Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Unh! Music of the Spirit (updated!)
Gabriel 'Mabi' Thobejane and Philip Tabane, Market Café 1976 (Photo: David Marks)
Philip Tabane is the founder of the group Malombo, a Venda word for spirit. Today he is known as Dr Malombo and whilst the group has been through many iterations over the past 45 years they are still performing and astounding audiences worldwide.
My introduction to Malombo was at University in 1982 when a friend passed on a dubbed cassette copy of The Indigenous Afro-Jazz Sounds of Philip Tabane and his Malombo Jazzman. Later I saw him play at the Rainbow Jazz Club in Durban and at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. In 1984 I worked in a team to put on a series of concerts by Malombo under the auspices of the United Democratic Front - a non-racial coalition of about 400 civic, church, students', workers' and other organisations. We organised three concerts including one at the University's Old Main Hall from where the live recording being shared today comes from.
Guitar scorcerer Philip Tabane at the Old Main Hall, University of Natal Pietermaritzburg, South Africa 1984 (Photo: Natal Witness)
I find it difficult to express the power and beauty that comes from his performances. So I will leave it to a sleeve note writer to paint a picture: "Malombo's music is a blend of the sophisticated and the primeval, of electric and traditional instrumentation, of tone poems about the natural world and its close link to human communities. Malombo has strong roots in traditional African music but they draw from such a broad spectrum of influences as to render categorizations difficult. If you can imagine an African Chuck Berry who plays six flutes at one time awhile humming and singing, you're beginning to visualise the persona of Philip Tabane - leader of the group." (from the sleeve notes to the Kaya self-titled release)
For a long time I've lamented the fact that the Malombo back catalogue has fallen into disarray. Currently only five from a total of 13 releases are commercially in print. And of these five there is one obscure release - SIlent Beauty - not even credited to Phiip Tabane or Malombo. So for the record I've compiled the following comprehensive (let me know!) discography with a plea to the owners to make the recordings available once more.
Studio and Live Recordings:
The Castle Lager Jazz Festival (JCLP 62, 1964)*
Malompo Jazz with a 'P' (Gallotone, GALP 1464, c1967...without Philip Tabane, thanks to Siemon for this addition)
The Indigenous Afro-Jazz Sounds of Philip Tabane and his Malombo Jazzman (UPL 5009, 1969)
Music of the Spirit (3rd Ear Music, 1971) (without Philip Tabane)
Malombo Jazz Makers Vol 2 (Continental Records, ZB 8162, c1971...thanks again to Siemon for the image and detail)
Pele Pele (ATC 8003, 1973)*
Sangoma (ATH 4024, 1978)
Malombo (KAYA (e) 300, 1984)
Silent Beauty (Erdenklang Music, 1989)*
Unh! (Electra/Nonesuch, 1989)
Ke A Bereka (Gallo, 1997)*
Muvhango (Gallo 1998)*
Philip Tabane and Malombo (Kajima, 1987)*
Man Phily (PAM, 1989)
*In print on CD
For a whole lot more background and some interesting anecdotes head over to David Marks' 3rd Ear Website for an insight into the Malombo genre.
VIDEO SHOT BY Thomas Ditlhoiso
at 1:35 PM