“Ngibuzindlela” by Indoda Mahlathini - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1974Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Arriving at the very tail-end of 1974 was this stunning long-player from the recently turned 36-year-old Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde – a great hero to the township masses for whom he groaned and growled like a lion. By all accounts, Mahlathini was a quiet man offstage, but he lived for the music which was deep in his soul – this passion shone clearly when he sung live in concert or stepped into the studio. This was his first LP with new producer Cambridge Matiwane at Satbel, issued under their Soweto imprint, and rounded up recent single sides (the 5 labels I’ve seen are all dated 1974). After having shown great loyalty to producer Rupert Bopape for the entirety of the 1960s and the early 70s, Mahlathini eventually got fed up with the fact that his successes were not commensurate with his low earnings and opted to leave Gallo, a decision which cannot have been a difficult one to make. A dispute with Bopape over tour wages proved to be the straw which broke the camel’s back and, for these same reasons, making the jump with him were members of his regular singing partners the Mahotella Queens, including Mildred Mangxola, Joyce Makhanya, Nunu Maseko and Thoko Nontsontwa. Somewhat mischievously, Satbel’s new name for these girls was “The Queens”, a move which can’t have been well-received over at Gallo HQ. But who could blame the deserters for this “mutiny”? Royalty systems may have been in place in the Western world in the last couple of decades, but these had not yet been properly implemented in South Africa.

“The Queens” moniker appeared on some of the new Mahlathini singles and, as if marking their respect for their newly acquired prized-asset, all of the singles on the Soweto label were proudly billed to “Indoda Mahlathini” (“The Main Man Mahlathini”), cutely assuming the name that had previously been used by Gallo on a popular compilation LP from a few years before. This was all very clever as, in the eyes of the record-buying public, all of these names were synonymous with quality. The all-important rhythm-makers on the new 45s were billed as “The Mahlathini Guitar Band” – another mark of respect for Indoda. Mahlathini pens 8 of the 12 numbers here – he’s on his A-game and hits hard time and time again. The album opens joyously with a couple of accordion-jive numbers – the title-track and “Ngiphelekezele” – both of which had recently been paired as a 45. The first appearance of his Queens comes on track 4 with Joyce Makhanya’s “Shayani Izandla” (“Clap Your Hands”) a frantic classic which gets me proclaiming “hey-hey-hey-hosanna” fervently – and I’m staunchly atheist! The fast-paced side 1 closes out with “Mbodlomana”, a song which seems to be singing praises for Indoda, and “Bayasimemeza”, a number penned by Lazarus ‘Boy Nze’ Magatole, a male groaner who appears splendidly alongside Mahlathini at various times throughout this set.

It's Magatole who leads off the vocals on side 2, playing a strong role on the ridiculously stupendous “Ilele Insizwa” (“It relies on a young man”) and the enormously catchy “Amagoduka” (“I’m Going Home”). Another excellent single pairing follows (I wonder if this was deliberate sequencing?) the sunny “Kumnandi Emgababa” and the angry “Kumnyama E Ndlini”, both of which feature The Queens. On an album which offers so much quality action, the high watermark cut is bound to be sensational, and such is the case here with “Baba-Ye”, a masterclass in mbaqanga cool, with deep grooves to the hilt, licks to die for and harmonies that effortlessly slay. Lyrics wise, it’s yet another big-up for Indoda – “Simon is the originator, Simon is Mahlathini!”. It’s the second cut from the pen of Joyce ‘Koekie’ Makhanya – she certainly knows how to get her songs in there. Almost improbably, “Kwasa Singalele” (“Sunny Day”), written by Queen Nunu Maseko, almost reaches the same heights, and finishes the set off with beautiful vocals which veer between lullabic melodies and ebullient chants. With these first fruits, The Mahlathini Guitar Band proved to be every bit as good as Makgona Tshole Band and these Queens every bit the majestic equal of their Mahotella rivals. Mahlathini? He remains as strong as a Lion. He is, after all, Baba-Ye! This awesome LP is out-of-print, but available for download at Electric Jive. Get it here.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:35] 9.7.png Indoda Mahlathini with The Mahlathini Guitar Band - Ngibuzindlela (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
A2 [02:43] 9.0.png Indoda Mahlathini with The Mahlathini Guitar Band - Ngiphelekezele (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
A3 [02:48] 8.6.png Indoda Mahlathini - Bhula Mngoma (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
A4 [02:28] 9.0.png Indoda Mahlathini - Shayani Izandla (Joyce Makhanya) Africana
A5 [02:31] 8.4.png Indoda Mahlathini - Mbodlomana (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
A6 [03:04] 9.1.png Indoda Mahlathini, Boy Nze and The Queens - Bayasimemeza (Lazarus Magatole) Africana
B1 [02:47] 10.0.png Indoda Mahlathini - Ilele Insizwa (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
B2 [02:29] 9.2.png Mahlathini and The Queens - Amagoduka (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
B3 [02:43] 8.5.png Indoda Mahlathini and The Queens accompanied by The Mahlathini Guitar Band - Kumnandi Emgababa (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
B4 [02:32] 8.8.png Indoda Mahlathini and The Queens accompanied by The Mahlathini Guitar Band - Kumnyama E Ndlini (Simon Nkabinde) Africana
B5 [03:04] 10.0.png Indoda Mahlathini - Baba-Ye (Joyce Makhanya) Africana
B6 [02:37] 9.8.png Indoda Mahlathini - Kwasa Singalele (Nunu Maseko) Africana
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