TJR presents… Top 10: Mahotella Queens

TJR presents… Top 10: Mahotella Queens

– Celebrating the legendary South African girl group. Yebo!
  • Runtime: 28m.
  • Compiled from 178 collection entries @ 10-Oct-2019.
  • Fantasy Album Rating: 9.75 “An elite masterpiece”
  • To access shuffle-play or avoid in-play interruption due to territorially blocked videos, it might be best playing directly via YouTube external-link.png

Umculo Kawupheli by Mahotella Queens (1973)
(Francisca Bopape, Marks Mankwane)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Africana
TJR saysFrom their LP “Umgqashiyo” (Gumba Gumba ‎LPBS-16) released in March, 1973. Was also b-side of their “Abaculi Bethu” 45 in the same year. In their native Zulu tongue, “Umculo Kawupheli” delivers a performance which oozes confidence from both the Queens and their awesome group, the Makgona Tsohle Band. “Our Music Will Never End” is the core message of the piece, a glorious celebration of the mbaqanga genre which dominated black South Africa's affections from the mid 60s to the late 70s. For me, the greatest African record of all-time.

Mmathobela by Mahotella Queens (1977)
(Marks Mankwane, Virginia Teffo)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Africana
TJR saysSingle release (Gumba Gumba MGG-716) in 1977. According to google, “Obey Him” is the translation of this irresistible piece, co-written by guitarist Marks Mankwane and vocalist, Virginia Teffo.

Zibuyile Nonyaka by Mahotella Queens (1977)
(Marks Mankwane)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Africana
TJR saysFrom their LP “Izibani Zomgqashiyo” (Gumba Gumba BL-111) released in 1977. The bouncy album opener “Zibuyile Nonyaka” (“Return Year”) proudly states that these girls are back and they mean business. It’s like they’ve never been away. The mix up of all sorts of male and female vocal tones is a key feature of the set, and this is apparent from the off. The deep-voiced male, who I take to be Mbazo, is every bit the equal of the great Mahlathini. For me, only the Sex Pistols and Kraftwerk made better albums in '77.

Abaculi Bethu by Mahotella Queens (1973)
(Francisca Bopape, Marks Mankwane)

9.9 “All-time classic” Africana
TJR says“Abaculi Bethu” (which translates as “Our Singers”) is another killer cut from the Queens, backed, as normal, by the Makgona Tsohle Band. Lots of vocal shout-outs heap praise on the brilliant guitarist Marks Mankwane, leader of the mighty group. The track made two appearances in 1973 - it closed side 1 of the group's LP “Umgqashiyo” (Gumba Gumba LPBS-16) in March and was out as a 45 in its own right - “Abaculi Bethu / Umculo Kawupheli” (Gumba Gumba ‎MGG.600). Writers credits for this one (as with “Umculo Kawupheli”) went to Mankwane himself and Francisca Bopape, the wife of producer Rupert, who wrote many songs for the Mavuthela production house. As Francisca Mngomezulu, she was originally a founding member of the Dark City Sisters way back in 1958, and had also been an early vocalist for the Queens. I reckon, given the strength of both sides, the aforementioned 45 must surely rank as one of the greatest 7” singles ever released.

Bana Mamelang by Mahotella Queens (1984)
(Emily Zwane)

9.7 “All-time classic” Africana
TJR saysFrom their Sotho language LP “Khwatha O Mone” LP (Hit Special IAL-4005) released in 1984. The killer highlight on the album, “Bana Mamelang” (“Children Listen”), is a melodious stomper; an mbaqanga classic right up there with their prime 70s material. The five Queens here are: Emily Zwane (the song's writer on lead), Maggie Khumalo (alto), Beatrice Ngcobo (alto), Hazel Zwane (tenor) and Caroline Kapentar (tenor). Best played as loudly as possible, repeatedly.

Isidwaba by Mahotella Queens (1975)
(Beatrice Ngcobo)

9.7 “All-time classic” Africana
TJR saysSingle release in 1975. 30-year-old Beatrice Ngcobo, former Mthunzini Girls singer, steps up for lead vocal here, one of several hit songs that she wrote for the group in the 70s. Not to be confused (as I once was) with the 1979 Mahlathini & The Queens tune of the same name.

Ziyatshitshimba Izintombi by Mahotella Queens (1977)

9.6 “All-time classic” Africana
TJR saysFrom their LP “Izibani Zomgqashiyo” (Gumba Gumba BL-111) released in 1977. “Ziyatshitshimba Izintombi” has so much going on vocally and harmoniously that it’s completely impossible not to carried away in the sheer brilliance of this whole sound. Exhilaration is the word I think I’m looking for. 11 years on from their debut LP and the Mahotella Queens are flying high. Google translate looks a bit dubious on this one, I'm not going there!

Igugu Lezwe by Mahotella Queens (1972)
(Rupert Bopape, Marks Mankwane, Thandi Nkosi)

9.6 “All-time classic” Africana
TJR saysSingle release (Gumba Gumba MGG-583) in 1972. Also included on their album “Marks Umthakathi” (Gumba Gumba ‎LPBS-9) in November, 1972. Confusingly, the single credits R. Bopape, M. Mankwane, whilst the LP says it was Thandi Nkosi. For the sake of the peace, I stick them all in there. “Igugu Lezwe” translates as “World Favourite”.

Uthuli Lwezichwe by Mahotella Queens (1977)
(Marks Mankwane)

9.5 “All-time classic” Africana
TJR saysFrom their LP “Izibani Zomgqashiyo” (Gumba Gumba BL-111) released in 1977. “Uthuli Lwezichwe” (“Dance Up A Dust Storm”) seems celebratory and oozes soul, not a bit diffused by the high energy dance-able nature of the track. This was, in effect, gospel for the townships.

Bophumthwalo by Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens (1970)
(Simon Nkabinde)

9.5 “All-time classic” Africana
TJR saysThis 1970 single got a new lease of life when it appeared on the internationally succesful compile “The Kings And Queens Of Township Jive” in 1990, which informed us that the title translates as “Fasten the luggage”. You tell the parents that we'll be back. Girls: Fasten the luggage, we're leaving. We're only going to arrive late, at sunset, at our destination. Chorus: Far away in Kwa Makhutha.

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