“Yithi Sifikile” by Usizwe Namatshitshi - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1971Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

In South Africa ’71, Rupert Bopape’s Mavuthela Music had some serious album market competition from Hamilton Nzimande’s Isibaya Esikhulu Music. “Yithi Sibaphethe” (“We Say We Have Arrived”) was the second LP of the year from Sizwe Mazibuko and his Princesses, who traded as Usizwe Namatshitshi. And rather than succumbing to the laws of diminishing returns, this set was stronger again, almost effortlessly cool with its easy-going but super-tough zulu-warrior rhythms – a surefire winner in the township jive market. The vocalists and musicians are credited on the back cover of this one. From this, we can tell that the singers are: Sizwe Mkhwanazi (male vocals); Busisiwe Dlamini (female vocals); Dudu Hlophe (female vocals); Sarah Gwebu (female vocals) and Johannah Mdlalose (female vocals). Although there are five women on the front cover one seems to be missing from the name-check. What a shame! The band (named Amataitai) line up: Mntima Dube (lead guitar); Thomas Motshwane (rhythm guitar); Lameck Moloi (bass) and Dan Van Wyk (drums).

There’s not a weak track to be heard here – even the strangely lethargic opener “Ufikile Unyaka Omusha” has a certain charm. “Yithi Sibaphethe” (“We Say We Have Got Them”), penned by future Amaswazi Emvelo member Absolom Mkhwanazi, is the highlight of side 1, with the focus solely on Mkhwanazi’s soulful but tough vocal, characteristically great bass / rhythm guitar action, and just the hint of a marching drum. My three most-favoured all appear on side 2 and all were attributed to producer Hamilton Nzimande. “Ungamthembi Umuntu” (“Don’t Trust People”) has a funky stomp thing going on, and the vocals, male and female and veering between sung and semi-chanted are excellent. It’s nice to see that the producer doesn’t dominate the writing credits entirely and lead female Busisiwe Dlamini pens 2 great tracks in “Amandla Endoda Awapheli” (“That man cannot be brought down, his energy or power is endless”) and “Lishonile Ngofika Nini” (“Will I make it there by sunset?”)

They save the very best for last on the album with a bona-fide classic of the mbaqanga genre, “Siyobohla Manyosi” (“harm you did to me will come back to you” i.e. “what goes around comes around”). The melodies are bursting out all over the place from the entire ensemble and I particularly care for some of the high neck wandering from Lameck’s bass. Ever noticed how the odd “off-note” creeps in? I’m sure it’s deliberate – and I love them even more for the unabashed carefree spirit. I’d say they have, most definitely, arrived. This LP was made available by the amazing bloggers at Electric Jive. You can read more about it and download a copy here.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:56] 6.8.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Ufikile Unyaka Omusha (Hamilton Vala Nzimande) Africana
A2 [03:16] 7.1.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Sihamba Nonana Chiliza (Hamilton Vala Nzimande) Africana
A3 [03:07] 7.5.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Yithi Sibaphethe (Absolom Mkhwanazi) Africana
A4 [02:40] 7.3.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Thatha Ezakho (Albert Motha) Africana
A5 [02:32] 7.2.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Baythalaza Abantu (Hamilton Vala Nzimande) Africana
B1 [02:45] 8.8.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Ungamthembi Umuntu (Hamilton Vala Nzimande) Africana
B2 [03:08] 7.6.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Amandla Endoda Awapheli (Busi Dlamini) Africana
B3 [03:01] 7.9.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Lishonile Ngofika Nini (Busi Dlamini) Africana
B4 [03:01] 8.5.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Sithunyiwe Bakithi (Hamilton Vala Nzimande) Africana
B5 [02:57] 9.2.png Usizwe Namatshitshi - Siyobohla Manyosi (Hamilton Vala Nzimande) Africana
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