Sunday, January 11, 2009

Soul Drive

And so on to The Drive, the band Henry Sithole and Bunny Luthuli established in 1971. Now some people really don't like it when African musicians make "non-African" music. This cuts close to the debate on authenticity, tradition and modernity. It has political dimensions and can get people very worked up. Witness the recent conversations on the WorldService blog when the writer expressed his dislike for - amongst others - the emphasis placed on the western aspects of African music. I don't want to get involved too far in this debate but I would like to briefly illustrate how jazz, soul and fusion in South Africa came to represent a declaration of independence and freedom from the constrictions that the Apartheid government had made regarding cultural and political expression.

In the 1960s Apartheid social engineering in South Africa resulted in the promotion by the government of indigenous cultural styles. Nine different radio services were created along language lines. This was in line with the government's political strategy of eradicating an urban black population. The aim was to ensure that the black workers required for mining and manufacture were temporary sojourners in the urban areas with traditional homes in the rural countryside (the so-called bantustans, or independent homelands in government parlance).

Within this context playing or at the very least making a passing reference to non-indigenous styles such as jazz, soul and rock was subversive and understood and read to be a declaration of freedom from the government straitjacket. But this political act decreased the avenues available for musicians to make money. Finding and playing to audiences without radio exposure was difficult. Added to this were more and more restrictions and licensing requirements that mean playing to urban audiences in the seventies was inherently problematic. Not many nightclubs existed in urban areas and promoter often took risky decisions to put on live shows.

The Drive (L-R): Bunny Luthuli, Temba (?), Tony Soali, Nelson Magwaza, Lucky Mbatha, Mavis Maseku, Stanley Sithole, Danny Sithole & Henry Sithole.(Photo © David Marks, Orlando, Soweto)
The Drive, along with The Movers, were South Africa's premier soul jazz band and represented an articulate black urban vision of a future at odds with Apartheid's engineers. Despite the political statement inherent in playing jazz or soul the music had a mixed reception. If you listen to the LP being shared today some tracks work better than others and some are probably best left on the cutting floor.

Aside from a number of 7" singles the Drive are known to have recorded and released the following LPs:
Slow Drive to Soweto (1974, AYL 1009)
Lets Cool it (details unconfirmed)
A Tribute to Henry Sithole and Bunny Luthuli (1977, RCL 1216, recorded just two weeks prior to Henry and Bunny's fatal traffic accident)

Slow Drive to Soweto (1974, AYL 1009)
1. Sweet Lips
2. Do It Again
3. Let It Be Me
4. Spinning Wheel feat Lucky Mbatha
5. Yesterday feat. Lucky Mbatha
6. Whats On Your Mind feat. Lucky Mbatha
7. Love and Peace
8. For Friends
9. Howl
10. Slow Drive to Soweto


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I appreciate receiving the music with some background on its cultural and political context. Thanks!

mata said...


mata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ubu said...

This looks incredible, thanks a lot. I'll absolutely need to check this out!

Btw, for those interested, I'll soon post the Sant'Anna Arresi concert by Keith Tippett/Louis Moholo and Minafric Orchestra from the past summer on my blog!

david said...

Thanks for indroducing me to the wonderful music of Heshoo Beeshoo and The Drive. These recordings stand up to Dudu Pukwana's In the Townships as some of the sweetest sounds i've heard from South Africa. Another astounding somehow forgotten gem. We can not thank you enough.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning the Movers.
There is a cd Bump Jivers a tribute to the Movers on Gallo.
It's quite a digital thing and the best track is Black Coffee's remix of the Bump Jive song.
Is it possible to see the original one time on this very good blog?

Anonymous said...

thank you

Punjabi Folk Singers said...

This is a banger. Thanks a lot for this one.

malariatiger said...

Hi Matt,
there is another Lp by The Drive called "Coming to the end of this" and the music is also fantastic.
Congratulations for your great blog

matt said...

So about you spoil us with an upload of that LP?

Unknown said...
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Maji said...

Any chance of a working link? would love this album!

matt said...

Let me see what I can do over at ElectricJive...check out the Zone 6 LP just posted

Maji said...

Thanks Matt. Just got Zone 6 - splendid!

LPR said...

Came here from electricjive. Love the "Drive" albums they posted and would really love to hear this one, too. A re-up would be much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link of South African archive music,ENJ...Omar