Mohamed.

Night Express – part of a series of ‘70s releases, three as Black Disco and two as Movement in the City – lives on as a declaration of musical identity from communities whose jazz histories have hardly been documented yet – the apartheid defined ‘coloured’ townships of Johannesburg’s East Rand.

“The name – Movement in the City - was code for let’s fight the system. It was a very dark time of us, personally and politically, and the two albums we made including Black Teardrops (another title the censors didn’t like) came from that emotional place.”

Increasingly, Mohamed’s searching took him towards his roots. “I figured that protecting and preserving our indigenous music could be my contribution to the struggle. We must know our heritage. I thought: if the Boers take that from us, we’re fucked.”

So Mohamed’s journey, which began as a boyish organ player doodling Timmy Thomas-style riffs on Night Express has now brought him to a role today as a kora master and producer, collaborating with Khoisan traditional healers and their music. But the Black Disco group was, for him, where it all started. 

TRACKLISTING 
A1. Yasmeen’s Blues 
A2. Night Express
A3. Super Natural Love 
B1. Oh Happy Day
B2. Echo On The Delay 
B3. Odds On

Pops Mohamed – Organ
Basil Coetzee – Flute, Tenor Sax Sipho Gumede – Bass
Peter Morake – Drums

Originally issued on the independent As-Shams/The Sun label in 1976.

Available at independent record stores and with a digital download code from www.matsulimusic.com






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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tete Mbambisa's Inhlupeko now available!



"Another unmissable, scorching Matsuli revive! Tete Mbambisa and co, chasing the mbaqanga in Trane. Five originals and Love for Sale, from Johannesburg, 1969...180g vinyl with excellent sound; photographs from the Ian Bruce Huntley archive and concert bills; extended notes...very warmly recommended." (HONEST JONS)
 
Available now at all good independent records stores and at the Matsuli Storefront here
 
Inhlupeko, alongside the other massive jazz hit of the era, Winston Mankunku's Yakhal'Inkomo, sums up the South African jazz sound and mood of the late 1960s, its bluesy inflections heralding a more hard-bop feel of music in the decade to come.  Defiantly modern, and seeking inspiration from the "black heroes" of John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Johnny Hodges and Lockjaw Davis, this album envisioned what a new South Africa might sound like. 

Tete Mbambisa composed four of the six tracks on the album. Of the two others, the title track is the work of tenorman Duku Makasi. The other track is a standard, Love for Sale, also frequently covered by Makasi’s contemporary, the equally important Winston ‘Mankunku’ Ngozi. Pianist Mbambisa’s memories reveal a great deal about the environment in which the progressive black players of the era worked.  The album, recorded at the EMI Studios in Johannesburg – “they had the best sound at that time,” recalls Mbambisa – was the brainchild of two important jazz organisers of the era: Ray Thabakgolo Nkwe in Johannesburg and Monde Sikutshwa in Port Elizabeth (PE).

“Ray and Monde talked about doing an album with Duke and some other Eastern Cape musicians. After a while, they called me up from East London to do the arrangements. People know that’s my gift: from the time I was involved in vocal groups I have had an ear for arranging. Apart from Inhlupeko, Duke’s tune, I selected the tunes. We were all travelling at the time, doing shows, but there were long rehearsals for this material. We’d play, and discuss, and then go off to a shebeen – and carry on discussing the music. A lot of thinking went into it. I’d say probably about a month. I was travelling with the musicians in a kombi – it was supposed to be a jazz tour with Mankunku too, but he had another gig with Chris Schilder (Ibrahim Khalil Shihab) in Rustenburg, so in a way it became a launch for the Inhlupeko material.”

In fact, Mankunku was launching his second album as leader, Spring. Music writers at the time made much of the fact that the title track of that album was ‘stolen’ from the melody of Inhlupeko (and Makasi used to joke with Ngozi about it) but Mbambisa feels that something different was going on. “It was that Trane style. We were all in the same kind of place musically at that time.”  South African jazz players felt a strong affinity with John Coltrane, who had died only a couple of years earlier. The expressive mastery of his playing and the soulful, spiritual searching of his mood served as both revelation and inspiration. It was the search for that Coltrane feel that guided Mbambisa’s final choice of players. 

The acknowledged affinity in creative approach –in the words of trumpeter Johnny Mekoa: “these were our black heroes…and the music sounded a bit like our mbaqanga here” – fed, rather than stifled originality. In the music they created, South Africans always started from what another trumpeter from an earlier era, the late Banzi Bangani, called “that thing that was ours”, not only in musical idioms, but also in history and experience.
As scholar Robin Kelley has noted, both urban Africans and urban Americans were consciously crafting “modern” music – and in South Africa’s case, it was a modernism deliberately and defiantly set in opposition to the narrow, backwards-looking parochialism of apartheid, where some white universities did not even permit gender-mixed dancing until the 1970s. The sophisticated, snappily-dressed black players of South Africa’s cities in the 1960s were not trying to ‘be like’ America; rather, they were enacting in their performance, and reaching through their horns for what a new South Africa might sound like. Coltrane’s searching voice was a natural lodestone, for as Kelley has also observed: “the most powerful map of the New World is in the imagination.”

The studio session that laid down the tracks was far from the original liner note fable of a spontaneous blow over a bottle. As well as the extensive rehearsal that had preceded it, it carried its own stresses. “In those days,” Mbambisa recalls, “they used to tell you all the time how much they were paying for an hour in the studio. So they give you pressure: ‘Come on guys! This is costing me!” However, thanks to that extensive preparation, the pressure wasn’t too much of a problem. Mbambisa has always disliked an overworked feel on his recordings: “that’s why my albums catch that live feel, even from the studio.” That was particularly important for this session. The quality he was looking for was, he says, “connectedness. If you can’t be connected, forget it. So I told them: Hey, guys, let’s try and do these in one take only or we’ll lose the feel.” He says that none of the tracks used more than two takes, and most were completed in one.

But the hurried, penny-pinching recording was also reflected in the way the album was presented. Makasi’s name is inconsistently presented as ‘Duke’ and “Duku’ in different places. Even the title, Inhlupeko, appears in that form (the isiZulu spelling) on the cover and notes, but ‘Intlupheko’ (the isiXhosa form) on the disc label, suggesting a hasty process. The word itself can be translated as ‘distress’, but like many African-language words with their multiple poetic resonances, also as ‘inconvenience’, ‘trouble’, ‘poverty’ and more. For the artists it had all those resonances – to whose more political implications Nkwe would certainly not have wished to draw attention in his translation. The players were not told about the planned cover images, nor, as Mbambisa’s story confirms, were they sent copies of the LP. There was no advertising and no formal launch, and Mbambisa recalls that Sikutshwa also received no communication about the release. The LP was clearly pressed in a fairly small run, for when Mbambisa tried to buy his own copy, he could not immediately find it in any shops.

The image conveyed by the cover also fitted well with other cultural currents of the era. The 1960s and 1970s were dominated by apartheid’s re-tribalisation project: a propaganda push to both the majority population and the world that black South Africans (even those whose families had been city-dwellers for decades) were essentially simple, rural people with no place in the cities and no capacity for sophisticated culture. Official patronage was given to neo-traditional sounds, particularly via the State broadcaster, the SABC, split into narrow, tribally based stations, the purity of whose musical contents must be verified by apartheid ‘experts’. In this context, state censors would certainly smile more kindly on an album whose images placed a syncretic music like jazz in a more disreputable corner.

Matsuli Music is proud to be re-presenting this cornerstone album with restored audio on heavyweight 180g vinyl with accompanying sleeve notes by Gwen Ansell, author of Soweto Blues – Jazz, Popular Music and Politics in South Africa. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Batsumi 1974 debut back in print


The most popular release on the Matsuli Music catalogue has just had a repressing on red translucent vinyl. Just 500 copies so do put your order in if you don't want to be disappointed!

Here's what people had to say at the time of the original release in 2011:
"Great South African jazz record from 1974...sharing common ground with the much-loved spiritual jazz of Strata East, Black Jazz, Don Cherry schools of the 70s." (VINYL FACTORY)

"Remastered from the original tapes...it's a vibrant, energetic workout in which slinky, repeated riffs are matched against wailing, sometimes psychedelic effects, with saxophone and flute solos added." (THE GUARDIAN)

"This album has remained a hidden gem for nearly 40 years, enjoy it." (SOUL BROTHER RECORDS)

Matsuli is also offering a special double vinyl package of both Batsumi albums for a discounted price of $35 exc. postage (a savings of $15). All details and how to purchase at the MATSULI SHOPFRONT

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Derek Gripper's "Impossible" album One Night on Earth reissued


Matsuli Music presents an album of kora interpretations that astonished John Williams into saying he thought it was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it”. When Kora maestro Toumani Diabate heard these recordings he disbelievingly asked his host and producer Lucy Duran to confirm that she had actually seen one guitarist play this music on just one guitar. Recorded at an all-night session Gripper’s guitar magically counjures anew a centuries-old ancient African musical heritage. 

One Night on Earth: Music from the Strings of Mali, captures Gripper’s extraordinary six-string interpretation of Toumani Diabate’s 21-string Kora compositions. Gripper’s “guitar has found the Kora-playing spirit, he captures the magic bound up in the way it is played”, says Williams, who has invited Gripper back a second time to collaborate in “The John Williams Series” at the Globe Theatre, London in June 2015. 

For more than ten years Derek Gripper has produced some of South Africa’s most extraordinary musical works, fusing the country’s disparate creative traditions with styles from around the world. His music draws on European classical traditions, avant-garde Brazilian works, Malian kora works, Cape Town’s folk styles such as goema and vastrap, and Indian classical music, all the while synthesising them into a style uniquely his own. 

Tim Panting writing in the Classical Guitar Magazine describes this as “…one of the most atmospheric recordings of guitar music, of any kind, that I have heard.” And in music journalist Richard Haslop’s words “Anybody wondering why one would want to hear a South African guitarist play this music when the incomparable original recordings are available, need only listen to this album.” 

Originally only available on CD, Matsuli Music is proud to be releasing this breakthrough album on heavyweight vinyl in a deluxe limited edition with accompanying sleeve-notes from Derek Gripper.

credits

Recorded by Howard Butcher at Rivendel Church, Knysna
Mixed and Mastered at Peace of Eden Studios, Knysna, South Africa Produced by Derek Gripper for New Cape Records
Cover photo by Simon Attwell and Kim Winter
Reverse photo by Bernard Descamps / Agence VU
Design by Twoshoes Graphic Designers, Cape Town, South Africa Guitar arrangements by Derek Gripper
All compositions by Toumani Diabate. Track A2 Copyright Control. All other tracks published by BMG Rights Management UK.

2015 vinyl edition produced by Matt Temple and Chris Albertyn
at Matsuli Music Limited.