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World Treasures Music spoke to Matt Temple from Matsuli Music – a specialist label reissuing priceless vinyl from South Africa. Together with Chris Albertyn, Matt has brought some amazing music to a new audience, igniting a huge interest in South African music at present among collectors.
Their releases include Batsumi’s seminal spiritual jazz albums, Sathima Bea Benjamin’s African Songbird LP (with Dollar Brand), Dick Choza’s Chapita LP and most recently Ndikho Xaba’s holy grail, Ndikho Xaba and the Natives.
WTM – When did you first hear the band Batsumi?
I first heard Batsumi on a compilation called Ouelele, put out by the French label Comet. The master tapes were acquired by Rashid Vally through whom I have licensed a number of reissues. It must have been in 2010 when I first got a copy of the South African issued Batsumi compilation and then a bit later I found a copy of the debut album. I also discovered the documentary Life and Death in Soweto that focuses on the Batsumi bassist, Zulu Bidi.
WTM – What was the reaction of Batsmi’s Johnny Mothopeng when seeing his work brought to the light for a new audience?
Johnny was amazed and so happy for the music to be reissued. As I may have mentioned, the royalty payments he received from Matsuli are ten times what he received back when the records were originally released.
WTM – Did you get to meet anyone from or connected to the band?
WTM – What is your process when you set out to reissue an LP?
Each one is different. Through Rashid Vally we have a large catalogue of material that could be reissued, only not all of it is currently commercially viable. So its a matter of selecting albums that we know are in high demand in collectors circles and working from there.
WTM – How do you monitor ‘collectors circles’?
eBay, Popsike, Soul Strut, Waxidermy, talking to fellow collectors etc.
WTM – Is South African jazz celebrated around the world, have the records been received well?
A number of individuals are celebrated – Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba – but others not so much. The exiled group The Blue Notes have been credited with reinvigorating British Jazz in the late sixties. But there are many individuals and groups that have not received much publicity – for example Batsumi, Kippie Moeketsi and Gideon Nxumalo. To date we have done five releases – primarily on vinyl and these have all done well. Most sales are in Europe and the USA followed by Japan and South Africa.
This would have been at University around 1982. The composition that was a consistent soundtrack to those times was Mannenberg. Around the same time I started visiting Rashid Vally’s record store, Kohinor, in Johannesburg and started collecting South African jazz seriously.
WTM – What Matsuli Music releases are expected in the future?
We have a slight departure for our next release – a contemporary album from classical guitarist Derek Gripper – who plays the music of Toumani Diabate on the guitar. An incredible achievement! Beyond that we are looking at some other recordings from the seventies much in the vein of what we have released to date. It’s tricky to talk about future releases or work in progress as some of these may never come to light for various reasons related to licensing, lack of masters, etc. But its safe to say that we plan some future releases that were originally issued by Rashid Vally’s As-shams (The Sun) label back in the 1970s as well as some lesser classics that today only gather dust on collectors’ shelves.
WTM – How do you manage to track down such an artists, are there challenges?
A combination of social media, following leads and lots of groundwork. The biggest challenge is ensuring that the rights holders are correctly paid. And then there is the small matter of getting access to the original master tapes. I could go on and on!
WTM – Thanks Chris.
For more about Matsuil Music click here to visit them at Bandcamp. Vinyl is 180g and includes unlimited streaming, MP3 download, FLAC and more. This label does a superb job with liner notes, restoration, unseen archive photos, the real deal.
All images courtesy of Matsuli Music.
To listen to a WTM South African jazz mix, click on the Mixcloud link:
World Treasures Music spoke to Rikki IIilonga and Emmanuel Chanda – heavyweights of the Zambian rock scene – and Eothen Alapatt from Now-Again Records, responsible for unearthing and celebrating a range of Zambian LPs.
WTM – Can you describe the sights and sounds of a gig like yours?
Jagari: Sights and sounds of WITCH gigs varied from clubs, concerts (with both standing and sitting audiences), festivals, weddings, Zamrock competitions, during annual agricultural and commercial shows and trade fairs etc. We wore smart, smart casual, rocky and weird attire/we usually played soft sound to moderate and heavy vibes.
Rikki: Depending on venue – some quite intense – but mostly intimate and low key.
WTM – Who or which bands were the biggest influence on you and why?
Rikki: I have always loved guitar music played on a trio platform, so Jimi will always be my God. But of course Cream was equally an influence just as much as Santana still is, but then other music genres like Blues and Soul got a hold, and Osibisa turned on the cross pollination of all, to which I am still hooked.
Jagari: Many pop and rock bands of the 60s-70s in Europe/America/west Africa had some influence on most Zambian bands of the time, because we had limited and similar sources of music such as radio stations e.g. Radio Zambia, beat in Germany and Lorenzo Marces-Maputo (in Mozambique) and BBC. We had very few record shops and companies (Teal Records Co. Zambia Music Parlour) where we bought Beatles, Rolling stones, Ground Funk Rail Road, Deep Purple, Cliff Richard, Led Zepelin. The who, man Fred Mann, Hollies, Yard Birds, Osibisa, Monkeys, Trogs etc.
Rikki (right): I am not sure quite when – but it was at the close of the 90s. I was mostly curious till it happened with Now-Again Records.
Jagari: The first recognition for Zamrock was through the Shadoks label of Germany. They reissued Zambian music illegally – early 2000 and later Stones Throw and Now Again Records normalized the deal of reissues around 2009-2010. This felt good because even though this came rather late (when most musicians from Zamrock era had passed on, it was like a new lease on the Zambian music life-to be recognized world wide. It is being both recognised and appreciated slowly and widely.
WTM – When did you start getting into music and how did this happen?
Rikki: Purely by accident to supplement my pay check in the late 60s – started jamming with some friends in semi pro outfits and eventually decided to give it the whole deal.
Jagari: I started getting into more serious music while in my fourth form, at school in 1971-and rather unplanned. School mates and other friends encouraged me to take up music seriously after they recognized my talent during school social gatherings e.g. ballroom dance and variety shows. I also jammed with local bands like the Boy Fiends (to become the Peace), Red Balloons and Black Souls.
WTM – Why has Zamrock remained so secret outside of Zambia until recently?
Jagari: Zamrock has not remained secret really – there many negative factors at play for this e.g. no serious music promoters locally, facilitates like concert halls and other venues, have been turned into different business ventures, most Zamrock musicians have since passed on, vinyl records and their play back machines (record players) went out of circulation many years ago, musical instruments are not only hard to come by but are also out of reach for many musicians.
Rikki: I think it is due to the fact that it was not recorded in good quality studios and most of the producers of the time did not know how they could go about marketing it.In a way, they were satisfied with the regional status quo.
WTM – How do you spend your time now?
Jagari: Well, now I spend my time doing something quite different from my music career. I Mine Gemstones with a hope to raise funds for a recording studio, a music academy and a band. Sadly, I have not lived as I should – a performing artiste, in a long time.
Rikki: Still writing and producing music, and taking care of my land.
Jagari: Once a while, I adjudicate music competitions and give talks on various music topics to young people.
WTM – Any new releases or performances coming up?
Jagari: I recently performed in 2012 and 2013, I performed Zamrock in France and United States, California. It was well received and I hope I could have more tours in various parts of the world to promote Zamrock and make some money for my family.
Rikki: Yeah, aim to release a package of my demos soon (laughs).
Jagari: I have my new album stuff almost ready for recording (but I would love to record in a high standard studio, and such studios are rare here unless maybe in South Africa, Europe or America).
World Treasures Music is eternally grateful to Eothen ‘Egon’ Alapatt from Now-Again Records for setting up these interviews. He has tireless compiled, researched and reissued many Zamrock releases. WTM spoke to him about his fascination with Zambian music.
I’d heard some amazing songs by Paul Ngozi and the Ngozi Family, Amanaz and WITCH by the time I reached out to Rikki Ililonga about making a concerted effort to legitimately reissue some of the landmark records in the genre. What surprised me was the amount of Zamrock that seemed to exist – and how varied and awesome it all was. I’d had some friends who spent time in Zambia and were sharing files with me, and I had some other friends who were just ahead enough of the curve to purchase these records when they showed up with little indication of the scene they’d sprung from (even the noted funk collector Phillipe Lehman had a pristine copy of Amanaz, and I’m pretty sure he bought it in the early ’90s). So just the idea that a band like WITCH could do something like “Introduction” and then “Lazy Bones,” or that Paul Ngozi could do something like “I’ve Been Looking For You” and then “House of Fear” lead me to believe that there must be a ton of stuff worth seeking out. Turns out I was right – the first package that Rikki Ililonga sent to me (about fifteen LP’s and a handful of 7s) really blew my mind. It was hard to believe, as I hit up every rock collector I knew of, from Hans Pokora to Geoffrey Weiss, real deal OG know-everything type guys, that they’d only heard of a handful of the records – and not even the really heavy ones, like “Day of Judgement”, the first Ngozi Family album.
WTM – What’s coming up in the future – Zamrock wise?
We just issued an expanded issue of Paul Ngozi’s “Day of Judgement” with rare bonus tracks, which I’m hoping to follow with a comprehensive survey of the entire scene (“Welcome To Zamrock”), a proper Paul Ngozi retrospective, a reissue of The Peace’s “Black Power,” an expanded issue of Amanaz’s “Africa” and a Mike Nyoni/Born Free anthology.
I think that this scene was rather isolated back in the 70s – none of the Zamrock stars made the impact that, say, Fela did on an international scale. This was Zambian music made for Zambians. And the records are rare as a result. With the exception of a couple international licenses – Keith Mlevhu and Mike Nyoni spring to mind – in the late 70s, most of these records were pressed in Zambia, sold to Zambians, and, as a result, had relatively small press runs. Then, then the music industry crumbled in the 80s and 90s, the records seemed to become viewed as disposable, old commodities: they weren’t collected, or appreciated, by more than a small few. Zamrock became something of the past, especially as many of the genre’s forefathers died, and the ephemera and artifacts left by the scene were discarded – except for those held, for example, by someone like Jagari Chanda from WITCH, who maintained his band’s archives as best he could, or someone like Timmy Mvula, who kept his record collection from his DJ hey-day. Of course, some of the studios – like DB – kept copies of their archives, but it’s not like anyone even knew what to ask for: prior to me interviewing Jagari, extensively, over months, was I able to piece together something resembling a discography for WITCH – and they were one of the genre’s biggest bands.
Rikki and Jagari were extremely helpful – Ben Phiri and Leonard Koloka too. Invaluable, really. They’ve helped piece together the last signposts of this scene, connect me with the necessary parties, and kickstart a real resurgence of this scene.
See Eothen in action on the digging, interviewing and discovery trail: Zamrock: An Introduction (Red Bull Music Acadmey)
Were you there at the pinnacle of the Zamrock scene? Did you play in other Zamrock bands? Please get in touch at email@example.com
Batsumi! High spiritual jazz.
The dance dynamite of Shangaan from the townships: