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Interviews Mike Perry Cape Town 1999 & 2014
In the 1980's Mike Perry partnered in a musical collaboration with Winston Mankunku in what was to be a 30 year friendship where Mike's great love and respect for Winston was to help him record and preserve his compositions on the Nkomo Record Label. Their collaboration peaked in late 1999 with the launch and release of the award winning and timless album Molo Afrika.
At the opening of the mtsmbi in December 1999 following the great success of Winston's album Molo Afrika we chatted to Mike and Archie Nkwe about the mtsmbi.
Archie was saying to Michael:
You are reminding me of George Werner. Do you know George Werner? The other day George was at my place with Ezra Ngcukana. It was the time that Winston had used the same word, Imbizo at his place. I said to George where are you heading too and he said, “I am going to Winston's mtsmbi. MTSIMBI
What is the difference between mbizo and mtsimbi?
Imbizo is for if we have something to talk about. Something very serious. Maybe in the family or maybe in the area where we live, whatsoever, they call that imbizo. In English it could be a meeting. The word imbizo is mostly being used by the Zulu's. In Xhosa, mtsimbi. That is what we were here for.
Mike says, 'thank you for clearing this.'
Archie says, “Exactly Mike I have to my brother.”
How do you word the opening of a mtsimbi?
I was very serious on that day we opened here. It was not planned that I was going to stand up. We didn't arrange that one, somebody just said, Archie you stand up. And it has always happened like that. I had to ask someone if I should open in English or Xhosa and they said come on choose whatever language you want to.
Mike says, “Answer the fucking question.”
Archie laughs and continues.
This guy is becoming real like Xhosa.
I said to the people, okay we are opening Mike's mtsimbi. Mike has made a mtsimbi. We are thankful for what Michael has done here. We are thankful for the family and everyone who is here for Michael's mtsimbi. I was supposed to have spoken to Michael and asked Michael for what reason he had made the mtsimbi. I was supposed to do that but I didn't have the chance I just had to carry on so that everyone at the mtsimbi must go forward. There must be a reason, he might have dreamed about it, he might have thought about it. Something might have struck him, lets ask Michael...
I think it might have formed part of a sequence of events and part of that was that my great friend and brother if I could use that term, Winston had his mtsimbi in August and this was part of the slow process or long process of Molo Africa having reached its conclusion, in production and Winston wanted to feel everyone close to him at the very important time that he was being called on to finish the album and also to launch at the Baxter. He felt strong about it that he could have help from all the people around him and good will and he was also telling his family and people around him, 'look this is what I have been doing and I am doing it with an open heart.' I observed this at Winston's place and we discussed it afterwards that it would be a good idea that I did one now that Molo Africa had been successfully launched and that it was doing well. I also thought that my section of the partnership hadn't really expressed itself enough to thank many people, including you Nkwe, who have stood by us over the years and the people at Francis's place like Vince Pavitt was there, Spencer Mbadu was there and guys who had played with us all those years. I wanted to say thanks very much. And also to let people know I am working on my own project which Winston wishes me a lot of luck with and is going to work on with me. And I wanted to say thanks to the old lady because since I have been back from Switzerland she has allowed me to build this place here at the back of her house and she has had it tough recently as being 88 is not easy at the best of times. It was nice to let mom see what we have done and who our friends were. And to have all these people together and some family, my uncle was here for example.
Why a mtsimbi, goes way back to school years because I remember something in East London. The whole thing with umqombothi has got a pull on me. I remembered some things when I tasted it again at Winston's place in August last year. It took me back to some things in my childhood in East London where my first contacts with African singing and African people were made.
What about the spiritual aspect, the ancestors?
Mtsimbi is a very important part of our lives. It is a very serious thing. It involves our ancestors. When you do this, you must know why, I have heard this now and secondly when you do this you are not going to do this once and then stop. It is kind of a process. Whenever there is something that comes into your mind to do a mtsimbi, you have to do it. You may even dream that you want to do a mtsimbi for your ancestors and they come knocking at your door. And that is happening, that is a fact. Here Mike may dream that there are men sitting here and then he must think why did I dream that? And then he has to do something about that. That is the knock, that is a message, you are being told, listen here we are trying to help you in your life. You are pushing forward like I am making business at my place. As I said I started business with a R20 note. And I did not know how it is happening. So, I had to thank my ancestors and everybody that has been standing with me. It has to be done, it is a culture, it is a custom. Something that lives in your soul.
I just suddenly thought of English words and I am not getting Biblical now. “Bless you.” A student of old English once told me that the meaning of bless you is 'may you be worthy of the blood that flows in your veins.' From a Western European point of view, not necessarily opposed to an African point of view, I am synthesizing both. There has been recent developments in chromosone technology and DNA science in general. From a "modern" point of view it starts to make one think of what the blood consists of or where the blood comes from. It makes the idea of ancestors and the idea that every cell in our body is a blueprint of our grandfathers and their grandfathers, the idea is almost scientifically valid. It is just something that has occurred to me. I haven't though too much about it.
Is umqombothi the manifestation of the spirit?
Or the activator or a universal ceremony that has always attracted the spirits because we are looking at something that goes way back here.
Yes my brother it comes a long way, to the extent of the end of the world, this is going to go on and nobody is going to stop it. It is going to continue for centuries. It is good that people like you guys are checking out how this happens and how it is being done and what for and under which reasons and circumstances. It is good because it is going to educate other people who almost take it for granted and that it means nothing. Whereby it means something. As far as I am concerned there is no body that wakes up without a dream.
Once the ancestors are pleased by the celebration will they give guidance?
Yes they will. I am sure you can ask Mike after the mtsimbi how did it happen the following day? I am sure he will have something to show that this connects the ancestors and this is life. This is quite a beautiful experience and thank God for that as it has never happened (here). So hoping that it will continuously happen even in other backyards of this sort. Mike shocked us. This has never been done in a white area. There has never been a place in a white area where we have been invited to come and drink umqombothi. We thank mother for having a son like uMichael who was sensitive and sat down and thought of this umqombothi.
What is it like to be the first white guy to hold a mtsimbi in the area?
I don't know. It felt very good before during and afterwards. I felt very good about everything. The whole thing went very clean. There are a lot of people with open hearts. I felt very nice indeed. And I feel it today. Very difficult to describe. Do you remember Nkwe, they were singing in the garage. I thought I was flying.
Since that took place I feel this place has changed. There are some things I can't talk about right now but I give you my assurance that something in this house and the people in this house, it brought out somethings here or somethings that were hardly noticed. I feel something nice happened here. Everybody said that it has been very special for them. The clan Chawe that Winston Mankunku Ngozi belongs to, I was invited to join after the death of Winston's mother because they could see we had been together for a long time. That was 1986, 1987. Chawe is one of the Xhosa clans. This was a mtsimbi according to the Chawe clan.
Archie Nkwe continues
This is quite an interesting matter that you are now coming up with. I am Thembu, I belong to the Thembu clan. This is the Chawe clan, so here by the Chawe's we have got a mtsimbi. This struck everybody who knows about mtsimbi and everybody was waiting for that point. Here at Chawe there is an mtsimbi and everybody relaxed and they started to lend us their ears.
How did you prepare the umqombothi?
The time the umqombothi was being made you were here Mike isn't it? Right, so did you see how it was being done on the first day? And how many days it was standing.
If I can remember. I would prefer if Maureen was with me now. There were various implements especially the big wooden spoon. The early part of the week was taken up in buying the King Corn and the mielie meal. And then Maureen and representatives from the Chawe clam; firstly we made a large fire and barrels were brought, two 50 gallon drums. And then the corn was boiled together with the mielie meal in the barrels on the braai over there. Maureen do you want to add something to that? I didn't see everything. I was there and you called me at certain important moments and I tasted it first.
You take boiling water and mielie meal and then cold water. The King corn is soaked in cold water first for the whole night and on the second day you can cook it. We started on Tuesday and we boiled it on Wednesday. And then we left it to stand for Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night and on Saturday afternoon you started straining it using a small strainer (ixhlusi).
Maureen continues in Xhosa …
After making a fire, you take water and mielie meal and make a porridge first. Everything must be warm. And then she throws inside the King Corn inside a 50 gallon drum. The drum was extremely well cleaned. There is this part called igwele, Mix the mielie meal in a big drum with water and warm water and let that stand the whole night, only the mielie meal. The following day it tastes sour … They call this igwele because it must taste sour...
Tape cuts out …
Later Mike was to say people from the area would come round to his house for a full week after the mtsimbi event to drink and finish off the beer. This would be the same barrel of beer that was brewed for the mtsimbi that Mike had taken the first sip of the beer upon his knees. That I some days later had tasted, also on my knees. That same beer that would be tasted on the lips of so many other people.
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We would love to know more about the book you are writing and Mankunku?
Information wise you are going to get most of it from the book. My relationship with Winston is covered in the book because the first part is all leading up to Winston. It is what I learned through bands on the road and backing cabaret and through listening to Abdullah and Robert Sithole and all those early influences are all there. And then I was a working pro when Winston and I re-met and we did a concert at Space Theatre immediately. There was a very long riff I remember by Andre Abrahamse. And then it just seemed natural to go on working. That is the period where we wrote the stuff for Jika and did the Noon Gun vibe, I don't know if you remember it, at the Cape Sun Hotel. No-one wanted to work with Winston here interestingly enough. He was considered drunk and or unreliable. Neither of which were true. This was a time when the SABC sessions were a closed shop. Nameless people were writing nameless arrangements of old Glen Miller stuff. And so called transcription work was getting done. This was a very much a cabal or clique of white musicians, I got to say it. And to be coloured or black and to get into one of those sessions was extremely difficult if not impossible.
So we were really forced onto the fringes, not that Winston was a fringe musician, he had already done some of that stuff that was recorded in the 60's, which I think is archival stuff. It is really interesting if you have an interest in Winston's music. You hear his sound starting to develop, you hear him experimenting. Coincidentally I heard him playing a solo on My Favourite Things from a car in High Level Road. I had stopped the car and this music drifted up on the wind. I went down but just too late, it had been Winston playing Favourite Things by Coltrane, long solo.
How did this jazz thing catch you ?
I think rebellion had a lot to do with it. I was pushed by my father to be a lawyer and already by first year university I had already got bands together and I had been working in bands at school a bit. It was the rock era it was really exciting to be a musician. I started to buy equipment, I joined the inevitable rock bands but then I luckily met up with Robert Sithole and his spirit really fascinated me. I saw the kwela kids and jammed with them at archi parties and that kind of stuff. I got to know that band a bit. And then hearing Dollar: his juxtiposition of Monk. I had been listening to jazz from a very early age. I listened to it under my blankets at night in my early teens and even before that. I took a few lessons and classics didn't really grab me very much. Too much school work so I was really bashing away on chords up to matric and with school bands. The rock revolution really grabbed me. It was very British orientated in the beginning. I had pictures of the bands up on my wall like every teenager. Read melody maker and New musical Express. Then found myself at University, being reasonably academic I didn't find it that difficult. Music just took me and more of my time.
It had a social function as well. Robert and I used to go round to Peter Kanti's house. The Kanti's: she was a town councilor with three brothers and we would do jams in his seller and it grew. By the time I saw Kwela Kids on campus I was already starting to improvise and play. And of course Merton came into it at that stage. I had heard about Merton. I had booked lessons with Johnny Clayton who rejected me. I was playing too much blues, he asked me to go and wash my hands which was quite hurtful but Merton and I clicked and there were jams in his house after his daily work at Phoenix electrical. He would open his house and there would be a long line of cars outside. Michael Rosensweir, John Lockwood the famous bass player. John always used to sweat from his nose onto his bass in those days, causing some inaccuracies which he hated. Merton just opened up for us and had a big band going at the same time, so I was doing all of that as well.
And then quite a definitive thing was hearing Philip Tabane and Gabriel at PT Theatre. Philip was unbelievable. It was workshop type stuff, also like Dollar juxtaposing rural African melodies with a tortured workshop thing where the guitar would scream out of a tiny little ampitheatre distorted, the sound of a workshop, beautifully done, really ugly, spitting with no regard for anything except what he was trying to say. It had a very big influence on me even though it was guitar and drums.
And then I got caught up in the crazy world of traveling away from apartheid, doing Zimbabwe three times with Charles Lazaar, Allen Swaits, Joey Rekrosio, a very rebellious band doing mainly Steely Dan materials and Deodata, trying to write jazz. Mike Campbell saw us in the Chessman bar' in Harari. He was with a very positive band. We were doing Giant Steps by John Coltrane, not knowing what the hell was going on. Trying our best, wailing away. Bass player couldn't keep up with the steps so he would go free. There was a lot of free music, there were long solo's and an occasional commercial tune. Campbell said that was really great he has never heard a band play like that! At that time we didn't really know what was going on but we had spirit and we wailed away.
After that my life got interrupted by a lot of things, travel, ships for three years and an eventual return and joining up with a band called Scott Free. And that really put me on the road because Mike (Scott) was a serious musician. The band was very well drilled. We did Clifford Brown stuff. There was sax and trumpet which is always a fortuitous combination if they are well played. The connection with Winston still pertained because Mike (Scott) had just done a kwasi international jazz thing with the Jazz Professors from New York and Boston coming over to blow in Maseru as a kind of anti apartheid thing. Not in Joburg, not in Cape Town, in Maseru. As usual a lot of musicians came, I wasn't there. Apparently there were too many horn players and Winston went up and Mike (Scott) was the leader of the band. As there were too many players he called Ipanema in F sharp. He took it up a semi tone and all the sax players disappeared. No one knows how to play it in F sharp except of course for Mankunku who has transposed everything, so Winston played with Mike Scott. The next time they played together was at the Noon Gun Bar and Mike was killed by a car two months after that. The best I ever heard Mike Scott and Winston together was that day. It was really incredible to hear the two of them together. They were made for each other actually. Mike with a lyrical (approach) and they just smile at each other from the beginning of the gig till the end. Fantastic harmonies, unrehearsed. I am just cutting out a lot of things short here. I have got up till the age of 33 now.
Where jazz forged the bridge between black and white can it form the bridge between rich and poor?
We need the music now more than ever before. It is precisely economic apartheid. Unfortunately music has generally taken on a direction where production, apart from computer generated stuff, live production of jazz is very expensive and difficult. And the collapse of the CD market, so pardon the cynicism, it has to be done at a concert level and that is about it, because recording in the studio I take the view it is not going to work financially. This is tragic because this is a South African tradition that should have been subsidised but was never subsidised. With Nkomo records we were in the face of the South African recording industry because they had ripped Winston off on Yakhal 'Inkomo which I think he did get a token payment of R4004 in '94. Christian Siren organised that. That made me very very angry when I eventually got that story. Johnny Gertze had hinted that at me. I have written extensively about Johnny as well because Johnny and Winston were really an item. They were together, they suffered together a lot. Johnny always said there is one thing I have got to do, I have got to introduce you to the best sax player in Cape Town, if not South Africa, if not you know... And that was one of the last things he did. Johnny more or less died in Winston's arms in a hospital in Joburg and Winston insured that the body got bought back to Retreat. It is quite a moving story, in a coffin, in a freezer truck on the train. Ya.
The ships really got between me and Johnny and when I got back from the ships Johnny was in Joburg with Winston and starting to die. He had it really tough. But I mean the man had played with Dollar after Miles Davis at Montreux. That's how highly he was valued. He had a crazy walk. Go to Tintiyana or any of those tracks and hear Johnny walk, there is no one like that, almost in the Johnny Dyani phase. Spiritually Johnny (Gertze) was very advanced. When he was deported from Germany after seven years he was very cruelly treated at Jan Smuts airport, deloused and disinfected with Jays fluid the whole works. He immediately went to Swaziland and joined up with Shakes the piano player and I forget the drummer. The tragedy was that everybody he worked with died within a month. One guy was stabbed, one guy died of sickness, the other one drank himself to death and the other one was a car crash. Four people in this period of a month that he was playing with. A broken man came back to Cape Town. That is when I met him and he had a long story to tell. A very long story. A beautiful musician. Incredible person as well. Uncompromising spiritually. When he told the story of those guys dying in Robbie Mulders seller next to his dads house, his sister and a couple of girls were there and I was there with a friend. Johnny grabbed the bass and hugged it as if it were part of him. And then said “Shakes died,” and did an incredible run and an explosion on the bottom of the instrument. It was as if Shakes had come right back into the room. He did that four times. One of the girls ran out screaming and the other one followed her. The guy next to me was shaking, Robbie was a bit white and I was scared. Everything had been brought into that room and disappeared. The silence lasted for about ten minutes after that, maybe five minutes. It seemed like hours. It was a frightening and illucidating spiritual experience. I then knew that Johnny was a “Vejas”. His whole face changed as well. That was the most terrifying thing of the whole lot. It was though those people's spirits had come back into the room. The spiritual dimension was never ignored. That is why apartheid wasn't spoken about. It was known, it was felt, we experienced it, Winston and I in a car with smoke coming out in Athlone and a white guy drawing up next to us and seeing us laughing and joking. “What the fuck are you guys laughing at?” We just looked at him. He saw a white and a black together having a ball and he couldn't understand it in the context of revolution. A lot of these things we have remembered.
I can not remember feeling as good as that ever in my life. Having done a gig that could have really folded. We did 'Night of a thousand knives', we did 'Yakhal 'Inkomo', we did a tearing version of 'Autumn Leaves' at an impossible tempo, Coltrane type solo. The solos were long. The only time we reached that intensity was funnily enough at the Table Bay Millenium with a very big group. The sound again just jelled and that was a very beautiful evening as well.
The tragedy is as Winston became more crippled and as my personal responsibilities increased round about the Millenium after the death of my mother and the adoption of my house keepers child. I found it necessary to be quite practical in a lot of ways and continue with solo work. Having worked overseas a lot and worked with Winston, the gigs weren't coming. There weren't enough of them and then Winston grabbed the ball and ran with it. His fourth and fifth finger were giving out and he had already said to me in Europe, Michael I am going to work with every goddamn piano player in the world. And I said that's fine you need to you've got to. The tours started then where Winston made quite a lot of money and I am very glad he did it but on the other hand I think Mexico whistlestop tour broke his health and he was taken around there on a wheelchair and most of the time at the airports. And the Japan tour was also rushed. For me he could have stayed at home and be looked after at that stage.
He had his place in Saldanha, he was commuting between there and here. He hid the finger story from me. Later, after 'abantwana we afrika' he said that he still wanted to do a gospel album with me. That was already 2006 and he was to die a few years after that. He said he wanted to do it just on soprano and then I knew it was tickets. So we didn't go for that one. So. It is a sad end to a really great story. From my own personal point of view I am just privileged to have worked with the man and have been able to compose with him. He had his own road. I am glad I walked along it for 30 years. I stayed in to see it right to the end. In the end I booked him into Constantia Place. Thulie unfortunately took him out on the way to Victoria hospital. I would have left him there. Things were beyond my control. Family had got involved. At least we got him out of Somerset. He wasn't suffering very much. He had two weeks in Constantia Place. He was fairly happy there. Abigail was around him. He got everything he required but he was dropping in and out. There was some pain management there was some drugs that had to be handled. I was very sorry I didn't take him a shot actually.
I am boring after the year 2000. Nose to the grindstone. Support my family and support Winston as much as possible. The visits got fewer. We had Kind of done it. Molo Afrika had got the SAMA award. From there it is what they do with old cars, they fade them away …
No Mike you are too humble! Do you think the music of great virtuosos has the effect of emotional alchemy to change lives.
The Art Centre effected me, I even took my parents there at the age of 18. When Mike Fourie came back with the West Coast stuff and they did Mercy Mercy and Watermelon Man, I could relate to that as a rock musician too but I wanted to go further. And then Merton hit me with there is a G minor 7th and what is going to happen with this chord and this is what Miles did with the modes. He hit me with modes. We tried to integrate that into the bands we were working with by working them into Steely Dan, Deodata and onto the more interesting stuff. It was pretty tough to realise that stuff didn't sell in South Africa or Buluwayo. So I was still looking for the feeling I had with Robert Sithole where we would just play wildly for hours and hours on end. And I would have that with Winston as well. That is what I really wanted. That alchemy you talk about when the music plays itself. When you can feel that as a listener it is a very definite thing.
I listened to Equinox. We were listening to that stuff on Reel to reel in Zimbabwe trying to play it. But now and again on the right combination of things, we would hit it. Gong gong gong. Gong ging gong. Gong geng gong. Johnny would play Dat dada dada on bass but savagely. In a different way trying to say something else about it. It wasn't like Jimmy Garrison who played da da da da dum. Gwang gwang ga gwong. You know he was saying something with that and I wasn't sure what he was saying. And the riff for 'Yo Yo'. That is Johnny's riff. Winston and I were taking bits and pieces of stuff we liked. And he would say we owe that one to Johnny so we would put into the song we did for Madiba. It was the way things were played and the intention behind them.
One guy listened to 'Yo Yo' and said it reminded him of the bad days coming over a sand dune and seeing your shack is burning and you are still laughing. Ga da da dum ba da da da! Ga da ba da da and Yo Yo ! That's the image: We are going to be happy in spite of this shit. We are not going to get brought down by some guy in a car saying what are you laughing at. Not that we were happy clapping at all. This was serious shit! I was doing 6 hours a day at the Cape Sun. There are no heroes. And then a bottle of red wine with Winston and a good smoke as well. He used to call them 'strings.' Do you need 'strings' Michael because we were very careful on the phone in those days. I spent more time at home then I did here, bonding with Winston spiritually. There were shots as well of course but always controlled. Winston was a controlled drinker. He was never drunk on stage and a couple of times when he thought he had had too much, he would still say if someone was full of shit, 'I will still play there ass off on stage, don't worry Michael'. And he would. He was riding it. He could control it. It was very unfair to think of him as drunk. Always on time as well unless there was an impossible transport situation. What South African music was robbed of by the SABC Sea Point is just unreal. You could have had the guy record all day for R300, this kind of money they were paying. And it wasn't done, we were the only ones who did it. And he was anti-recording from 1970 onwards. People tried to get him in the studio but he wouldn't go.
We discussed Jika from beginning to end and discussed what was going to happen. We formed Nkomo records purely to keep it out of the system. And when our terms and conditions were sent up to Joburg, we retained total control of the publishing. For a distribution deal they said, no thank you. They made a mistake. We tried Gallo, we tried Clive Haycock at EMI, we tried the three you know. They were all in cahoots! And they were all ripping off black people. I saw a session in Joburg were hamburgers and cokes were the only session fee. And R15 at the end of a day of Zulu guitar. I forget who it was. It was a great guitarist laying down track after track after track to a metronome where drums could have been put on it and were. And 60 000 copies dumped on Soweto in two weeks time. You know the stuff...
Tell us about the Jazz workshop and Merton Barrow ...
Never racialist like the Art Centre, where people had to run out. There was a system of warning. You know where the Art Centre was, you can see both entry roads. Black and coloured people out for a while, back in 15 minutes. Now the workshop of course they couldn't stop that in anyway and there was black and coloured students right from the start. Cynthia is better qualified to talk about it than me. This is the third time I have taught. This time it has been seven years already. The second time was three and there was another time, shorter. Ensembles were going, musicians were meeting across the colour bar. The elephant was never spoken about. There was no conscious breaking of the law because the law was there to be broken, the law wasn't law. The law was rubbish and it was treated as rubbish. It was ignored. It wasn't given too much credence to and in that way Merton and Cynthia's attitude was strangely black the same things I felt when Johnny and Winston were in the car with me. We are not here to talk about that. We are going to talk about what we are going to do. And Johnny was saying to me, this is the saxophone player. If you are going to work with a saxophone player, this is the guy. How did he know. I am not saying this was a God given thing and all that. There is synchronicity and there is this golden thread that runs through life depending on what you want and what I wanted was real music that meant something. I had given up a career in the law. The law wasn't worth talking about. I knew what I liked and the synthesis between African music and should we say accessible western music fascinated me because the key to Jika was and Winston Mankunku said it himself, 'lets do this one for people.' Which meant no extravagant long solo's, nothing to avant garde although we will sneak certain things in Michael. Even if we go bankrupt and we stop one person killing another person', Winston said to me, 'We have succeeded.' It was a message of love we were trying to convey in a time of hate. 'Love in the time of Cholera,' Marquez. And my God did Winston work on Jika. On the plain, all those layered harmonies. I came up with a melody and suddenly it became a traditional Xhosa song and a traditional Xhosa idiom. Translated to “Why are you always checking your neighbours doorstep when it should be yours?” We all know the messages in Jika, coded messages because of censorship in Pretoria, you know the story. He was extremely clever and it is so nice the album is still alive. Still ticking over at Africa Image and a few other places. It seems to me that if something incapsulates the spirit of the time it will last. It has got that rebellious side to things and it is the simpler things, whereas on Molo Afrika the man stretches out a lot more. And on the stuff you lent me, hey he stretches out a lot more. Because for me on Yakhal 'Inkomo the saxophone is avant garde, the bull is really hurt and the bull is complaining and crying and that is how come a simple song like that with a simple vamp and a 1 6 2 5 progression and a clever bebop semi-tonal thing, can penetrate the entire country and the ANC camps. It was known as far as Tanzania.
It was known in the South African consulate in the African Club we went to in London when we did Jika because that is when we were smelt out. There were very powerful people who didn't want Winston to be exploited. I was quizzed / interviewed and managed to pass the test but I had Winston with me as well and he was steering me through the rocky waters because they didn't want their hero fucked with at all and I had to make quite sure that whitey was on the right track and Winston stood by me as a brother the whole time. That was a scary night at the Africa club in Trafalgar square. There were people walking very slowly because times were incredibly bad and nobody knew, '87. There was a possibility of dawn but there was also ugly stuff too. Because that crying bull just hit everybody who felt that way in the right place; if you play it now in 2014 to government people and let alone government people, almost everybody, knows that tune. That amount of penetration for a non commercial music I can only think of Take Five that has done the same thing. Just the vamp, (he plays the Yakhal 'Inkomo piano vamp) just this, and they know what it is automatically.
It hit that mood, those thoughts spot on and that's why it did that. Incredible achievement. He should have been a moderately wealthy man by the age of 35. No wonder he didn't want to record for nearly 17 years. He did a little bit with Chris Schilder, 'Spring'. There was something in '72 also under clean circumstances but nothing else, the standard answer was 'No'. He wasn't prepared to do anything, not even for money, only under conditions of complete freedom. And that applied to finished product as well. I could understand that, I had been prepared, I had been coached by the honorable Johnny Jacobus Gertze about exactly what had happened and who was responsible, Leytrek and Gallo and I built up a head of steam on it. And Winston wasn't talking about it until years later. Slowly the story came out little byte by little byte. I was only fully in command of all the facts after Jika. He didn't want that bitterness to get in the way either. We were working on tunes, we were booking people, we were discussing who we could use as a rhythm section. Those things were always more important. We would battle with the political thing by making sure there was a phonecall. 'I am coming through Winston, okay.' Guys would be there on the corners checking out. It was very well organised. I thank the ANC from the bottom of my heart for that. They were really tight. There was a nice security blanket put over us. They knew we were working together, so we were helped. We always seemed to get help, Struan. You guys helped us too. Sold us a thousand copies of that, paid the royalties, thank you. Thank you for everything. Thanks a lot, I am so glad to see you are published.
Thanks Michael for your time.
What you have done is moving. Winston always liked you and Iain. He thought you were nice. And he could see through people. If you were full of shit you didn't stand a chance with Mankunku. He could be very tough at times. I have to paint the image of an incredibly tough person, of a warrior of music and that was his philosophy and when he saw that the warrior way wasn't for me he left me very gently. Still as a friend and still coming round but hiding his injuries from me. There was still love, but he knew and I knew too that the warrior way wasn't for me Struan. I had other things that had to be kept together and we had done it. We had done one very important thing. Dudula was not very important. Molo was, but not so much for me. Jika remains what I am mainly proud of. I am proud of a couple of tracks on my album, the one that Robbie takes a solo on. La Mameza, I don't know if you know it. Nice sax solo and nice piano solo too.
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