African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Hello Sessions
I have had the good fortune over the years to have met many very talented players from all over the world. Recently, in a discussion with a couple of musicians friends about the
melange of musical styles that have become blended into many presentations of ‘traditional’ tune sets, the topic of ‘African penny whistle’ tunes came up. I know, I know, - what is
‘traditional music’ anyway and what better topic for lively discussion, countless pints of Guinness and Harp (yes, we get these fine drinks in Canada) and a gang of enthusiasts
slinging out licks and tunes at a mile a minute (between ‘gulps of liquid elixir’) on their various ‘axes’. Anyway the topic of ‘Celtic flavored whistle music’ from Africa and specifically S. Africa (areas such as Free State, Lesotho, Natal and Limpopo) came up. A tune was played (don’t remember the name) but I seem to remember it being associated with the band - Afro Celt Sound System. Anyway, what I am hoping is that someone following ‘The Sessions’ discussions or possibly ‘friends of The Sessions’ might be able to direct me to any
source of ‘penny or whistle music’ - more realistically, URLs, recordings, tune charts or tune collections related to whistle music that has an African/ S. African origin and possibly with a
Celtic bent to it.
Hope this strikes a chord, would like to hear from others of similar interests.
Cheers from Montreal!
Prairiedawg

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

There’s a crew from Victoria in australia who play tunes form south africa called (phonetically, i havn’t seen this word written down:) Kwella tunes… (maybe Quella?). I vaguely remember Andy Rigby, Harpist extraordinaire, saying that traditionally (Kwella) tunes were played on C whistles.

I know the band "Blackwood" play these tunes, you could contact James Rigby & Jane Thompson from Blackwood on:

blackwood@makingmusic.com.au

and Blackwood’s website is:
http://www.makingmusic.com.au/

There very friendly types, I’m sure they’d help you out!

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Paul Simon had a South-African pennywhistle player on "You Can Call Me All" on "Graceland"………. Morris Goldberg (http://www.music.org.za/artist.asp?id=80)

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Ahem.

There are, to my knowledge, no collections of Kwela tunes (only one "L", and no Q’s except for me, dear colleagues) online. Believe me, I’ve looked.

Kwela is dying out here in South Africa, but recently efforts have been made to record the repertoire of some of the old masters (who are also dying out).

Chief among these are the projects initiated by the African Music Initiative of Rhodes University in Grahamstown. It has, however, been relatively stagnant of late. Andrew Tracy is the man behind it.

Then, here in Cape Town, the district six museum has recorded hours and hours of tunes, and I keep meaning to go transcribe some of them but haven’t due to lack of time and the fact that I don’t really like the kwela tradition very much. Some of the tunes are great but the backing is uniformly poxy.

Check out Chiff ‘n Fipple’s expose’s on the subject. Also, www.positivelytestcard.co.uk - a london based, distinctly non-African (but nevertheless bloody good) kwela group.

I shall now write a poem about kwela in Xhosa.

Uvela kwela?
Haikona, andazi.
Eish, Ndifuna ipennywhistle.
Andifuna ilolliwe.

*translation:
Where is kwela now?
Geez, I dunno.
Flippin’ heck, but I could do with a pennywhistle
though I do not want a steam train.

Posted by .

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

I heard some of this music on an NPR program once that was talking about the dying tradition of kwela — it is fantastic stuff. I think it was also referred to as penny whistle jive. Just shows that the unappreciated penny whistle has more range than some give it credit for….

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Does anybody remember Tom Hark by Elias and his Zig Zag Jive Flutes ?
Was that Kwela music ?

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Bloomin’ ell ! That goes back a bit. About the time we were trying to turn our school uniforms into teddy boy suits !!

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

I saw a great TV doco about it once. Tinwhistle duets playing in the street doing very swinging jazzy stuff. Also saw them in some clubs with a band - didn’t sound too poxy to me Q - maybe they left out th epoxy bits?

Anybody here seen it or something like it?

Posted by .

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Wow – thanks everyone!
I’m a bit surprised by so many responses in such a short period of time. I see I have a bit of homework to do. As I get through all the URLs posted, I’ll try and provide feedback. I’m well aquatinted with the Paul Simon recordings and was thinking of dropping his label a note and see if I can get a response. Should anyone else hear of any new info I’d be pleased to hear more.
Thanks again,
PrairieDawg
PS - I hope my 15yr son will be able to keep my computer from doing something stupid like exploding so I can get through this.
PD

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

I have an old LP by Spokes Mashiyone—compiled, presumably, from old Gallo 78s, and a couple of tracks by Lemmy M~ (I can’t remember how his name goes, but it starts with M. I think.

I’ve considered digitizing a track or two and trying to transcribe them, but I haven’t got farther than considering it.

Posted by .

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Hi there. Andy Rigby here from Southern Australia. I’ve been performing and teaching kwela here for about ten years. Learnt a bit about it in Botswana in 1980s, followed up from old recordings here. Done my own transcriptions. Search "andy kwela" on Youtube for action from this year’s National Folk Festival, Canberra. Lemmy Mabaso is the name someone was after. He still plays whistle and sax in Jo’burg! (see King Kong the musical, c. 1960). This is cool music.

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

My diggings (mostly on the net!) have uncovered some great newish recordings of kwela, including a young band made up of descendants of Big Voice Jack, a fantastic soundtrack CD of the SABC documentary "Pennywhistle", and the last recordings of Big Voice Jack himself (died a few years ago). Big Voice Jack was on the original Tom Hark recording, and may have co-composed it with his brother Elias Lerole.

Andrew Tracey showed me the way to hold the whistle to get that special tone that kwela players look for. It works best on a straight, thin metal top like an old Hohner (preferred by SA players) or a Clarke original.

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

Re: African penny whistle tunes - do they exist?

There are a few transcripions of african pennywhistle tunes
and other info at this site:

http://www.kwela.co.uk

good luck!