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Beyond Memory

Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music

Max Mojapelo

Publication Year: 2010

South Africa possesses one of the richest popular music traditions in the world - from marabi to mbaqanga, from boeremusiek to bubblegum, from kwela to kwaito. Yet the risk that future generations of South Africans will not know their musical roots is very real. Of all the recordings made here since the 1930s, thousands have been lost for ever, for the powers-that-be never deemed them worthy of preservation. And if one peruses the books that exist on South African popular music, one still finds that their authors have on occasion jumped to conclusions that were not as foregone as they had assumed. Yet the fault lies not with them, rather in the fact that there has been precious little documentation in South Africa of who played what, or who recorded what, with whom, and when. This is true of all music-making in this country, though it is most striking in the musics of the black communities. Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music is an invaluable publication because it offers a first-hand account of the South African music scene of the past decades from the pen of a man, Max Thamagana Mojapelo, who was situated in the very thick of things, thanks to his job as a deejay at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. This book - astonishing for the breadth of its coverage - is based on his diaries, on interviews he conducted and on numerous other sources, and we find in it not only the well-known names of recent South African music but a countless host of others whose contribution must be recorded if we and future generations are to gain an accurate picture of South African music history of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v


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pp. vi

Acronyms & Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

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Editor’s Note

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pp. ix-x

Beyond Memory is a collection of Max Mojapelo’s diaries, written in a very personalised style. Critical details lie in the deep meanders of the history, moments, and memories that Mojapelo has about the world of music in South Africa. Mojapelo’s style blurs...

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pp. xi-xii

South Africa possesses one of the richest popular music traditions in the world, surpassed in its variety and inventiveness perhaps only by the United States. From marabi to mbaqanga, from boeremusiek to bubblegum, from kwela to kwaito: as varied as are the many...

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pp. xiii-xv

The story you are about to read is based on my experiences before, during and after my career as a deejay at the SABC. At the end of the book you will have gained insight into the music industry in South Africa and its connections beyond. You’ll also have an idea...

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1. Soweto Soul Music

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pp. 1-37

Whenever I hear Wilson Pickett’s 1965 hit In The Midnight Hour or Blood, Sweat and Tears’ 1969 chartbuster And When I Die, I remember the morning I heard an instrumental tune from the Kau homestead, a stone’s throw away from my home...

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2. Alex Soul Menu and Beyond

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pp. 38-49

Spread out north of the city of Johannesburg is one of the oldest and funkiest townships in the country – Alexandra. History has it that an Afrikaner farmer, Mr S. Papenfus once bought a number of farms around the modern day township...

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3. Quick Quick

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pp. 50-66

Towards the late 1950s a new music genre that fused various township music styles emerged – mbaqanga. This genre was preceded by marabi, tshabatshaba and kwela. The kwela era had notably been dominated by hornmen like Spokes Mashiane...

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4. The Cape Connection

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pp. 67-71

Down in Cape Town Richard Jon Smith cooked a storm with his monster hits Candle Light and That’s Why I Love You. The latter was produced by Robert J Lange and the former by Clive Calder, owner of Zomba Productions. His career flourished...

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5. Into the Vibrant Eighties

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pp. 72-83

The eighties were without doubt the most vibrant years of my life in the South African music and media industry. That was when I joined the SABC and was privileged to interact with the who’s who of the music industry, from managers to promoters, from talent scouts...

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6. Ladies of Song

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pp. 84-114

As a motherland, Africa has a number of female singers named after her in the South African music industry – Mama Africa, Lady Africa, Princess Of Africa and so on. At the end of this chapter we will know more about them. The “First Lady Of Song”, Dolly Rathebe inspired so many...

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7. In Twos and Threes

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pp. 115-121

As already mentioned, music trends in the US influenced the South African music industry. The success of female groups like trios and quartets in America gave rise to the emergence of such groups locally. These US success stories were groups...

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8. When Two Cultures Kiss

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pp. 122-135

From as far back as the 1950s black was black and white was white in the music industry of South Africa, just as in our daily lives. Besides the cultural differences, government legislation made the meeting of the two very difficult, if not impossible...

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9. The Era of the Steam Train

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pp. 136-156

What Harari was to the seventies, Stimela was to the eighties. Harari was the university of the seventies and Stimela became the institution of the eighties. The leader of Stimela, Raymond Chikapa Phiri, was born on...

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10. Ska Flowers

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pp. 157-165

Ska is the original form of Jamaican reggae music. This form of music developed through the years to become a force in the international music industry. Reggae was mainly protest music against social injustices. Some of the exponents of this genre are musicians...

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11. New School

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pp. 166-194

Towards the end of the eighties young musicians ushered in a new era. These youngsters started experimenting on new sounds, aligning themselves with international trends, but recognising local styles as well. This style was mainly influenced...

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12. Fine Male Voices

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pp. 195-200

One of the finest male voices of the eighties belonged to Bibi Msomi the son of Noshukela and Mantombi Msomi. From a young age Bibi was inspired by vocalists like “Mama Africa”, Miriam Makeba. He released his maxi single You Are The Flower/Frustrated Mind (Wea, 1985) co-written with Almon...

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13. Contemporary African Music

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pp. 201-222

Long before the national agenda of the African Renaissance, some musicians had already started the journey to self-rediscovery. The champions of this movement include a man who knighted himself “Sir Alton” – Dumisani Alton Mashaba. This giant was born on 24 December 1954, the seventh...

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14. Joy or Jazz

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pp. 223-262

The late 1980s saw the emergence of a new regiment of young musicians who blended traditional South African rhythms with elements of traditional jazz to create a uniquely South African sound. Some of them had been session musicians who have mastered their...

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15. Exile Blues

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pp. 263-292

In the early fifties Alf Herbert launched the most revolutionary concept to ever hit the local music industry – African Jazz Revue And Variety Show. It gave local stars a taste of broader exposure, recognition and professionalism preparing them for bigger challenges to come. Thereafter followed...

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16. Trading in Tradition

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pp. 293-302

Western music instruments like the guitar and the accordion found their way into South African black traditional music to produce what became known as commercial traditional music. This sound was dominated by isiZulu musicians...

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17. Voice Power

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pp. 303-307

Long before the introduction of instruments into music the voice has always been the natural tool of expression. Even in today’s world of technological sophistication many people are still attracted to choral music. Many producers of commercial recordings now and then include the acappella...

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18. Welcome Madiba

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pp. 308-318

On 2 February 1990 when President Frederick Willem de Klerk made the most revolutionary statement of his career, he also inspired composers and producers. He announced in parliament that he would unban the ANC, SACP, PAC , AZAPO and thirty other political organisations...

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19. Praising and Praying

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pp. 319-341

My early memories of South African gospel music date back to the late sixties when I went to Matladi High School in Zebediela for my secondary school education. There were various quartets inspired by The King’s Messengers Quartet, the best at the time...


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pp. 342

Internet Websites

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pp. 342

Name Index

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pp. 343-360

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781920355906
Print-ISBN-13: 9781920299286

Page Count: 380
Illustrations: B/W
Publication Year: 2010