Basil Coetzee, Taliep Petersen books for posterity in the pipeline

Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee, seated centre, with American jazzmen Harold Land, left, and Blue Mitchell, and Abdullah Ibrahim, standing. The photo is a studio shot when they were recording the album Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro in Johannesburg in 1979.

Music-lovers with a strong interest in the lives and careers of legends Taliep Petersen and Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee, and top band The Flames may soon have books and a film documentary to remind them of their idols.

In recent months this blog has become aware of an academic in Cape Town working on the life story of Taliep Petersen and another academic in Belgium doing something similar with regard to Basil Coetzee.

There is a film unit working out of Cape Town and Europe charting the success story of the popular Sixties group, The Flames.

This blog was set up primarily to document, in a little more detail than just your average newspaper piece, the stories of our leading entertainers who had their beginnings in the Sixties and Seventies.

Back then, record-keeping was not a priority and few artists had the foresight to track their careers. We do not know what kick-started things for the likes of Leslie Kleinsmith, Sophia Foster, Dizu Plaatjies, The Rockets.

No music schools. Not many role models or mentors. A day job to ensure a steady income. Times were hard. And still they succeeded.

The younger generation needs to know that.

So, to see works in progress detailing the lives of these people is praiseworthy.

Researcher Milton van Wyk who is working on a Basil Coetzee biography.

Milton van Wyk, a Capetonian now living in Ghent in Belgium has taken it upon himself to write a biographical work on Basil Coetzee.

He studied music at UCT at the same time as Richard Ceasar. After obtaining his degree his did his honours via UNISA. He is a classically trained pianist and, whilst never performing in a group, he did accompany singers and the Langa Adult Choir.

His first foray into doing research work on entertainers came about by chance.

“When I was doing my honours degree, I intended doing something classical in vein,” he recalls. “But, as it happened, I had met Robbie Jansen shortly before my discussion with my lecturer and I mentioned it to her in passing. She suggested I do a biography on Robbie.

“I like biographies; it is one of my favourite literature formats, and I thought ‘why not?’ It was a bit of struggle because, firstly, Robbie had to play ball and secondly, he couldn’t remember most things. As he put it, his head was like cheese – full of holes.

“I kept having to go to someone else to get information. I got up to about 75 pages on Robbie as a research paper and it ended up being very informal and kind of chatty. He didn’t give me much material to work with.”

“I submitted it because that was the intention of the research paper but on reflection, I wasn’t happy with it. You can’t do justice to the life of a person like Robbie without sitting down with hundreds of people, interviewing them in detail, comparing notes, filling in the blanks.”

The decision to do a biographical work on Basil Coetzee was sparked by his move to obtain his Masters degree.

“I saw it as a natural progression from the Robbie Jansen work. My masters dissertation is titled Manenberg Is Where It’s Happening. I’ve always admired Basil’s sound. It is a crucial part of the South African soundscape and he certainly defined Cape music for a number of years.

Pacific Express drummer Jack Momple . . . a confidante of Basil Coetzee.

Milton has already spoken to a number of people who were close to Basil, including drummer Jack Momple with whom he played in Pacific Express, Robbie Jansen before his death a few years ago, and music promoter Paddy Lee-Thorp.

“My early impressions, judging from the interviews, was that Basil was a talented but insecure musician. People in the industry who worked with him found him to be level-headed and a voice of reason within in the group.”

Milton has no information on Basil’s time with Sixties group Respect that came just before he joined Pacific Express. It was with Respect that Basil received his first significant exposure in packed nightclubs playing soul, funk and underground music.

“I have absolutely nothing about that period and would like to speak to people who were around him at that time.

“At this stage, the first time Basil features in the bio is when he is playing pennywhistle. Robbie says he was part of the Kwela Kids, but Errol Dyers says no. I’ve documented it but say there is a difference of opinion on that.”

Milton says he would love to speak to Abdullah Ibrahim with whom Basil featured on the Mannenberg LP and that really put him on the map in Cape Town.

“I’d also like to speak to contemporaries like Issy Ariefdien, and Lionel Beukes.”

He is trying to wrap up the project by September-October.

This blog will have more detail about the Taliep Petersen project and The Flames documentary next mmonth.

If you have any anecdotal stories about Basil Coetzee – be it about his personal life or his music – that will add value to Milton van Wyk’s research, please feel free to contact the blog or Milton. It is important that the legacy Basil Coetzee left behind be recorded in as much detail as possible.

Related articles:

Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee . . . a prophet way before his time

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Jack Momple’s big birthday bash, then to Borneo with Cape Jazz Band

Jack Momple . . . doing the what comes naturally. After his big birthday next weekend he taking to Cape Jazz Band to Borneo.

23 April 2017

It’s drummer Jack Momple’s birthday later this week. It’s a significant one. It’s a BIG one. It’s a biblical one.

It’s one where you would expect him to be putting up his feet and, taking a diep skyf and looking back on a fulfilling career that started way back in the Sixties.

But no, shortly after the big birthday bash his family is planning, Jack, along with other members of the Cape Jazz Band, will be jetting off to Borneo for that country’s international ethno-jazz festival.

Jack will have Ramon Alexander on keyboards, Spencer Mbadu on bass, Marco Maritz or trumpet, Heinrich Frans on vocals and percussion, Mark Fransman on saxophone and guitar, and Shaun Duval on saxophone.

The Borneo Jazz Festival will feature jazz bands from Asia and Europe. It is a feather in our cap for a Cape Town jazz band to be invited to such a prestigious gig.

The Cape Jazz Band, although a loose arrangement of musicians, has a permanent leader in Jack and producer Paddy Lee-Thorp. It has been around for about 10 years and initially featured the late Robbie Jansen.

It was created as an informal jazz school for up-and-coming musos to learn about jazz as an art form and the nascent genre, Cape jazz that has ghoema as a central element.

Ten years ago the Cape Jazz Band performed at the Genting Jazz Festival in Malaysia. That group featured rising stars Jonathan Rubain, Kyle Shepherd and Cameron Ward. Now it has newbies in Marco and Heinrich.

The group’s last recording, Musical Democracy, has been a big hit in Cape Town.

According to Ramon, the patrons at Borneo will be treated to the likes of Basil Coetzee and Robbie Jansen compositions and other material from the Mountain Records catalogue – and Musical Democracy of course.

Saxophonist Sean Duvall . . . heading to Borneo with the Cape Jazz Band.

Although he has other interests now – like sculpting, building and farming on a small scale – Jack still does regular gigs around Cape Town with whoever is looking for a drummer with his experience.“I’ve done lots of corporate gigs lately,” he said. “One organisation saw a video on YouTube of our performance in Malaysia in 2007 and hired us.

“This Borneo gig, is just another trip. It doesn’t faze me. My band can play anywhere in the world as far as I’m concerned.”

Healthwise, Jack says he is as fit as a fiddle bar a glaucoma condition that is impairing his vision and hampers his driving ability a bit.

“I’m not ready to retire. It’s not about age. It’s what you can still do before you die, that’s what counts. I know a lot of guys who are sitting in front of the TV and the computer, seeing out their last days . . . they walk down a flight of stairs puffing.

“As far as I’m concerned, their lives are over, they’re just oxygen thieves.”

Jack was a founder member of Pacific Express back in the Seventies and has played with the various incarnations of the group over the years.

The last time Express played was at the Cape Town Jazz Festival in 2014. Does he think the Pacific Express is history?

“Maybe, maybe. But the music will live on. In fact, Heinrich will be doing a few of the Express songs at the Borneo gig.”

We are playing mostly from the Mountain records catalogue, some Basil Coetzee’s Umlazi, Sabenza’s CT Blues, Robbie’s Versions of Georgia and What’s Going on, Hoya-tjie-Bongo, and obviously some tunes that this CJB released in 2013.

For Ramon, the Borneo festival will be his first overseas trip where the primary purpose is to play music.

Saxophonist Shaun Duvall (son of Baby Duvall who was the guitarist and singer with The Flames before Blondie Chaplin) is back in the line-up, after previously joining Jack for Genting.

And if you’re around Jack anytime on Saturday, April 29, lay one on him for a happy 70th birthday!!

One of the iterations of the Cape Jazz Band. In the picture, at the back are Heinrich Frans, Spencer Mbadu, Allou April, Jack Momple and Mark Fransman. In front are Marco Maritz and Ramon Alexander. Shaun Duvall replaces Allou for the Borneo gig.

 

See also:

Who is Jack Momple . . . and why do they say such nice things about him?

Wine-maker Ramon Alexander . . . don’t give up your night job!

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Issy Ariefdien finds his mojo again — thanks to Ivor Wagner

Issy Ariefdien and Ivor Wagner, legends from the Sixties and Seventies with top group Respect, may be doing duets again soon.

1 April 2017

Top guitarists Issy Ariefdien and Ivor Wagner – legends of the ’60s and ’70s – are on the verge of teaming up again after playing their last gig together almost 50 years ago.

Yeah, you say, check the date. Nice try. April Fool!!

Anything but, folks. True dat. Both Issy and Ivor confirmed this week that they have been jamming for private enjoyment these last few weeks and there is a distinct possibility they’ll be looking to go public soon – very soon.

Both musicians are now in their early Seventies and, to all intents and purposes, had given away public performances.

Issy’s last major gig was a Pacific Express reunion performance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival in 2015. He says he had to deal with some serious health issues around that time and basically packed his guitars away.

Ivor in recent years had returned to Cape Town in retirement after decades in London where he had practised as a barrister and, as a sideline, performed as a solo guitarist.

Both Issy and Ivor were high-profile guitarists in the Sixties. Ivor started out with the Big Beats, then the top band in Peninsula, and Issy was with the Magnets, an Elsies River group noted for the exceptional vocals.

Ivor Wagner as he was in his days with the Big Beats in the mid-Sixties.

In 1968, when soul music and underground was popular, they found themselves playing for Respect with drummer Noel Kistimar, bassist Mel da Silva, guitarist Issy Mohamed and vocalist Tyrone McCranus. They were hot. Issy was on lead guitar and Ivor on organ and they were trendsetters at the time

The group folded in the early ’70s and contact between Ivor and Issy was minimal while they pursued separate careers.

Then came the social visits earlier this year.

Issy explains: “Ivor had popped around a few times and brought his guitar along probably to entertain me because I was in a bad place. I was blown away with what he was doing.

“Then one day he said he was coming around and he told me to have my guitar out. Well, the truth is, for the past couple of years, I haven’t even listened to music even though I was told it was therapeutic for me.

“I have so much good music on my iPod, jazz and what have you, but after so long in a dark place, I had lost my mojo.

“But Ivor inspires me. I have been in awe of him ever since those days when he was playing those Shadows numbers with Big Beats.

“We wouldn’t have a problem putting together a repertoire. When we were jamming he was playing these lovely old standards like Autumn Leaves and some pop stuff.

“I do a couple of jazz tunes and he was impressed with my version of Take Five on the six-string bass.

“It’ll work out because he plays solo guitar, I can play bass solo and I can accompany him with the bass. And I can sing jazz standards.

“Even now, without practising, I am quite confident we can put together a 45-minute to one-hour set.”

Ivor was equally ecstatic about the prospect of sharing a stage publicly with his one-time fellow band member.

“His experience and my experience are two totally different experiences but we can bring the two together and produce something reasonable.

“A photo of the two of us that appeared on social media sparked this interest for us to play publicly. Initially, all I wanted to do was hang out with Issy and play a few tunes.

“Issy is a much more modern player than I am. I am very old fashioned.   He likes what I do and of course Issy is an all-round brilliant musician and singer. He is so talented, it’s unbelievable.

“We have now jammed to or three times with other people around us. I think we have to get together on our own without any distractions and actually get to work things out between us.

“There is that is the keenness on the part of both of us. We want to play publicly and the lovely thing is, Issy seems to have woken up. And if I’ve been a catalyst in that respect, I’m very pleased to have been able to do that.

“He and I will start rehearsing after Easter.”

So, no April Fool’s Day joke. It’s a happening thing. Watch this space.

You can read more about Ivor Wagner and his career here.

Issy Ariefdien, on right, with Respect in 1968. Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Ismail Mohamed is in front, bassist Mel Da Silva behind him and Noel Kistamar is on drums.

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Thandi Klaasen . . . honouring her memory on International Women’s Day

Thandi Klaasen, who died recently, deserves to be remembered as we celebrate International Women’s Day today.

8 March 2017

Today is International Women’s Day with the theme #BeBoldForChange. It is a day in which we highlight the struggle for women’s rights and acknowledge the important role of women in our society.

This blog could think of no better way to honour this day than to pay tribute to the memory of Thandi Klaasen who died in January this year. She died an icon of South African entertainment, revered as one of our leading jazz singers and honoured by government at the highest level.

But it wasn’t an easy road. In truth, it was a struggle of epic proportions. She fought for her place in the sun in a male dominated industry. She overcame adversity. She proved the gentler sex was as tough as nails and the equal of any man.

At her burial she received the send-off befitting an entertainer of her stature. In a funereal sort of way, it was all glitz and glamour. Sombre, stylish, elegant and upbeat in places.

Yet, life most times was far from stylish and elegant for the 86-year-old jazz diva who died after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer.

Thandi came from very humble roots in Johannesburg’s Sophiatown, a place that held the same place in people’s hearts as Cape Town’s District 6.

In the social and cultural milieu that was a politically switched on Sophiatown, Thandi learnt the art of survival and succeeding, the latter if only in the context of apartheid South Africa.

In her youth she sang in church choirs before linking in the Fifties with a couple of vocal groups like the Quad Sisters, Gaieties and the Haarlem Swingsters who were all into the very popular swing jazz sound of that time.

It was the start of a singing career that would span six decades and see her perform with SA women of note like Miriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe, Sophie Mgcina.

She went on to perform in the internationally acclaimed black South African play, King Kong and worked in London for her while. She also lived temporarily in Canada with her singer daughter Lorraine where she used to address gatherings about her life in apartheid South Africa.

But her comfort zone was the stage in Southern Africa – from the clubs in Cape Town in the Sixties and Seventies to the cabaret circuit in the neighbouring states.

Thandi Klaasen enthralling another member of the audience at one of her performances in the Beverley Lounge in the early Seventies.

It was here she thrilled audiences with her excitement-plus performances. She did not let a badly disfigured face – the result of burns inflicted in a brutal attack in her young days – hold her back.

Journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven and author of the top selling novel Keeper of The Kumm that also dealt a women’s struggle in a male-dominated environment was one who knew Thandi well. So too did two of Cape Town’s best known entertainers, Terry Fortune and Dave Bestman. All had decades-long friendships with Thandi. She left an indelible mark on all three.

Sylvia says she first met Thandi Klaasen at the iconic 70s jazz joint in Athlone called The Beverley Lounge. Terry, just starting on his own career, and Thandi were on the bill.

“Terry was making a spectacular phonetic mess of the Click Song (one of Thandi’s signature tunes at the time). I was so tense when I saw that Thandi was on the bill because I had helped Terry cobble together the lyrics by listening to a Makeba album, over and over,” Sylvia recalled.

“But Thandi laughed long and loud at the fake Xhosa. We all joined in as if she had given us permission to laugh at our neuroses about not speaking black languages.

“It was probably the only time in the decades I knew her that she made me relax.

“Encounters with Thandi were always robust affairs . . . sometimes great, sometimes bruising but never ever boring.

“One time she stood up on stage at the Artscape Theatre with her left arm in a cast. She told the audience that her close friend had fought with her and broke her arm. And then out of the blue she mentioned me by name and gave a version of a drunken fall in my kitchen that was pure fantasy.

“But it was an entertaining fantasy that had the audience eating out of her plastered hand.

“There were times that I wished I had never met her. Then there were times when the gentle, vulnerable and extremely humble side of Thandi would creep up on me and catch me unawares.

Then of course she would get up on that stage and love coupled with adoration was my only option. She gave big chunks of herself when she performed and when the curtain came down she made huge demands on everyone close to her.

Journalist and author Sylvia Vollenhoven

“Paying tribute to Thandiwe Klaasen (she always liked it when I used her full name because that’s what her mother called her) is not easy. Thandi was not easy. She was the quintessential artist . . . tempestuous, selfish, delightful and plagued by a destructive streak that constantly threatened to get the better of her.

“Few people realise that in the background there was always one person who constantly came to pick up the pieces, who made sure she had a gig when she was particularly down, who was with her until the end . . . Lorraine Klaasen who looks remarkably like her mother and is an international artist in her own right, was way more than just a dutiful daughter.

“Over the years she played the role of agent, financial manager and tough-love counsellor when the drinking threatened to get out of hand. I doubt that Thandi, who was always hovering on the edge, would have held it all together over the years if it were not for her daughter.

“So a tribute to Thandi almost has to be a tribute to Lorraine at the same time.”

Terry admits he was in awe of Thandi when she performed at The Beverley Lounge in Athlone.

“I wasn’t even an entertainer then but I made sure she knew who I was,” Terry recalled.

“We became really good friends when our paths crossed on the cabaret circuit and became even closer when she shared digs with me in London. It was a one-room bedsitter and we had to share the bed!

“We also shared lots of bottles of Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels. Thandi loved a good time and she would cast inhibition to the wind when she got going.

“On her 50th birthday in London, we went out and partied hard. On our way home in the train, well-oiled, Thandi felt the need to go. There was no way she could hold her pee in, so she simply said, ‘Terry, hou dop vi’ my’, and let it all hang out in the aisle. That was Thandi, living life on the edge.”

Terry’s tribute on his Facebook page read: “Thandi was special, she was a great performer and lived life to the full, her rendition of My Funny Valentine will stay with me always love you Sister. RIP”

Dave Bestman was another who also saw all sides of Thandi Klaasen. “She was one helluva person and a helluva singer,” he said. “I worked with her back in the day and she could certainly work a crowd.

“One of the things I admired most about her was she wasn’t shy to give you her opinion, whether you wanted to hear it or not.

“I don’t know how many times I heard her tell anyone who cared to listen that South African singers were as good, if not better, than the overseas acts. She would say, quite strongly: ‘why would you want to get Tina Turner here, when you’ve got me’.

Click on the image to enlarge to read text.

“That is the type of person she was – she believed in herself and her ability and that of other South African performers.”

I too was on the receiving end of Thandi’s sharp tongue. As a young journalist with the Cape Post I had to interview her when she appeared in Cape Town on the Adam Wade show.

I made my way to the Retreat Hotel where she was staying and stood at the open door not sure when whether to go in.

Wat staan djy by die fokken deur, come in! If you have questions, ask them.”

It was also on the Adam Wade show that she had her memorable heart attack on stage. Some say she had made a remarkable recovery by the next day.

That was Thandi. She performed in London, was honoured with a Woman of Distinction Award in Canada but was firmly rooted in South Africa.

On International Women’s Day we should remember a personality like Thandi Klaasen who lived life to the fullest but when the chips were down, fought hard for equal standing in a very unequal society. She was bold and she fought for change.

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Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee . . . a prophet way before his time

Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee, saxophonist, flautist, blowing up a storm as he always did.

It’s February 2.  Basil Coetzee’s birthday today.  He would have been 73 years old had he not succumbed to cancer back in 1998.

He was just 54 then and probably at his most creative as a musician. It was such an exciting time in his life too.  He had found his “inner self” as he told me in an interview back in 1983.  He was  put on a pedestal, idolised even, because of his contribution to Abdullah Ibrahim’s  (Dollar Brand) seminal work, Manenberg, which featured Basil’s very moving sax playing.

Some say it wasn’t so much Dollar’s hypnotic  keyboard rhythms that made Manenberg the rallying cry of the turbulent times of student unrest on the Cape Flats in the Seventies and Eighties, but Basil’s strident, raunchy tones on his tenor sax.

It was a pure township sound that people  identified with. It was Basil’s sound. Although he was born in Bloemhof Flats in District 6, when that community was dispossessed, Basil and wife Mary went to live  in Manenberg. Bleak,desolate, barren Manenberg.

But it gave us Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee.  Basil, and his good friend Robbie, fired up the  huge protest crowds that filled Civic halls around Cape Town with Manenberg.  The tune reached anthem status.

I first met Basil back in May 1970 when he joined Respect, then the trendsetter group that thrilled fans with the more serious sounds of Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Clapton’s Cream and Spooky Tooth. It was here he first teamed up with Issy Ariefdien and Jack Momple. Then he was simply “B’ to one and all.

When Respect floundered, “B” and Issy and Jack teamed up with Robbie Jansen, Georgie Carelse and James Macdonald to form Pacific Express (after kicking out one or two of the orginal Pacifics band — they simply took over!)

The original Pacific Express group formed  in the early Seventies. At the back from left are, Paul Abrahams (bass), James Macdonald, (trumpet), Jack Momple (drums) Issy Ariefdien (guitar), and Basil Coetzee. Seated in front are Georgie Carelse and Robbie Jansen. The bloke between them played horns briefly. Anyone remember his name?

Express  developed something of a cult  following as a jazz-leaning band but Basil moved  on. The Manenberg album with  Dollar, recorded in 1974, had  stirred something inside him and he did some serious soul-searching about his music direction.

In a quite revealing and candid interview I did with him in September 1983, he was quite emphatic: “People call me a jazz musician. I am not a jazz musician, I am a musician who plays African music.”

He  admitted that he never really liked the music he played with Respect and  Express.

“All the years I played with groups like Respect and Pacific Express, it was a matter of survival: playing for the pay cheque at the end of the month. It seemed that all we were doing was waiting for some group’s next album to come out, buy it and the sheet music and then thrill the crowds with it. It was destroying me.” [Click on the  image to read the full interview]

That was more than 30 years ago when he spoke out. I still seem to be hearing that sentiment today. Hilton Schilder said virtually the same thing in his interview recently.

Basil’s “conversion”, as it were,  gave us  three  albums in his name — Sebenza, Monwabisi and B. That is part of his legacy. We should  honour. it.

Happy Birthday “B”. Thanks for the memory. Listen carefully to the original Manenberg recording and you’ll hear Dollar Brand’s statement at the end: “Julle kan maa’ New  York toe gaan, ons bly innie Manenberg.”

Says it all, doesn’t it

 

Basil Coetzee opens up in an interview in 1983, revealing he did not want to be known as a “jazz” musician. Click on the image to enlarge the type.

And here’s a picture for posterity. Basil Coetzee is second from left. Check the others in the caption. Click on the image to enlarge  the type.

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‘Kef’ Links . . . Hey Mr Bass Man, you’ve got that certain something

The cast of Carnival a la District 6, one of the first musicals Howard Links was involved with. Links is just behind Madeegha Anders in the front row. The others in the picture are (front row): Cyril Valentine,”Baby” Vardien and Davy “The Whistler” Claasen. Second row: Terry Smith, Dave Bestman, Dotty Forbes, Claude Fry, Joyce Skefu, Salie Davids. Back row: Solly Junior, Connie Chiume, Ebrahim Petersen and Taliep Petersen. The show was presented in 1979 at the Royal Swazi Spa.

 

Mr. Bass Man, you’ve got that certain somethin’
Mr. Bass Man, you set that music thumpin’
To you it’s easy when you go 1-2-3, d-d-be -bop-a-bop
(Bass voice: You mean be -be -BOP-p-p-bop bop bop…)

28 October 2016

Howard “Kef” Links, the bass man with that deep voice and that “certain something” died last weekend at the age of 66 prompting an outpouring of grief on social media from hundreds of his peers in the local music industry.

Links was a larger than life figure on the Cape Town music scene going back to the late Sixties when he started out as a bassist in a pop band in Athlone.

Last Saturday, his “soul brother” and best friend for the last 30 years, guitarist Gammie Lakay, broke the news on Facebook that Links had passed away.

It was well known that Links had not been well for a long time and, apart from having a serious heart condition, he also suffered with other health issues.

Links was held in high esteem by his fellow musicians and performers. To audiences though, he was less well known. He was the bassist in the backing band.

Since every performer’s life is almost certain to be documented somewhere on the web, I thought I would Google Howard “Kef” Links to see what he has been up to since I last saw him more than 30 years ago.

Nothing. Zero. Zilch on the web. Yet, every big name entertainer in Cape Town was in awe of him.

Hey Mr Bass Man, you've got that certain somethin' . . .

Hey Mr Bass Man, you’ve got that certain somethin’ . . .

I first met Links back in the late Sixties and then already I got an insight into this humble man with the deep – very deep – voice, who always seemed to have something quirky to say under his breath and always at the expense of one of his fellow musicians.

He was born in Athlone and started playing with a group called the Alphens, which was led by Alfie Jansen, brother of the local beauty queen Pearl Jansen. [Jay Jay (Jayson King) says he was actually in a group called the Cavaliers first.]

By the early Seventies, according to singer Leslie Kleinsmith, he was in a group called the Playboys with Taliep Petersen, the Fry brothers Claude and Cecil, and Ebrahim Petersen, doing gigs in white night clubs in Cape Town.

The link with Taliep was to continue for years to come. Links was to become an integral part of whatever Taliep did.

Taliep’s first wife, Madheega (Velma) Anders, says she first met Links when she was a 17-year-old singer starting out on an entertainment career.

“He was involved in all the musicals – Carnival a la District 6, District 6 the Musical, Ghoema, Kat and The Kings — that we put together.” she said.

“I had so much respect for the man, for what he stood for. He was very humble but stood firm in what he believed in musically. If he felt something had to be done in a certain way, he made sure that the artist knew what he wanted.”

Anders made special reference to the connection between Taliep, Lakay and Links.

“Taliep, Kef and Gammie, they had this incredible bond both musically and as brothers. On stage, if something went wrong, all Taliep had to do was give them a look and they’d know what to do.

“Kef had a pacemaker fitted recently and did not play much of late, but musicians still flocked to his place for advice.”

For Gammie Lakay, his friend’s death was a devastating blow. The two had been inseparable since the mid-Eighties.

“We did so many things together, we shared so many brilliant moments. I just find it so hard to take in that he isn’t around any longer,” Lakay said.

“It would take me a lifetime to tell you about all those magic moments but two things stand out. The time we went to Malaysia with Taliep and our last trip to New York last year.

“In Malaysia, the people were kinda shocked to see two black people in their midst. When the cast met the king, Kef whispered in his gruff voice ‘when the king faints from the shock of seeing two such black people, we rifle his pockets!’ That was typical of his peculiar humour.

“We played the famed Carnegie Hall last year in a group put together by David Kramer as part of a cultural event. For Kef, that was the highlight of his career. He just kept going on about wanting to see America before he died.

“I’ll miss those silly moments with him – like when he insisted on coming to my hotel room at the dead of night to make a cup of tea and to tell me that we were the last of the old models, they’ve thrown away the mold.”

Hey Mr Bass Man, you set that music thumpin' . . .

Hey Mr Bass Man, you set that music thumpin’ . . .

Lakay said Links was a self-taught musician who knew his instruments – the bass guitar, banjo and mandolin – inside out. His performances and influence stretched from pop and jazz bands to coon and Malay choir appearances.

Did Links sing? “No, if he had to it would simply be a Barry White number, his voice was that gruff.”

Dave Bestman, veteran entertainer who has been performing and living in Botswana since the Seventies said Links’ passing would leave a void that is going to be hard to fill. “Let me put it plainly . . . I come to Cape Town every year because it is where my family is. When I arrive, I go straight to Kef’s place and that is where my family has to fetch me. We could sit for hours and just enjoy each other’s company.

Richard Jon Smith also paid tribute to Links on his Facebook page: “Howie and I were great school friends, in fact my sisters were good friends with the entire Links family since I can remember. He was always a great inspiration to me through our school concert days at DRC Crawford. I will never forget you my dearest friend HOWARD. R.I.P and from me and my family, our sincerest condolences to your loving family. I can just see you entering the ‘GATES’ with your guitar over your shoulder as I remember you fondly, praising the Lord with your family all the way with Thornton Road on Sundays to church. I miss you already my friend. Shalom 2 U. Your friend Richard Jon Smith.”

Pianist Onyx Phillips summed up the legacy of Howard “Kef” Links: “From coon troupe to Carnegie.”

[Sotto voce, in a deep voice] “My broer, djy was die laaste vannie Mohicans.”

[Put cursor over pictures to see  captions]

Mr Bass Man by Johnny Cymbal

 

Mr. Bass Man, you’ve got that certain somethin’
Mr. Bass Man, you set that music thumpin’
To you it’s easy when you go 1-2-3, d-d-be -bop-a-bop
(Bass voice: You mean be -be -BOP-p-p-bop bop bop…)
Yeah!

Mr. Bass Man, you’re on all the songs
be -did-did-a-boom-boom, be -dit-dit-a-boom-boom-bom
Hey Mr. Bass Man, you’re the hidden King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, d-d-be -bop-a-bop
(Bass voice: No no, be -be -BOP-p-p-bop bop bop…)

It don’t mean a thing when the lead is singin’
Or when he goes “Hi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yah”
Hey Mr. Bass Man, I’m askin’ just one thing:
Will you teach me? Yeah, will you sing?
‘Cause Mr. Bass Man, I want to be a bass man too, d-d-be -bop-a-bop
(Bass voice: Try this, be -be -BOP-p-p-bop bop bop…)
Hey Mr. Bass Man, I think I’m really with it
be -did-did-a-boom-boom, a-boom-boom-be -dit-dit-dit-dit
c’mon, Mr. Bass Man, now I’m a bass man too, d-d-be -bop-a-bop
(Bass voice: That’s it, be -be -BOP-p-p-bop bop bop…)

Songwriters: Johnny H. Cymbal

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZr8iReEqMQ

Mr. Bass Man lyrics © Obo Apra/Amcos

Apart from the Carnival a la District 6 photo, all others sourced, with thanks,  from Facebook pages.

Links’ funeral will be held on Sunday 30 October at 9am  at Rosewood Primary school hall corner Bonteheuwel Ave and Redberry Street. 

Material in this blog is copyrighted. Any reproduction requires permission.

 

Electronic rap? It’s Not Pop, Gang. Really, it is Not Pop Gang!

 

Electronic rap group Not Pop Gang .˘.˘. in front, from left, are Pumzy Pityana (Buddy Styler) and Nick Andrews (Li’l Nick). At the back are Max Hurn (Max Kicks), Rob Buckton (Rob Vega) and Spencer  Santon (Sponz). 

Not Pop Gang is an electronic rap group starting out in Cape Town. They’re young, fresh, keen, ambitious and typical of the new breed of musicians coming through.Now this blog, as one of it’s main objectives, was set up to profile and follow the careers of entertainers who have achieved a certain status on the local scene – “legends” as it were, even if there are those who want to deride the term.

But, on reflection, and since this is my blog and I write what I like (when I like!), I thought, “why limit it to the past, let’s look to the future as well”. Some of these youngsters coming through could well be legends in time to come.

Having spent a few weeks in the shadows of my favourite mountain recently, I was struck by the many opportunities available to the younger generation to equip themselves with formal theory as they embark on music careers. This wasn’t the case with our “legends” who, in the main, were self-taught.

Apart from the great strides being made in schools and universities with musical education, we also have academies such as Camillo Lombard’s Cape Music Institute in Athlone and Soul Candi, the home of house music in South Africa, they claim.

Soul Candi brings me back to Not Pop Gang. It is there that the group is getting its grounding in music but not on the conventional instruments like guitar or piano or saxophone. Their “instrument” of choice is termed a DAW, a digital audio workstation.

At the Observatory studio, the members of Not Pop Gang – Spencer Santon (stage name Sponz), Nick Andrews (Lil Nick), Max Hurn (Max Kicks), Pumzy Pityana (Buddy Styler) and Robin Buckton (Rob Vega) – start and finish their compositions and recordings on desktop computers. Actually, sometimes it starts with a voice note on their mobile phones.

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The group has been together for 18 months. All have a common love for electronic sounds and rap music. So, as Sponz says, it’s “electronic rap, it’s alternative music, basically everything that’s not pop culture, hence the name Not Pop Gang”. Santon, incidentally, is the son of Robin Santon  who is well known in deejay circles in Cape Town for the last 30-odd years and is now much in demand as an audio-visual technician at big stage shows. Robin learnt his craft as part of the Audio-Visual Creations team led by Tubby Welby-Solomon  back in the ’70s and ’80s.

The five either went to school together where they dabbled in beat box stuff and deejaying or hooked up at Soul Candi where they decided to continue their passion for the love of electronic music and rap.

“We studied music production and music theory and we graduated together. Soul Candi specialised in house music and that’s what they taught because it tied in with their record label,” Santon said. “But you could apply the teaching we received to other genres as well and that’s what we did.

“When they gave us that leeway to do our own thing, I began listening to Max and Pumzy’s beats quite a lot and I was influenced by them. We started composing tunes jointly.

“It must have been alright because other students at Soul Candi started playing our stuff.”

Andrews, who had been singing with the group Forefront, and Buckton teamed up with them and they started doing gigs together but not in any organised fashion.

Not Pop Gang’s first real gig was a signal moment in their short existence. “Our very first engagement was for an organisation called Don’t Mind The Bass or DMTB, as they prefer to be called,” Andrews said.

“They were hosting a party at a venue called the Imperial in Long Street. DMTB approached us and said they had heard some of our stuff even though we weren’t really known in their circles.

“It was a gamble actually. We knocked ’em out, we couldn’t believe it. The guys who were on before us were playing stuff that had the crowd just chillin’. When we came on, we floored them, doing our signature stuff, all own compositions.”

change

One of Not Pop Gang’s compositions, Change. Click on image to to enlarge.

The group’s stage performance brings that little extra into play instead of the straight deejaying routine.

“We have the bass guitar and Nick doing vocals while one of would be beat boxing. It’s a cool thing to interact with the crowd rather than do a straight set. It adds a bit extra,” Pityana said.

The group says they used the DMTB gig as something of a launching pad to really get it together.

“It took a little time because we were still doing gigs individually but the clincher was the fact that we had this idea of doing an album together,” Pityana says.

Santon continues: “We were in effect three producers at Soul Candi. On any given day, one of us would be producing a song. We’d be sending it to each other via WhatsaApp, each one would listen to it and then there would be a decision whether or not we record.”

The job of writing the lyrics falls to Andrews and Pityana. They say there is no particular writing direction. It can touch on social comment, being quirky, about drugs, or just something cool.

While they’re doing their thing, the other three are sitting at the DAWs (digital audio workstations, remember)

“Each producer, as we call ourselves, can make an entire song from scratch on the computer . . . the drum pattern, the bass line. One would think it’s a band playing, but it is basically me sitting at a computer . . . we work alone, we work together, it’s the modern thing.”

Each producer has his own sound. Santon likes the bass lines. Max is hung up on the all those electronic sounds you get in The Expendables.

“What comes out as a collective is unique,” Santon says.

The group pitches to a 15 -25 age group and if you’re part of that demographic and you haven’t yet heard of Not Pop Gang, you more than likely will in the near future.

They have an EP CD available featuring five of their compositions – New Drugs, Too Easy, E For Effort, Change, and Fast Lane.

It’s not a sound that I’m used to but I have to say, much of it was easy on the ear for someone who is more attuned to a jazz sound.

But . . . digital audio workstation? I’m still trying to get my head around that. It’s electronic rap and it’s the future. Not Pop Gang is the future.

[Their debut EP is available at https://m.soundcloud.com/notpop/sets/not-pop-gang-ep]

Pumzy edits Not Pop Gang’s composition on the digital audio workstation at Soul Candi while Li’l Nick, Max Kicks, Rob Vega and Sponz look on.

Material in this blog is copyrighted. Any reproduction requires permission.