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|Birth name||Simon Mahlathini Nkabinde|
|Born||1937 or 1938|
Newcastle, Natal, Union of South Africa
|Died||27 July 1999 62) (aged|
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
|Labels||Mavuthela Music Company, Satbel Record Company|
|Associated acts||Mahotella Queens, Alexandra Black Mambazo, Dark City Sisters|
Simon "Mahlathini" Nkabinde (1937 or 1938 – 27 July 1999) was a South African mbaqanga singer. Known as the "Lion of Soweto", Nkabinde is the acknowledged exponent of the deep-voiced, basso profundo "groaning" style that came to symbolize mbaqanga music in the 1960s. Nkabinde was also a very active live performer in South Africa, recording and performing with the Mahotella Queens and the backing Makgona Tsohle Band from 1964 to 1971, and then again from 1983 to 1999. The Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens act was propelled into international stardom in the wake of Paul Simon's 1986 Graceland album.
Nkabinde was born in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal and grew up in Alexandra, Gauteng.As a young boy, he began leading isicathamiya and mbube choirs at traditional Zulu wedding ceremonies. By the time he was a teenager, Nkabinde's voice was much admired. During the early 1950s, however, his voice became strained and was reduced to a growl. Initially, Nkabinde's rural parents thought he had been "witched", and took him to a sangoma. When the healer provided the simple explanation that Nkabinde was only "growing up", Nkabinde's parents put their minds at rest. Nkabinde himself joined the kwela group Alexandra Black Mambazo (from which the Ladysmith choir would later take its name), among the members his older brother Zeph and Aaron "Big Voice Jack" Lerole, the originator of the singing style later known as "groaning". In the later 1950s, Nkabinde joined the "black music" division of EMI, led by prolific talent scout and producer Rupert Bopape, and began recording with female artists such as the Dark City Sisters and the Flying Jazz Queens. His growling voice perfectly suited the groaning vocal style, and he soon became the leading exponent of the style. His vocal rendition was to inspire a whole generation of groaners (none of whom outlasted Nkabinde).
In 1964, Rupert Bopape was lured away from EMI to Gallo Record Company. He founded the Mavuthela Music Company, Gallo's new black music division, and took with him a number of musicians from his old stable including Nkabinde. The Mavuthela house band, later named the Makgona Tsohle Band, comprised lead guitarist Marks Mankwane, electric bassist Joseph Makwela, rhythm guitarist Vivian Ngubane, drummer Lucky Monama, and aspiring producer-saxophonist West Nkosi. The Band added a more traditional and electric tinge to the mbaqanga music that had been locally famous for some years. Bopape formed a set group of about ten female singers, among them Hilda Tloubatla, Juliet Mazamisa, Ethel Mngomezulu, Nobesuthu Mbadu and Mildred Mangxola, who were to provide all the "girl group" recordings at Mavuthela, recording over and over again under many different names. Nkabinde was placed as Mavuthela's regular groaner. The most well-known name ended up being "Mahotella Queens", and it was under this name that the Mavuthela vocal team, fronted by Nkabinde's searing groaning vocals, became highly popular and productive.
The 1960s and 1970s were the salad days for Nkabinde and his associated acts. He scored hits on Mavuthela's Motella and Gumba Gumba with very popular numbers including "Sithunyiwe" ("We Have Been Sent", later recorded as "Thokozile" in 1986), "Umoya" ("The Wind"), "Imbodlomane" ("Groaner"), and "Bantwanyana" ("Children", later recorded as "Nina Majuba" in 1986). Nkabinde's success was represented by his national nickname, "Indoda Mahlathini" ("Mahlathini the main man"), and he made thousands upon thousands of concert appearances alongside the Mahotella Queens and the Makgona Tsohle Band.
In 1971, Nkabinde fell out with Bopape and left Gallo-Mavuthela, joining Satbel Record Company under producer Cambridge Matiwane. He recorded with a new female troupe called "The Mahlathini Queens" and a new backing band, "The Mahlathini Guitar Band" (also known as "Indlondlo Bashise"). He scored equal success at Satbel, mostly due to his already-famous moniker and impressive stage presence, and remained very popular throughout the 1970s. However, towards the latter 1970s, soul and disco styles were beginning to take over from mbaqanga as the most popular form of music. Nkabinde continued to churn out mbaqanga material but saw his popularity decline. Mbaqanga-soul became the preferred format, but Nkabinde refused to commercialise and scored little success.
By 1983, mbaqanga was being slowly revived after having almost fallen out of favour. This was due to the addition of a more modern drum beat and the highly publicised reunion of the Makgona Tsohle Band, which had disbanded in the late '70s due to the new producer responsibilities of its members (see Makgona Tsohle Band article, reunion section for more info). Nkabinde and the original five Mahotella Queens – Hilda Tloubatla, Juliet Mazamisa, Ethel Mngomezulu, Nobesuthu Mbadu and Mildred Mangxola – were reunited with the Makgona Tsohle Band. Their comeback album, Amaqhawe Omgqashiyo , sold very well, but the Queens line-up disintegrated after only a few more reunion releases. In their absence, Nkabinde managed, under various pseudonyms including "Mahlathini Nabo", to record a multitude of successful releases with the male vocal trio Amaswazi Emvelo. Many of his tracks also appeared on the groundbreaking British compilation The Indestructible Beat of Soweto .
By the early 1980s, Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu's band Juluka had taken mbaqanga to a new audience with performances in the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town.
In 1986, Paul Simon's influential album and tour Graceland , in which he collaborated with several well-known black South African musicians including Ladysmith Black Mambazo, took place and proved to be the launching pad for a worldwide demand for what was later known as "world music". West Nkosi, by now Gallo-Mavuthela's top producer and the most musically-astute of the Makgona Tsohle Band, regrouped Nkabinde with three of the Mahotella Queens (Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Mbadu and Mildred Mangxola) to fulfil the demand for African music overseas.
The band recorded their comeback release Thokozile (1987), which was very well received internationally. They began touring for long stretches across the world, particularly in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia, appearing in their own concerts and in events such as WOMAD. In France, the group became known for their song "Kazet" / "Gazette". They became further known to Western audiences through their 1989 collaborations with the experimental rock group Art of Noise on their album Below the Waste , particularly on the single "Yebo".
Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1994 with the album Stoki Stoki, issued internationally on Shanachie Records in 1996.
The group performed their last live concert in 1997 due to Nkabinde's failing health, which had grown rapidly worse since the early 1990s. The team was struck a blow when West Nkosi, their saxophonist and producer until 1991, was killed in a car accident in late 1998. On the very day of Nkosi's funeral, their long-serving guitarist Marks Mankwane died as a result of complications from diabetes. At the start of 1999, the ailing Nkabinde and Mahotella Queens recorded what was to be their last album together, Umuntu , dedicated to Nkosi and Mankwane. Nkabinde's health deteriorated further during the course of the album's production (he appears on only five or six of the twelve songs of the album) and the future of the Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens act was put in doubt. Nkabinde died in Johannesburg on 27 July 1999 due to complications from diabetes.
The three Mahotella Queens decided to return to the stage to help keep the music that Nkabinde had popularized alive. Forming a new backing band, the Queens paid tribute to Nkabinde and the Makgona Tsohle Band on their critically acclaimed album Sebai Bai (2001). The Queens have since released successful releases such as Bazobuya (2004), Reign & Shine (2005) and Siyadumisa (Songs of Praise) (2007), and continued to make concert appearances across the globe, particularly in Europe, to massive success.
Mbaqanga is a style of South African music with rural Zulu roots that continues to influence musicians worldwide today. The style originated in the early 1960s.
The Mahotella Queens is a South African female band formed in 1964 by music producer Rupert Bopape, consisting of Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Mbadu, and Amanda Nkosi. The group is noted for their distinct vocal harmony sound, guitar-led mbaqanga music, and fast stage dancing.
Below the Waste is Art of Noise's fourth full-length original album and their last album for China Records before Anne Dudley re-formed the group with ZTT's Trevor Horn and Paul Morley for 1999's The Seduction of Claude Debussy.
Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens were a South African mbaqanga supergroup made up of the three musical acts linked together by talent scout and record producer Rupert Bopape at the Gallo Recording Company in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1964. The group composed of the following three distinct parts:
The Makgona Tsohle Band was a South African instrumental band that is noted for creating the mbaqanga music style. The group was formed in 1964 at Mavuthela, and became the Mavuthela house band. It garnered success by backing fellow Mavuthela-Gallo stars, Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. It is often referred to as the South African equivalent to Motown's The Funk Brothers.
Gallo Record Company is the largest record label in South Africa. It is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is owned by Arena Holdings. The current Gallo Record Company is a hybrid of two South African record labels, rivals between the 1940s and 1980s: the original Gallo Africa (1926–85) and G.R.C.. In 1985 Gallo Africa acquired G.R.C.; as a result, Gallo Africa became known as Gallo-GRC. Five years after the acquisition, the company was renamed Gallo Record Company.
The Township Idols is a 2003 compilation album by the South African singing group Mahotella Queens. The group started recording for Gallo Record Company in 1964, initially under different group names in addition to the "Mahotella Queens" name. Although they are prolific recording artists, the songs collected on this album are mainly from the 1990s, licensed from the US-based Shanachie Records.
Hilda Semola Tloubatla is a South African mbaqanga singer, and the lead singer of the acclaimed group the Mahotella Queens. Tloubatla was born in Payneville, Springs in South Africa before moving to kwaThema township in 1951 as a result of the apartheid government's 'Group Areas Act' in the country.
Nobesuthu Gertrude Mbadu Shawe was a South African mbaqanga singer, and a singer in the acclaimed group the Mahotella Queens.
Nontsomi Mildred Mangxola is a South African mbaqanga singer, and a singer in the acclaimed group the Mahotella Queens. Mangxola was born in Benoni, Johannesburg, in South Africa, and loved singing from a young age. She was also a part of local girl group The Daveyton Queens.
Thokozile is a 1986 hit by the South African mbaqanga group Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. The album was a reunion of Mahlathini with the backing Makgona Tsohle Band and three of the original Queens, Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Mbadu and Mildred Mangxola. The album featured re-recordings of older songs such as "Umculo Kawupheli" and "Sithunyiwe". The album propelled the group into immediate international stardom when it was issued internationally on the Earthworks label.
Paris – Soweto is a 1987 album by the South African mbaqanga group Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. The album was recorded just after the group reunited in 1986, and was one of the first albums to be recorded specifically for the international audience. The album was recorded in Paris and released internationally on the Celluloid label, and under the group's long-standing Gallo label in South Africa. The first single, "Kazet" became one of the group's signature tunes.
Reign & Shine is a 2005 album by the South African mbaqanga group the Mahotella Queens. The album was a break from their usual mgqashiyo music, focusing on three-part vocal harmonies and percussion, with electric guitar and bass only appearing on some tracks. The album featured new compositions such as "Amazemula" ("Monster") and "Ndodana Yolahleko" as well as old favourites like "Town Hall" and "Amabhongo" in addition to the South African national anthem, "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika".
Siyadumisa is a 2007 album by the South African mbaqanga group the Mahotella Queens. The album is the first gospel-orientated album by the Queens, and features the voice of lead singer Hilda Tloubatla's son, Alfred "Ali" Temo. The album was released in May 2007 in South Africa on the Bula Music label, and was a joint venture between Bula and AS Entertainment. It is as yet unknown when the album will receive its US and UK release.
Mathaka Vol 1 is a 1983 album by the Makgona Tsohle Band, the instrumental backing group for Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, all of whom were based as musicians in the Mavuthela Music subsidiary of Gallo Africa.
West Nkosi was a South African music producer, saxophonist and songwriter.
The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, later repackaged as The Indestructible Beat of Soweto Volume One, is a compilation album released in 1985 on the Earthworks label, featuring musicians from South Africa, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Mahlathini.
The Dark City Sisters were a South African female vocal group formed in 1958 by music producer Rupert Bopape. They recorded several hit records during the 1960s, helping usher in the mbaqanga style of South African music later brought to global prominence by the Mahotella Queens.
Matodzi Irene Mawela is a South African singer and composer who has been active since the late 1950s. She is known primarily for her contributions to mbaqanga music and songs made in the Tshivenda language, and has contributed to an estimated 1,000 studio recordings and radio transcriptions.