Interview Stompie Menana
If you want to interview me it is going to take you a long time.
He opens up a photgraphic book of jazz to inspire this long narrative
Night of the 50’s, this guy passed away quite some time ago, he was dancing. He used to work for PUTCO (Public Utility Transport Corporation). He was guy who also loved jazz. This guy passed away.
This was one of the most brilliant saxophone players. He grew up with Winston. He is much younger than me. That is me on the other side. He is about Winston’s age. That is Duke Makasi. Here we are in Cape Town. That group is called Work Force with some very brilliant musicians.
That is the African Jazz Pioneers.
That is Geshin. He started a group called uJamal. It means freedom in Swahili. He started it with all these guys. I was asking him where are all these guys? He said I don’t know he said I think this one went back to Nigeria. This one is a pastor like him. He is a pastor as well. That is his friend Thabo. Thabo is a technician now. He is putting all these things together. He installs sound.
Doby Gray came to South Africa some time ago.
This is a wedding photo that you will never understand.
That is Jonas Gwangwa. Jonas Gwangwa is a product of Hugh Masekela. After I taught Hugh how to play trumpet, I am talking this thing when we were still in the college. Hugh is far younger than me, five or seven years, but we were in the same class. Jonas Gwangwa came a year after to the college. He didn’t know a scratch about music, just like Hugh didn’t know a scratch about music. I was busy with the piano at that time. There were only three piano players at school who were coming from homes where there was music. The school was not teaching any music. There was myself and another youngster called Henley Magobiyane. His father was a musical adjudicator. He came all the way from Benoni because at home his father was teaching him music, like me. My father was teaching me. And then Stanley Stanka. He is a surgeon now. He is in England. His son is a big thing in piano. Stanley became a doctor surgeon and he got married to an Elle’s daughter there. Gwangwa came a year after we had been there and after I had been putting Hugh into the music. I left in 1953. When I left the college, Hugh said to me please you must always come, so I used to go to Hugh’s home in Alexandria. They lived in a tin house those days. His father was a health inspector, but inspecting only food, milk. He used to go to all the dairies. On Sundays the father wasn’t there and I used to go. We used to go to one of the tin garages and I would help Hugh out. Sometimes we would get Saturdays at school. And then they started this Huddleston Jazz Band. But how it started out that Hugh played trumpet. I told him that he must play trumpet because Me, Henley and this other cat, Stanley Stanka, there was a piano allocated to us at the college there. We were the only three who could read music in the whole school because we come from homes where there was music.
My father was a trumpet player, he taught me staff notation. I never went to a school of music. My father started a band, a big brass band, they were playing marches and things and they were reading music. He said to me I want you on the piano. The whole family was playing. Our first born was playing piano and was also playing bass. When he was at home he was a very good piano player. We could read music all of us because I was reading also. And he was also playing double bass. And he started a band called the California Ramblers, I am talking something like 1942 because my father had a big café there. He was selling African food in that cafeteria. My sister was a very beautiful songstress. She used to sing very beautifully. The whole family. My brother was a bass player. The second born was an amazing trumpet player and an amazing golf player, Noah.
Hugh said, “One of my best friends was from Sophiatown, Stompie Manana, he's a great trumpet player, his brothers were both in music and so we went to see a movie called Young Man With The Horn, it was the story of Bix Beiderbecke. And we had been in a lot of trouble in school, in fact that year they asked Stompie not to come back. He wasn't expelled, they just wrote him during the holidays and asked him not come back.
I would have shown you some photos from 1949 where I am standing next to an easel. I am doing some painting because every Wednesday I used to go to town and paint in an art school. I was the youngest there. There were other young guys but I was very young there. I must have been 14 or 16 years. Every year they used to choose the best artist that the school would take to France. They had a scholarship every year to take one good artist. I got the scholarship. And then the Zonk people came to the school. I was still in the primary it was before I went to college. The Zonk people came there and they found us in church because every Thursday we would go to church and then we would have to go back to school. They called me and they said to me take us to school in Joburg where you always go on Wednesdays, we want to take some photos and they took some photos. And they took me out of the school and I went there. At that school I was also with Kippie Moeketsi’s brother Isaiah Moeketsi. He was an artist. When I got the scholarship my father refused that I go to France. He said you are too young. I wouldn’t say anything because I was still under parental laws. I was a minor. My father said you can’t go there. I said ok. So many things that I couldn’t do. We used to have some group exhibitions and we used to hang our paintings there and they used to encourage us by giving us medals. I got a bronze medal in the exhibition in town. They used to make certificates. They used to encourage us. That was 1949, then there are so many things. I was still in the primaries. I was playing piano. On the other side. This place was in Polie Street, Number 5 Polie Street. We had this art school. In this complex on the other side there was a piano teacher there by the name of Mr Rycroft. He was teaching music. He was also teaching people how to sing. And then Mr Rycroft left and on the other side we were painting. I was with Kippie Moeketsi’s brother. And then they brought Kippie Moeketsi’s other brother Jacob Moeketsi. Oh yeah, he was playing classic you know. Kippies’s brother, the elder one. Very dainty. A guy who used to look after himself. Wow that guy used to play beautiful but he used to drink a lot of brandy. I would go to him and he was playing classic. I would say to him, ‘Uncle J when are you going to play jazz?’ He would say to me, ‘you know what Ernest’, my name is Ernest, ‘just give me two years and I will be playing Art Tatum’. I said, ‘do you like Art Tatum?’ He said, ‘oh yes I like Art Tatum’.
Khabi Mngoma used to come there. Jacob Moeketsi was helping Khabi Mngoma. Khabi Mngoma was a baritone singer. He was doing this particular song and I loved it and I said, ‘how can I get a copy?’ He said, ‘you go to Charles Manning and you get it there’. So I went and bought a copy. It was called Holy City. Khabi Mngoma is Sibongile’s father. That is before Sibongile was born. Sibongile Khumalo, her original surname is Mngoma. Khabi Mngoma is her father. Later on he started his school somewhere, I don’t know where. I heard him singing. He was still a student singing. Jacob was helping him out that time. I am telling you about old people.
In that particular place in that particular hall a band came to come and play there. Dolly Rathebe was a singer. They were practicing for a certain show. This band consisted of Gwigwi Mrwebi , Skip Phahlane, Mike Xaba the altoist and Zakes Nkosi. I have got all the pictures. I would have shown you all these guys.
Those are great musicians. They talk about musicians. Those were great musicians. You know why? I could hear the music they were playing. I have learnt a lot. If it were crap music I wouldn’t have had the taste for music and the selection of music that I would like to play. They are playing music there but the selection is not it.
When I really decided, my father said you can’t play trumpet because I used to have a very frail body. I used to be very frail. That is why my father said don’t play. I said ‘papa I like trumpet.’ He said ‘don’t play trumpet, you haven’t got the lungs for it.’ I said, ‘what do you mean papa?’ And that is when I decided to do it when he didn’t know.
My brothers’ friend was playing in a band called the Harlem Swingsters with Gwigwi Mrwebi. Gwigwi Mrwebi was leading that band the Harlem Swingsters. My brothers’ friend was a trumpet player. And then my brother said to me why don’t you go to Kleintjie. Kleintjie means small. And I am Stompie! My brother says, ‘Why don’t you go to Kleintjie. Kleintjie has got an instrument there. I know you want to play and your father doesn’t want you to.’ I didn’t have a trumpet. I started on his horn.
This is my wife Mavis. She is 72 now. She is born in 1943. She is the same age like Winston. But you should have seen Winston when he passed out. He looked terrible. We did some shows with him when we went to Durban. We did two shows for him here in Joburg and one out at the Palace there next to the airport. You know the big place, next to the airport. Sibaya Casino. We did two shows, one we did in Durban at the City Hall with Winston. Those were the last shows we did. His numbers were orchestrated; we had to play with the big band you know. 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, saxophones and all that playing his stuff. He couldn’t read but he was very good. There were a lot of musicians in America and some of them couldn’t read. Duke Ellington had one musician in his band a trombone player. He couldn’t read but he used to take all the solos. Duke Ellington named him He called him tricky Sam. That is how I was. That is why I went to boet Kleintjie. He taught me a lot of things. I could already read music because I was from the piano. He said to me, Stompie here is a book here, I still have that book here but this is a new edition. That book is a tutor. It is called modern trumpet playing by Harry James. Harry James did a lot for me. He was a white guy. I still have some of his records. There was a lady that wrote about the movie. This lady was writing this movie about a white boy who was interested in music. He did not have folks. He only had a sister. His folks had passed on. She wrote that book and this book was turned into a movie.
And then my other brother, he passed on, he was playing tenor saxophone. I come after him. My brother said, ‘hey Stompie, listen, I see you are very interested in trumpet, you should go and see that movie, ‘Young man of music’’. It sparked trumpeters like us. It sparked trumpeters like Hugh. It was after that… When I told Hugh to play trumpet, he didn’t know what I was talking about. He said you are playing piano. I said my second instrument is trumpet. I am playing piano. We were still at school. Gwangwa was not even there. Gwangwa is not a fantastic musician like other guys are musicians, seriously. There are musicians that come around.
I will tell you about Hugh. Hugh didn’t know a thing about music. But when I told him to play, I said lets go see that movie, young man of music. You know I have it at home. Yes, a friend of mine sent it to me from Sweden, when I met him in Cape Town, I told him the story and he said I am going to get that movie for you. It is here, it has got Swedish subtitles but it is in English, starring Kirk Douglas. Michael Douglas’s father. He was still young then. And Dorris Day, you know the singer. The backtracks in the movie are done by Harry James, you should listen. I actually had to go and look for that record. I have got the record there for that movie. And I have got the movie. I have got all the things here. When guys come here, I say listen, this is how you have got to play. You must listen, the old technique is good. Giving you the simplest form today, you are just playing modals. Those guys were playing technique when they were playing, you can really cry when you listen to some of those guys play like Swiss Eddison and even Louis Armstrong. You know Louis Armstrong used to play, simple notes, dap dap dap dap dap barap barara, but he used to make statements you know. He used to make beautiful statements. Even Miles Davis commented about him, he said one of the greatest trumpet players was Louis Armstrong, he had his own style, except for that grin on his face. This is what Miles said. He just didn’t like that grin on his face. Who was he trying to please? That is Miles. Miles used to play like Dizzy as well. He could play all those high notes, but he decided not to do that. He decided to have a style of his own. And that is why he goes down and he was playing middle range. Middle range, when you don’t play up you play middle range. It is the same thing up there, but middle range is very difficult to play middle range. That is why most of the guys when you find he has no ideas he goes up. Most of the time it is a lot of gimmick work. Because he is still playing the same thing. That is why Miles goes seldom there. He goes there to make a variation. That will sound nice because it doesn’t come all the time. Our guys think you have got to blow hard, you have got to pitch high, but that is crazy sometimes. We had fantastic trumpeters like Harry James, Harry James was here and when he goes up there, ‘oh man.’ He would play the same thing. He goes up there because the music says so. Today they don’t play those songs, like ‘The man I love.’ They don’t play things like ‘Song in my heart.’ They don’t play ‘Loverman,’ beautiful standards. People don’t play that anymore. Until there was the bebop era, when Charlie Parker got in. Before the bebop era, there was another era of the Boogie Woogie you know. Where you get guys like Louis Jordan who used to play saxophone. He made it look like Charlie Parker. He played songs like Pinetops Boogie Woogie. He played songs like ‘Just like a Woman.’ Where he was talking about King Louis the 14th. He said the people in jail needed bread but instead of bread he gave them cakes. They used to make some jokes, but very mocking as well. Those were the real days. The boogie woogie days and when Charlie Parker got in, he was from the swing bands, you know the Glen Miller band, there are so many of these guys, the Ari Shaw band, the Jimmy Darcy big band and Tommy Darcy, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cap Calloway, all those bands. There were these big bands.
It is going to take you time to capture all that. You will have to have Volume 5 as well. I will cover one volume. It is not a thing you cover in one day. You do one day for another time. Because there have been different times you know. The other people are coming out from the other times. I am coming out from the old times. But there were still other times when I wasn’t even there.
That was the time when her father was there. And her father was Valson Sekgobo. He used to sing. Her father was one of the people who started this thing. It was called the African Pitch Black Follies. If you know about them, where a lady used to play piano for them by the name of Emily Motsieloa. The husband was Griffiths Motsieloa. Later on she started a group called the Pink Elephants. That lady would do well as Louis Armstrong’s mother. She looked like Louis Armstrong. This is the Pink Elephants. This lady used to play for a group The Merry Blackbirds. It was a man’s’ group but she was the only woman. She comes from the African Pitch Black Follies. That was the other time, before the Merry Blackbirds. There have been so many stages. You can see the last of the Pink Elephants, Mrs Bertha Monte Pula Kuti Makau. We are only talking about her.
My friend passed away, his son was a piano player. So much for history. There are too many. I will give you from the time I started knowing about music.
I started knowing music right at home, just to find that my brothers are playing in all these big bands, Harlem Swingsters, African Hellenics. I was the youngest. As I was zooming up, I was the youngest in the band, but I was playing first trumpet, I was lead because I had good eyes, I could see everything. That is the thing my eyes are not as good as they were. I also have a problem with my ears. September I will be 80 years. If you love something you stay with it. Dizzy passed away when he was 71, Louis Armstrong 71, Duke Ellington 71. The only one who stayed a little longer was Clarke Terry and he only died the other day. It is the way you love the music. Most of my other friends don’t play at all, if you can see them. Ask my wife. They are younger than me, Maurice, Bushy, Velie.
You know Struan we have to make time.
You know Mike Makhalemele. He was so famous here. He couldn’t read music also. He stayed down here. He passed away. He went to a nightclub. He was playing there and then all of a sudden, he developed pneumonia because it was cold that night. But the mistake he made was when it was cold he decided to take a little bit of gin. He used to love gin. Drinking is no good. Smoking is no good. Every man starts. But as soon as you found out it is not right you stop. He didn’t want to listen to me. I used to tell him. He never wanted to listen to me. Same like Victor Ntoni. He passed away last year. He was younger than me. I went to fetch him to come and join my band. This guy: We bought him a big bass. That bass is still here. I gave it to my nephew. He was drinking and started smoking dagga. That is dangerous. Not good for musicians to do that. Musicians are just doing the wrong thing.
Here is another one that is still around. That is Barney Rachabane. He is far younger than me. I told him also. You stop that. What I did to Barney he should thank me a lot. When we were doing a tour, I kept on buying things to bring back at home and he said to me, ‘hey you are buying things and bringing them back home’. I said, ‘yes you can do the same thing’. Some of the things we were seeing, we didn’t have back at home. And they were quite cheap. He says, ‘I am still staying at home with my parents, if I buy them my parents are going to have them for themselves’. He had a girlfriend. I said to him, ‘where is that girlfriend you had’. ‘Oh she is there, I have three kids with her’. I said, ‘wow, you have three kids and you are not married. What are you waiting for?’ He said, ‘her mom is not right’. I said, ‘no, it is you that is not right. You gave her three kids and she is staying with your mum. You are not on good terms with her. You love that lady. Take her go and get married. Listen, it doesn’t cost a lot of money. We are playing here. All you have to do is take the little bits of money and go to her home. Just pay a little dowry, little by little. Show them how you are interested. When you get married you just get married at the Native Commissioner there. You get a certificate. Once you get a certificate, you got the Native Commissioner again and tell them you are married and then they put you on the waiting list so that you can get a house’. That is how we got this house. That is how it works out. The government is not giving anyone a house unless he is married. They are stopping to have houses where people will just sit and start brothels there. He got married. 1,2,3 he came to me and said, ‘hey man, my house is out already’. I said, ‘take your kids now into your house and now you can start buying a lot of things and bring them to your house’. I told him a lot of things. I told him to stop drinking. He stopped drinking. All the time he was with me. He says, ‘lets go and have coffee’. So we go have coffee. Only coffee. He says, ‘hey Stompie you are great, I don’t feel for drinks any more’. I say, ‘you will feel fine, you will feel great you know and your money, you can save it’. That is how Barney stopped drinking. And he said to me, ‘you will never make me stop smoking dagga!’ I said, ‘I am not worried about that’. I was worried about the liquor. The dagga you will see it on your own. Once he started smoking dagga he went back again and started drinking. I knew that was going to happen. They guys who smoke dagga, they drink. You will be caught in a web sometimes. If you stop smoking and drinking you don’t go with those guys, you get new friends now who don’t smoke and then you go to church. I tell people go to church, you are going to get new friends in church, who don’t smoke, don’t drink. Good guys, they are not stupid. They are living a clean life, a good life. You don’t have any grudge against anybody, you don’t hate anybody, you are not jealous. All you have to do is have love, love is stronger than hatred. Love is strong, he didn’t want to listen to me. Recently he got a job, he was with Paul Simon. He went with Paul Simon. And then he started meeting different musicians, some of them coming from Malawi. They come with all sorts of dagga, all different sorts of dagga. He comes with the South African kind of dagga. They bring dagga from Malawi, from Kenya, from everywhere. So they smoke all of them. He was telling me that he has stopped smoking dagga. I said, ‘I told you, it is up to you. That will work out itself, what happened?’ He started telling me the story. He said, ‘you know that there was so much dagga, all over. The dagga was too much and we were supposed to go to the airport, take a plane to go and play somewhere with Paul. There was too much dagga.’
‘So what did you do?’
‘We decided to smoke that dagga out because we couldn’t go with that dagga to the airport because we are going to be arrested. I said why didn’t you leave that dagga? No, so we smoked.’
You know what? They smoked all that dagga. When they got in the plane, he got a blackout because it was an overdose. And after that when they reached their destination he was taken to the hospital. He told me that is how he had to stop. I said you had to learn the hard way, why did you have to wait for that. This boy is very stubborn, they say forewarned is forearmed.
I know liquor. How did I drink? Friends of mine used to play in a band, they were drinking and I was not drinking. They were older than me. One time I was passing the house and they were in there. I was selling some stuff. I used to sell some pottery work. He says, ‘hey this guy doesn’t drink he always has money.’ And he said, ‘hey man will you just buy me a nip of brandy?’ We were playing in a band and they were drinking. It was a Saturday. I said ‘OK how much is a nip?’ They said hey guys who don’t drink don’t even know the prices of things. So I bought them a drink and then I left. These guys coaxed me so that I should drink. I said no that I can’t. Then I was drinking beer. This thing is too bitter, what is this? I couldn’t drink brandy. I used to move with guys who drink whiskey and all of that. I know all the whiskeys. They used to call them by name. Do you know guys that drink? They will tell you. This is this whiskey, this is black and white, this is teachers and sons, this is teachers, this is dimples, this is 100 pipers. They used to have names. Stanfold used to quote those things. ‘Ah we are drinking 100 pipers.’ You know when I smell that stuff I want to puke. If I can just smell brandy, my stomach starts working. I want to throw up. It didn’t smell very nice. So I would go to beer now and then. I stopped that. There is nothing there man. I don’t care which way you want to have your nice time. There is nothing there. How do you expect people when someone is inebriated to enjoy themselves? When you are intoxicated do you think you are enjoying yourself? I don’t think so. I think you enjoy yourself when you are sober with your kids. That is why these guys go, go, go.
Kippie the same thing. Kippie came here and he told my wife. He said, ‘hey you have a got a wonderful husband. Look at me, I don’t drink anymore, I don’t drink anymore.’ He was fine. Only three months. I made him stop drinking. I took him to church. These people they don’t know what they are doing. When you look at people who are going to church and you start laughing at them you are barking up the wrong tree.
He was a singer, Max Mvilima. It was him who took these photos. You will see him. I know him as a little boy here. Here he is. Zakes is still there. I don’t know what happened to these two. They are old guys now.
There is Winston. These are old guys, you wont know them. Do you know Mabunu? He is an actor. There is Hugh there. There is Churchill Jolobe. He passed away.
There is the African Jazz Pioneers. I am not there. Now listen, he passed away, he passed away, he passed away, he passed away. These are still around.
Some of the musicians in Jazz Pioneers included Ntemi Piliso, Tim Ndaba, Wilson Silgee, Stompie Manana, and Shep Ntsamai.
We started the African Jazz Pioneers. We are the co-founders. His wife said to me, ‘Stompie, Ntemi is not doing anything, he is old. Lets’ start something, a thing of elderly people. You are the pioneers of this thing.’ Yes we can, we can start with him. I said, ‘here is a place here we can start and rehearse and then Kippie came, bra Kleintjie came. And then we started this thing’. When the ball started rolling, they called me and I had to go to Cape Town. I left with my wife. I was needed but we had already started this.
Look at this. That is Kippie. He is still smoking. Look at him. He looks terrible.
You will come one day and we will make some good time.
There is Dolly Rathebe with her band the Elite Swingsters. These are youngsters. The oldest people are only one and two. We grew up together. He was a great guitar player. He passed on… passed away, passed away, passed away …
Some of the musicians in Elite Swingsters included Paul Ntleru [Bass] Daniel Ngema [Git] Phillip Mbele [Bass] Jackson Mogale [Schlz] Peter Mokonotela [Pfeife] Paul Rametsi [T-Sax] Phillip Thami Madi [A-Sax] Paul Rametsi [T-Sax]
I wanted to show you some other things because I don’t want you to get a distorted story. You must get a story when other people read they say here is the real thing here. This guy is talking something. Some guys you don’t know them. Who do you know here? How old are you. 38. That is my fourth born’s age.
Do you know Gwigwi Mrwebi? That is Gwigwi Mrwebi . Do you know about a guy called Sol Klaaste? Aggrey Klaaste’s brother, here he is. A piano player. He died in London.
But you will never know that one… My late brother who played bass taught him how to play bass. He is a good bassist. His name is Mzala Lipere. Good bass player and a good singer but do you know how this guy died? You won’t like. They found him… Do you know these deserted cars in these deserted areas where they dump cars. He used to sleep there. He was a hobo. And this guy used to dress beautiful. They used to move with Kippie like this. They died, they found him in that car there. He was a hobo. Liquor, drugs, I don’t know why you don’t go for the real thing. People don’t want to go for the real thing.
My brother taught this guy to play bass, Mzala. And then, Kippie came one evening. He had a show. You must listen to this. He came to my brother. The one who plays bass. Not the one you just saw, the older one, the one who said I must go to his friend, he has a trumpet. He came to borrow a bass. He plays alto. He comes to my brother and says can you borrow us your bass.
Kippie came to borrow a bass from my brother. My brother is a bass player. Hey man. I was there. I was listening to all these things. That is my brother, he is older than me. He can take care of his business. I am listening. He says to Kippie, ‘Kippie I know your whole family, I know Jacob, and I know Kani. You are younger than Jacob. You are coming to borrow my bass for Mzala to go and play with you. You know I taught Mzala how to play and you are coming to borrow my bass. What do you think I have this bass for? To borrow it out or to go and play with it and make money. DO you think I bought it so I can borrow it out?’
That was another one. Sometimes people can think and they cannot use their brains. He says you know what I have got this bass here because if you need a bass player you can come and hire me and I can go and play. Hire my bass for someone to go and play, when am I going to play?’ That is why Kippie’s life is like that. He should have had a house. He never got married. He never got children.
We need real stories man. We need to be able to channel other people in the right direction. We need not to be called names that are not actually happening. I am talking the truth here. This is not the way to live. Kippie was not an example. He died a pauper. Do you know the other day, somebody was putting me onto the radio to talk about music and things like that. Asking questions. I had to tell people, listen I took my kids to school. You have to be a father. You have to do the right things. A musicians is just like anybody else. It is work that you have to do. You have to work for your children, you have to work for your wife. Musicians are also people. They are also human beings like all the other human beings. They have to do the chores in the right way. It is very unfair that musicians have to be called drunkards. And names. It is not nice. Everybody drinks. Even people who work in the gardens, in the factories. They also drink. You seem to be taking musicians like drunkards. No, they have chores also. There are others who don’t take care of their chores also. Many other men who work in factories, who work in other industries, they don’t take care of their own. You must give a pound of good flesh to the musicians who are doing the right things and those who are not doing the right things you must take the flesh away. Not because he is a musician.
I don’t go anywhere. Here are my horns here, here is my wife. I can ask my wife do you like this tune. I have somebody to talk to. This guy when he interviewed me I said, ‘listen, I have got kids here. I have got three graduates. And there are more that have to come from my grandchildren. We are human beings like everybody’. All the crap has been said about the musicians. But they are not talking about the goodness that they can do. And they will even give the goodness to those who don’t deserve it. The ones that deserve it don’t go get it. And the ones that don’t deserve it get talked about. They think it is like a boetie boetie thing. People are afraid of the truth. Why must we lie everyday? Why must we take one guy when he didn’t even do that. This is what spoils our music and spoils our character and spoils the community. The community is living on lies. I have been stopping a lot of guys.
Do you remember when we did that movie Sophiatown? I had to go with my wife and I had to go and fight for my money. Peter Makurube is this dark tall guy. That guy wants to talk about Sophiatown. I said please don’t do that. I don’t know you and you want to talk about Sophiatown. I don’t know you. I don’t know who are you? You are the guys who are distorting the whole story. Guys speak wrong things about the history of our brothers and sisters just because he wants to talk, because he wants to appear, because he wants to be paid. I don’t need money to talk the right things. But you need money to talk the wrong things. You see? That is what has been happening. I don’t like that. You are getting pieces of this and that. We must put things in their right perspective.
I was reading Miles’s book. They were mentioning something that Miles was saying and he was saying ‘that is not true, people like to write stuff that they don’t understand. It is because of people that we do not get the right stories. They don’t know that they are destroying the whole thing.
Do you know who these are? 1963 Chris Macgregor came to South Africa because it was not happening there in Cape Town. He had this group called the Blue Notes. These are the other two members of the Blue Notes. Dudu Pukwana and Mongezi Feza. Dudu left South Africa. As soon as he left they went to the Riviera with Chris Macgregor. And he was drinking like a fish, brandy over there in England. He got married to a white lady there and he got so drunk. The last photos I saw of that cat he had blown up like that from the liquor. Mongezi also passed on. He was also married to a white lady out in England. There are no black ladies there. You know that! He was the youngest in the Blue Notes.
When Chris came here, he got a job from Cold Castle. They had him, they had Kippie Moeketsi, Barney Rachabane. Three alto’s and they had two tenors there. Another one was called Nick Moyake. Nicky Moyake was also in the Blue Notes. Barney Rachabane was not in the Blue Notes. He was from here. And Kippie was not from the Blue Notes, he was from here. We had three alto’s and they had one tenor, Nick Moyake and then they brought another tenor Ronnie Beer, he was an Afrikaner. And then there was another one playing trombone, Bob Tizzard, white guy. And they had the bass player. a coloured guy Sammy Maritz. And there drummer was Louis Moholo and they didn’t come with him. And then they had Chris on piano. They were short of a drummer. They got this drummer Early Mabuza. Alright! So they have one trumpet, 3 alto’s, 3 tenors, 1 trombone and then they got this guy into the trombone section, Blyth Mbityane. They also came with Wille Netti on trombone.
So now, the Chris Macgregor band shot off a drummer. Then he took Early Mabuza from here. From here he got Kippie Moeketsi, Barney Rachabane and Blyth Mbityane. He had three trombones; Bob Tizzard, Willie Nettie and Blyth.
He had one trumpet and then he went and got another trumpeter by the name of Dennis Mpale. So he had the two trumpets. I had a visitor on a Saturday. That was 1963. This guy said he was working with me and he will come and see me. I said that is alright. He came from Krugersdorp. And then we had some lunch. And then he said lets go to Dube Lounge where they sell some beer. In the lounge there you must have a tie on; your rope of honour. We went there and I was sitting. We were facing the door. It was nice. As I was sitting like that I saw my brother coming in. My brother is carrying my trumpet you know. I thought what is my brother doing here, he doesn’t drink and he is carrying my trumpet. He comes to me and says ‘Stompie.’ I say, ‘what are you doing with my trumpet? He says, ‘no I am from home’. I said, ‘my wife gives you my trumpet and why? I told your wife that I was passing in town and I heard a band practicing up there. ‘What band is that?’ He said, ‘no it is Chris Macgregor’.
So I went up. When I got there I could see they were struggling. And I could see Dennis and this little boy, Mongezi Feza. And I looked at them, Chris was saying, ‘hey we are having a problem with the trumpet because this boy can’t read music’. They need a job, but they can’t read. So my brother said to Chris, ‘you know what I could help you out’. So I said to my brother, ‘these cats!’
Dennis didn’t forget me, he knows me very well, because Dennis used to come to me, I used to help him to read and all that. But he doesn’t want to, because Winston doesn’t read and he doesn’t read also, so he doesn’t care. It is not to say he forgot me. The trouble is, this guy knows who can read and who cannot read. Of course this other boy I don’t blame him, Mongezi didn’t know but Dennis knew. Once they get somebody else they are going to get kicked out. That is why they don’t say anything, they just keep quiet. That is how the guys are. That is why I am not in, in a lot of other things. I don’t even worry about that. That is their own crisis. So Dennis says, ‘oh ya bra Maurice’, talking to my brother. Then he said ‘bring him.’ He said, ‘that is why I went home and fetched your instrument.’
So that is how I went to join the Chris Macgregor Big band. He said, ‘we have got one guy who can read in the trumpet section. Play this song for me’. I can’t forget. It is called Vortex Special. He said, ‘Play for me this trumpet part. Play it so that Mongezi can copy that’. Simple. Bap ba bara taratindo lapadola. And go voom voom. Ba bum dalatara…
And that is how I played for the Chris Macgregor big band.
CHRIS MCGREGOR AND THE CASTLE LAGER BIG BAND recorded African Sound with ZIGQIBO DENNIS MPALE - trumpet (lead) EBBIE CRESWELL – trumpet MONGEZI FEZA – trumpet NOEL JONES – trumpet
On the liner notes, Chris said, "We could hardly have been luckier in the musicians available. I have worked with all the musicians on this record in small groups with the exception of the trumpeters Noel Jones and Ebby Creswell, so that I had, to begin with, a working knowledge of each musician's tastes and capabilities, and Noel and Ebby soon made their qualities evident and got down to work with an enthusiasm and willingness to enter the spirit of the music that surprised me. Dennis made full use of his big, warm sound to lead the trumpets."
Look at all these guys. Here I am here. I am the oldest of them all. They used to call me bra Stompie, bra Stompie. Here is Barney here. This one is a baby, Ngcukana. Teaspoon he passed away, Themba he passed away. They are still there, still there, he passed away. These are the Rockets from Cape Town, fantastic backing groups. We had ten horns here. You should have listened to this band. This was in Cape Town in a place called Retreat and the name of this theatre is Three Arts. It belongs to the Quibel brothers. There is an organisation, father and son. They used to bring artists from the States, Moshety Brown, News Corporation. The Tavaris; 9 boys that were singing. They used to bring all the groups here from the States. And they would organise musicians to back them. Now this was a local artist being backed. This local artist was called Richard John Smith. This show was sponsored by that liquor called Count Pushkin. It is a Vodka, a Russian drink. This was called the Count Pushkin band. The Count Pushkin band, every time in this show we get the Lillyputs, these miniature bottles of Vodka. They give each one a box. Do you know Robbie Jansen? Robbie Jansen would come and I would give them to Robbie Jansen and say, ‘hey take this rubbish and go and drink it’.
Count Judge is a singer, you won’t know him. Pat Masemula, he passed away this one. He was a learner this one. That is Eugene Madonsela, he was a singer.
Do you know who this is, she always acts, she is an old women now. Ndaba Mhlongo’s wife. It is Mary. She is still acting. She is very old because with the husband she has been drinking and with the son. The son is a dancer and a homosexual. She was beautiful.
Mike Makhalemele, Peter Sehume. This is his aunty’s son. This boy left and he has been staying in France. I met him in France. Somebody tells me that I think he passed on. That is my wife’s uncle. He was my first band leader. This man was gifted. He first of all played for the old bands. I was a baby. It was called the Jazz Maniacs. He was a trumpeter there.
Janice Segkane was a very good singer, she passed away. You know Doctor Philip Tabane, the biggest dagga smoker. Malombo jazz. He plays the guitar galagalagalagala.
Ag shame, Margaret, she passed away. The last show we did with herm she was a good singer. On stage and then she collapsed. It was heartbreaking.
This is at the ampitheatre there in Soweto. We used to have Tex Langa, I don’t know what happened to Tex. Freeman was on baritone. These are from PE.
She passed away this lady. These are still around. You must see this guy Vele Mgwena. Drinking, he is finished. He used to play nice.
This is the same band as that. There is Dolly Rathebe, she passed on. Most of them passed on. Elite Swingsters.
You know these girls, Joy. You know that song Paradise City. She sings gospel now. She is into church. She survived. In fact she didn’t survive. She is living. Felicia Marian. This was the tops, Anneline Malebo. She is still around.
We used to call him Satchmo. Ben ‘Satch’ Masinga. I don’t know what happened to Ben anyway.
These are the Soul Jazz Men. Pikes is still around. PE. He is a left handed trumpeter this boy. I believe he passed on. Hanyane
This is a very recent thing. Johnny Mekoa. These are all his pupils. That is the first school he had there.
Here is Hugh. Hugh will tell you stories about me. We were always like that. At school it was always me, Hugh and him. That is Monty Mahobe. He also has stopped playing. I told him to carry on, but he didn’t want to.
Here is Sipho Hotstix. He is all over. You can’t miss him. Here Miriam Makeba she passed on.
Gwangwa. I was with Gwangwa the other day when we were doing the memorial for Enoch Mthalane. He looked terrible. Gwangwa is cheating himself. When the old man, Mandela was 80 years, we had this group and I had another gentleman, he was still alive and now he has passed on. I called this other trumpet player and said let’s make a little prayer before we play. Gwangwa would come. Gwangwa would be there and then again he is drinking there. He is all over. And I told him and I said, ‘what are you doing?’ I said, ‘let me tell you something, you can fool everybody but you will never fool God. If you are with God, be straight. There is nothing wrong being with God. There is a lot of goodness in it. What are you afraid of, what are you ashamed of. You are alive because of the great power. He is there. He says seek me once I am around. Because he moves out of you, He is around here. You can’t fool God’. Gwangwa is like that. Who are you trying to show you believe in God? Just be straight. What we are doing here is serious. Serious business. We are asking God to give us this thing so we can do this thing right with him. We should play right. Everything. He governs all the activities.
Let me tell you a joke of two African American guys who were talking to one another. And all of a sudden there was a fly flying in between them. ZZZZ. Mostly it was coming to the other ones face. So the other one says, ‘what is this?’ The other one says, ‘that is a horse fly’. ‘What is a horse fly; man?’ He says, ‘hey man, a horse fly is a fly that usually fly’s around an arse of a horse’. So this guy says, ‘but my face doesn’t look like an arse of a horse’. He says, ‘well, you can’t fool a horse fly’.
Now this is Eric Nomvete a veteran musician from the Transkei. One of the olden guys who started playing indigenous music. Do you know Khaya Mahlangu. Khaya Mahlangu was a young boy, he used to come to this home. One couldn’t play right. He was taught by Khabi Mngoma. Khabi opened a school of music and also went to study music. Khaya was just playing like Winston. He was playing with this guy, Sipho Hotstix. They had a group called The Beaters. This group was lead by Selby Ntuli. Selby was the leader. He was playing keyboards. A brilliant boy. And Sipho Hotstix was their drummer. And they had Alec Khaoli playing bass and they had Santana playing guitar. It was called the Beaters. When I started this group with Winston, The Cliffs, we had a two stage at the University of Witwatersrand at the University Great Hall. We played there. On this stage we were a jazz group. And they were a rock n roll group. Santana liked Hendrix. Khaya was playing tenor for them. He couldn’t read music at that time until he went to school.
Bheki Mseleku: He was a genius this boy. He couldn’t read music this boy. Two Bheki’s came to me. This is the first Bheki that came to me. They were having a group called the Jazz Expressions, playing that style. He didn’t read music but he was gifted, just like Winston. He was playing Jimmy Smith, Weewaaaywooo, just like that, ‘I want my mojo working.’ He has got a short finger. They came from Durban and they came here. They came to a club called Pelican. I was working there. At some time Winston was there and then Winston came and played some jazz. And then he came to me and said, ‘Stompie what is this music that you are playing?’ I said, ‘it is jazz’. He said, ‘I love it. I love this music. What is it called?’ I said, ‘it is jazz’. He said, ‘the songs you are playing’. I said, ‘I get you now, they are called standards, jazz standards. There are a host of them. This is the music that is played all over the world. Everybody knows it. Everybody should be able to know and listen’. He said, ‘where can I get this music? I said, ‘in book shops you buy a book that has a lot of music and all of that. Even on the piano you can get it’. He said, ‘hey but I can’t read’.
Barney started that way. Barney couldn’t read music. I told Barney to go to Amda. Amda was charging a ticky a lesson. I listened to Barney play. He was listening to records. I said, ‘do that, listen to records and understand the music and hear how they play’. Barney was listening to records; that is how he started. And then Barney was playing. I said, ‘do you read music?’ ‘I can’t read music’. I say, ‘you are still a young boy’. Before actually knowing that I will find him at the Chris Macgregor. I say go to Amda up at Dorkay House there is a school there; they teach music. It is ticky a lesson. It is cheaper. Do you know a ticky? It is a threepence. That is where Barney went and started. He said, ‘hey man it is going to take time. I want to play’. I said, ‘listen to records. All the records have got standard songs’.
He started listening to the way they play and all that. He stopped that Jimmy Smith playing and started playing good beautiful piano until he went to the States and recorded with Pharaoh Sanders and recorded with Abbey Lincoln. But before that he got a little bit mixed up.
You know Allen Kwela, gifted guy. He started reading a little. A gifted guy. He didn’t have a place to stay. We took him and he had to come and stay in my room there before I got married. And after some time, after I was married, this house was allocated to us and he came and stayed here.
You know Thandi Klaasen? Agrippa Magwaza is a bassist from Durban. And his younger brother a beautiful drummer who passed away, Nelson Magwaza.
Now these are the Ngcukana brothers. This is Duke. They are all younger than me these cats. Oh I forgot their father in the Chris Macgregor big band. Their father was a baritone player. I forgot Christopher. Their father.
This is a young boy who comes from PE. I was using him in a lot of other gigs. He passed on. Here is the other brother of Ngcukana also passed on. He was young when he passed on. I remember when he was drinking, he was drinking with these guys, 1, 2, 3. They were drinking brandy. I told him you are still young why are you drinking? But drinks killed him, this boy. He was fantastic.
Henry February, Cape Town. Old jazz musicians these. Abigail Kubeka, she is around.
Ah Shame, Stompie Mavi. He was singing indigenous music. The other day they were doing his music here. Do you know this cat, in PE I met him. He was drinking. He likes me. We were like that. He likes me a lot because we share the same name. I said, ‘Stompie you are putting me off. Why do you drink so much?’ And then he stopped drinking. He said for my name sick I am going to stop drinking.
Zim, Theo Bophela, piano Durban. Old guys. Bruce Ntaka. He used to sing that Nat King Cole stuff. And Thobejane. He was playing with Doctor Tabane when we started knowing him and then he left Tabane and started playing with different groups. Now these are the old guys. General Duze. There is a movie called ‘Jim Comes to Joburg’ where Dolly Rathebe sings. He is in that movie and he plays guitar there. Ntangatangatang. Otherwise he was in the Gideon Nxumalo trio, he was playing jazz. Old jazz musician but he passed on. Drinking too much.
Tete Mbambisa, I just phoned him the other day. I want to come down because next week I am doing a recording. I wanted him to come and play some piano.
This is Sylvia, the singer, very yesterday.
One of the best piano players. He grew up with Winston. He can’t read music. But boy, this boy has got selection of notes. This boy. He has got a taste. He will call a song and say what is that? Good music you know.
Oh, a master here. Still alive. Looks after himself. I think he is 97. Somewhere there. This is an old photo. That his Harold Jaftha. When I am in Cape Town I play with him. He is in Sweden now. He plays Charlie Parker. He knows all those solos of Charlie Parker.
Here is Banzi Bangane. He passed on.
Hotep Galeta. He gave me that book the day that he came. I had never met this guy and then he was going to do a concert. I was in Cape Town at that time. I had gone to a club, that very club. Panza said, ‘Bra Stompie there is a phone call for you. It is Hotep. Hotep is calling’. He said, ‘hey I must meet you’. I said, ‘where are we going to meet?’ He was a professor this guy. Okay we are going to meet at the Parade in Cape Town. So such a such a day and he says don’t worry I will be wearing this. And we met first time. He said, ‘hey I want to do a recording and I am leaving, and first of all we have to make a show. The guys are coming back from the States’. The last show we had at the jazz den was me and Khaya. Trumpet, tenor. Spencer on bass. Him on piano, another guy from America, a coloured guy. That night, the way we were playing on stage, we were running away, the ladies wanted to tear our clothes. I have never seen so many people. Then the last time I worked with him I was in Grahamstown. We were called The Heritage band. The students were all there. They were asking questions like this. They wanted to know what was happening in the old times. I was telling them. There in Cape Town it was me and Khaya. Then at Grahamstown it was me and Barney and him. I don’t know what happened to him because he embraced Islam.
You know Ntemi Piliso the one they named Ntemi Piliso street.
There is Dolly. Aaagh. You see this. You can see it she was still looking after herself. This was a lady. She was supposed to be called Mama Afrika, not Miriam. I know what I am talking about. Miriam only started to be known when she was singing with the Manhattan brothers at Odin. They were really serious. This lady, you can see her smile. She was like that. She reminded me a lot of other American singers, Ethel Waters. Big smile!