As a tribute and remembrance of Winnie Mandela, who passed away early this morning at the age of 81, I thought I would run this concert by one of South Africa’s premier and best-loved singing groups, Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens, who performed and stopped the show at Glastonbury in 1989 and who also performed at Nelson Mandela‘s Birthday in 1989.
From their Wikipedia Page:
The supergroup – Mahlathini, the Mahotella Queens and Makgona Tsohle – were an extremely productive and popular cohesive recording/performing team until 1972. In 1972 the line-up disintegrated after royalty disagreements. The Mahotella Queens under the production of Makgona Tsohle Band guitarist Marks Mankwane, continued to record and perform to some degree of success throughout into the 1970s and 1980s, but by the late 1970s due to royalty disagreements and/or family commitments, none of the original members of the Queens remained. At the same time, Mahlathini who also recorded solo material backed solely by the Makgona Tsohle Band, cultivating a distinct public identity as Indoda Mahlathini, resigned from Mavuthela also due to royalty/payment disputes. The Makgona Tsohle also recorded instrumental singles to massive public acclaim until Makgona Tsohle split up and its individual members, to concentrate on producing the roster of Mavuthela artists.
Musical tastes were changing – disco was taking over in South Africa. In 1983, Mankwane reunited Mahlathini with five of the original Mahotella Queens for a spin-off group titled Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo. However, the decline of mbaqanga music meant that the project lasted only a year. Mankwane continued to produce the Mahotella Queens. Mahlathini joined the West Nkosi-produced Swazi-mbaqanga trio Amaswazi Emvelo, one of the few mbaqanga groups to still selling well at the time.
In June 1988, they appeared with a galaxy of stars – from Stevie Wonder to George Michael and Peter Gabriel – at the 70th birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela at London’s Wembley Arena. The event was broadcast live to sixty countries around the world and provided a major boost for the campaign to free Mandela. It also provided Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens with the biggest audience of their life. In England 1989 they performed at Glastonbury and collaborated with the Art of Noise, an avant-garde synthpop group, featuring on three tracks on the English band’s Below The Waste album. In France, the group became known for their song Kazet. In 1991, producer West Nkosi left the group to continue producing music for the South African audience. The supergroup began touring for long stretches across the world, including in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia, appearing in their own concerts and various international music events including in Central Park, New York (before a crowd of half a million), and at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, both in 1991 and various WOMAD festivals. Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens continued to record successful albums including Mbaqanga, Rhythm and Art and Umuntu. They celebrated their 30th anniversary in 1994 with the album Stoki Stoki, issued internationally on Shanachie Records in 1996.
Due to health problems stemming from a long-standing diabetic condition, Mahlathini gave his last performance with the Mahotella Queens in 1997. In 1998, former band member West Nkosi was killed in a road accident, Marks Mankwane died in the same year, followed by the death of Mahlathini in July 1999; which resulted in the demise of the group. Despite his international success Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde, (the “lion of Soweto“), died a poor man. After a period of mourning, the Mahotella Queens decided to return to the music industry; they recruited brand-new instrumental players to a new group line-up and continue performing, touring and recording to this day.They recorded a new album in 2000 titled Sebai Bai, a successful release praised by the international audience and dedicated to Mahlathini, Mankwane and Nkosi. In 2000, they received the second annual WOMEX (Worldwide Music Expo) Award, presented for outstanding contribution to world music. Further successful albums were released, such as Bazobuya (2004) and Reign & Shine (2005). In 2005 the group toured the United Kingdom as the support act for Ladysmith Black Mambazo between May and June 2006. The Queens headlined WOMAD 2006 in July, toured Europe 2007 and South Africa during late 2007 and 2008. The Queens appeared as part of Pee Wee Ellis’s show Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown during 2010. South African jazz artist Hugh Masekela joined forces with the Mahotella Queens for a special UK tour for November 2010.
Something different this evening – music that played an integral role in the struggle over Apartheid in South Africa. Music that celebrates the spirit of freedom and the joy of peace.
Crank it up.