Tag Archive: South Africa


The exploitation of a black Zulu man in Apartheid South Africa is not an unbelievable story or a new one. What makes Solomon Linda’s story so different? He could have been rich. His family could have been rich, and he improvised, probably, the most famous and well-known melody in the whole world.

“Mbube”, sung by Solomon Linda and his a cappella group The Evening Birds, was recorded in 1939, in the first recording studio in South Africa, owned by Eric Gallo who formed Gallo Records. Better known as the “Lion Sleeps Tonight”, nobody in that room could have imagined that this melody would go on to be recorded around 160 times, of three different versions, be featured in 13 movies and musicals, 6 commercials and 60 years of airplay. How much of that money did the Linda family see? A measly, $12, 000. What an outrage! What an injustice! Right?

Technically, that is $12 000 that the Linda family, by law, were not entitled to. Solomon Linda sold his song, “Mbube”, and all the rights to the song, to Gallo Records for 10 shillings. When “Mbube” became The Weavers’ “Wimoweh”, Gallo traded the copyright in return for administering the song in places such as South Africa and Rhodesia. Even though legally Solomon Linda was not cheated in any way, it becomes a question of morality. All that happened, because Solomon Linda was black. He died in poverty because he was black. He was exploited and forgotten, because he was black. In hindsight, the Linda family deserve to benefit from the creation of their father, which white American men have been benefitting from since 1950.

Journalist, Rian Malan, made it his business to pursue this issue, to help those white American men remember to whom they owed their careers. In his article, In the Jungle, published in the late 90’s, Malan tells us of his journey into the entanglement of copyrights, covers and publishing organisations, in order to figure out how and why this injustice occurred.

Malan traced the history of the song and discovered how the song got to America, and became “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. He felt strongly that the Linda family should benefit from their fathers genius, based on the context of the situation, which enabled the stealing of his creativity and the rights to his creation. Malan wrote letters to both George David Weiss, the man who co-mutated “Mbube” into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, and to Larry Richmond, president of The Richmond Organisation, that published The Weavers’ version of “Mbube”, “Wimoweh”. In a lengthy letter describing the little, that Linda gained from his artistry and how he was a victim of injustice, Malan sat back hoping that their moral conscience would propel them forward to do something about it.

It did not. However, Pete Seeger, from the Weavers (who was always aware of Solomon Linda’s involvement in the writing of the song) attempted back in 1950, to ensure that the Linda sisters would receive songwriter royalties. While Seeger believed the Linda sisters were receiving these royalties, they say that they did not receive anything other than a few breadcrumbs over the space of a decade. After Seeger received a $12, 000 check for the use of “Wimoweh” in a US commercial, he realised that he had been receiving royalties from the song all along, when he thought his share of “Wimoweh” royalties were diverted into a charitable trust. In realising this, he demanded TRO send the money to the Linda sisters. This sparked a series of events that now ensure the Linda sisters are receiving songwriter royalties for all their fathers creation of the most popular melody to come out of Africa and make its’ way around the world.

CEO of Johnnic Entertainment (parent of Gallo Records) Paul Jenkins announced they would handle the affairs of the Linda sisters, and organised one of the best copyright lawyers, Dr. Owen Dean, to handle their case. What was the outcome?

In February 2006, the parties involved reached a settlement. The Linda sisters would receive royalties for past use of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as well as for future uses of the song. Legally, Solomon Linda is now co-composer of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, and the song is recognised as derived from “Mbube”. The Linda sisters are now able to sustain themselves economically, and will most likely be able to do so into the future.

It is safe to say that without the investigations of Rian Malan, none of this would have happened. It most certainly is tragic that it even took that long for someone to recognise and make a noise about the fact that the songwriter credits belonged to Solomon Linda. How many other black men were exploited and had their creative efforts stolen from them? Plenty, probably. This is just one case in many. At least it is happy conclusion for the Linda sisters, and the legendary melody is credited to its’ rightful owner, Solomon Linda.

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Rolling Stone hits South Africa

By: Iman Adams

With anything new that has a lot of hype around it, people immediately dismiss or criticise it. It was no different when news of Rolling Stone coming to South Africa swept the country. South Africans are naysayers, we like to reject, comment and stick our noses up in the air; especially when it comes to international influence in our music industry. Now obviously, this is impossible to escape, but what I mean is, there is a general annoyance when there is not a South African flavour in our music. With our local music scene struggling already, in terms of press coverage, Rolling Stone just seemed like something else to take the spotlight away from our local artists and turn the South African public to the international.

However, with six issues out already and a sit down with the editor, Miles Keylock, the possibility of Rolling Stone taking South African artists as well as music journalism to new heights, seems all the more likely. Rolling Stone is ultimately about having a passion for music and journalists having a passion for whom or what they are writing about. If this is the crux of the magazine, then I personally, cannot see how they could go wrong.

Miles Keylock as editor means that Rolling Stone SA will be real, raw and South African.Yes, issues of representation are still afloat; wafting about in the air, but Keylock says that representing South Africa, reflecting the demographics of the country is something that Rolling Stone SA deems incredibly important. Ultimately it cannot be about the bourgeois, South Africa is like the man in the street, it must cater for him too. However, whether this is accessible to those in the townships is unclear, but I think right now, Rolling Stone SA should have a chance to find their bearing.

The local focus is fantastic, but with reference to the Paul McCartney issue, international artists are not excluded from the front cover of Rolling Stone SA. Keylock says that they had to give it a try to see how an international would do on the front cover. Apparently, this made no difference in terms of the sales.

Everyday Keylock is hassled by advertisers to put an international band, or a white person on the front cover, as advertisers believe sales increase. Clearly, they are wrong. It’s decisions like these that can affect the integrity of the magazine, but in these situations, Keylock reinforces and ensures the integrity he so intensely believes in, by telling advertisers that Rolling Stone SA needs to represent South Africa.

With Rolling Stone being an international brand, we were all weary of who was making the decisions regarding content. As it turns out, Rolling Stone SA is independent, at least in terms of content. All they have to do is maintain the international standard that is the Rolling Stone brand. We now have an opportunity really to explore artists. Their long-form features provide a space for journalists that are only available in print, only really available in the Rolling Stone SA.

Rolling Stone has always been well-known for their journalistic integrity, independence and of course, the front covers, and these are aspects Keylock seems adamant to uphold. This is not because he is supposed to, but because it is something he truly believes in. He wants honest, heartfelt and passionate writing, he wants the local artists represented, he wants South Africans to know about their musicians, and get excited about them. This is something about Keylock that really sticks out, and when he talks about the magazine, there is an assurance that it will not be industry-controlled bullshit.

So what does an artist have to do in order to be covered in Rolling Stone SA? Keylock says they don’t have to be brilliant; they just need to have an attitude and a way of navigating the way we live. Rolling Stone SA wants to cover the icons with the knowledge and stories that comes from a life of a musician, such as Hugh Masekela and Paul McCartney. They also want to cover the new artists who are coming out and changing the game, such as Die Antwoord and Spoek Mathambo. As long as there is truth, passion and imagination, Keylock is interested.

Ultimately, it is all brand new, there is a lot to be learnt and experimented with, but the main thing is that there is opportunity, there is hope, and there is excitement. We can attempt to drop the cynicism just a little bit, and show a bit of support. From the past six issues, it is apparent that this operation is not a measly attempt at being more like America, or more international, but instead is an attempt to give our artists the recognition they deserve in their own country.

When Miles Keylock told the class with a wry smile that he didn’t believe in weekends off, the traditional hours of a 9-5 workday, or silly things called “holidays”, his long hair and dark aviators seemed a lot less cool.  I couldn’t help but picture Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”–the epitome of the boss from hell.  With his blazer undone, his iPhone aglow in his hand, and his long locks tucked behind his ears, he exuded a rock star personae.  I could picture him standing beside Jimmy Paige at a Led Zeppelin concert, cigarette in hand.

Our professor and music journalist, Evan Milton, had called him in to our class to conduct a mock press conference.  As I prepared my questions in advance, I hadn’t felt intimidated, but as soon as Miles began to speak, I felt the air grow tense.  He spoke quietly, succinctly, but with a conviction that could split steel.  His title as editor of Rolling Stone South Africa began to fully register.  His hands sliced through the air, demonstrating his points and commanding our attention.  I could feel my throat tighten up as I prepared to ask my first question, and felt his somber gaze turn in my direction.  He answered in the same frenzied manner, tossing his hair off his face, before addressing the next question.  As the press conference continued it became clear that there weren’t any horns hidden beneath that long hair.  Instead, I began to see a determined man, bent on the pursuit of genuine and heartfelt journalism.

As students began to ask Miles more questions, ranging from the challenges of being an editor, to the process of choosing the image for the cover of Rolling Stone South Africa, Miles’ commitment to music journalism became clear.  Clearly his assertion about giving “360 degrees of dedication” to his job was not an exaggeration or a publicity stunt.  Although his work ethic goes unquestioned, Miles sets himself apart by staying true to his earliest conviction of using journalism to document genuinely interesting stories.  For him, this comes in the form of local South African music.  Miles talked at length about navigating the complicated terrain of the relationship between USA’s Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone South Africa.  Surely, his magazine has many ties to its father publication, but Miles made it clear that he was more interested in discovering the stories that have never been told.  Rather then just appealing to popular demand and reprinting the headlines of USA’s Rolling Stone, Miles tries to capture the essence of South African music.

Several times Miles made the distinction between successful bands and bands with interesting stories.  International success and sell out venues does not guarantee a profound story.  Miles looks for artists that, “are after the present”, rather then artists who coast off their economic success.  For Miles, these artists appear in unlikely places, such as rural villages and townships scattered across South Africa.  This realization has led Miles to attempt make his publication “a voice that is representative of an entire cultural landscape.”  It’s a lofty goal.  Yet, one would find it difficult to find a man more devoted to representing music in its truest form.  When business executives encouraged him to put international celebrities on the cover page to increase sales, Miles resisted, pasting South African artists on 6 out of the last 7 covers.  Even when advised to place Caucasian men on the cover more frequently, Miles resisted again, saying, “We have a moral responsibility to portray South African music.”

As the press conference began to wind down, I started to detect a central theme in Miles’ answers.  Rather than focusing on the business aspects of being the editor of Rolling Stone South Africa, Miles repeatedly emphasized the crucial characteristics of good writing.  In his eyes, good writing was directly connected to the truth: “Are you writing from the heart?  If not it will eventually tear away from your soul.”  Being inauthentic does not produce good writing because readers can feel when an author’s article lacks depth and feeling.  Miles’ most important role as editor is not to point out run on sentences, direct the course of the piece, or even to select the story.  His main goal is to encourage writers to find their voices, and to write stories that explore unseen topics with compassion and curiosity.

Now the dark aviators, the shoulder length hair, and the unbuttoned blazer seemed more like the clothes of a hopeless romantic and less like the uniform of a crazed boss.  At the core of this man is a teacher.  In his electric eyes I could detect a quiet look of content.  I saw a man who has combined his two passions in the world, music and writing.  I could also feel his desire to spread these passions to anyone who is willing to listen.  After this press conference, I’m sure he’s gained a few more listeners.

By Duncan Lowe

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Passionate About the Write Things

Inez Patel

 

Starting off with ‘Bra Hugh’ as the take-off cover, this has been a magazine that represents the diversity and talents of the South African music industry. This is the kind of media that our country will benefit from: passionate and interesting pieces of work that encourage the consumption of South African products. Editor, Miles Keylock, gives some insight into the magazine and how they manage to live up to the reputation of the Rolling Stone name and yet still maintain a local focus.

Considering that there are sixteen Rolling Stone magazines produced globally, such as Rolling Stone Brazil or Rolling Stone Japan, Rolling Stone South Africa has quite a substantial status to live up to. Especially with the success of the American Rolling Stone, that according to Miles employs some of the world’s best writers and photographers, this magazine has a large name to follow. When asked how he gets the magazine to fulfil its international parent’s legacy, Miles emphasized the need to create a voice that is representative of the diversity and wonders of our own country. He articulates that it is not about being parallel to the American magazine but rather about being a production in its own right, using South African content and stories. As Miles says, there are “very few global artists that are striking for South African sales” and so that is why the magazine places such a large emphasis on local content.

Rolling Stone has always been known for its legendary covers. With the first being a “pure coincidence”, according to Miles, in getting the talented trumpeter Hugh Masekela to be on the initial cover page. Miles smiles as he remembers the moment that he knew Hugh would be the perfect first cover. Apart from being an iconic South African musician that “embodies the Rock ‘n Roll spirit” of the magazine, Miles says, it was Hugh’s vibrancy and powerful performance which immediately told him that “this is our rock star”. It is inspiring to know that the magazine really does take into deep thought what embodies their magazine and how to show this well. Since that day, Rolling Stone South Africa has always embraced that wild and free ‘rock ‘n roll’ spirit. That is what it takes to be on the cover, “you don’t have to be a brilliant artist to get into Rolling Stone”, says Miles, you only “need to have an attitude”.

The most recent issue had Spoek Mathambo on the cover. As Miles speaks about this young artist, his enthusiasm is obviously visible. Although why wouldn’t it be? Miles describes Spoek Mathambo as a “young artist who has given his art so much time in terms of thinking about what he’s doing”. As someone who has a fascinating story to tell; who has created a space where he has found his voice, it is clear why Miles agreed to putting Spoek Mathambo on the latest cover. He, like Hugh Masekela, is an image of what Rolling Stone is about. A magazine that puts a large emphasis on local artists that have interesting stories and an attitude that is bold and creative. Miles mentions how a lot of advertisers put pressure on the magazine to put sexy women and white people on the cover because those typically are better for sales. “Integrity can very easily go out the window”, says Miles, but once again he always tries to stick to his morals and put genuine people on the cover and not stoop to lower levels of commercialized advertising. Miles states very firmly that “Rolling Stone is about integrity”.

Listening to Miles, the Editor of Rolling Stone, really makes it seem as if the South African media industry is something to be proud of. Not only does Miles expect a lot from the artists that he features, he also expects a high quality of work to come from his writers. He mentions what an honour it is to be able to work with great writers such as Rian Malan and Evan Milton. Writers that have a “360 degree commitment” in that they are able to express themselves in a personal and honest way. The stories in Rolling Stone are about getting to know the artist and hearing what they have to say. Being able to answer “pop cultural questions that the man on the street asks” and thus being a magazine that is easy to relate to by a broad audience. It is not difficult to see that Miles is very much a believer in passionate writing and writing with story to share. As clichéd as it may sound, Miles affirms multiple times how important it is to “write from the heart”. He mentions how it is very easy to know whether you believe what a writer is saying or not, and Rolling Stone is a magazine in which he genuinely works hard to create a layout of sincerely written and engaging stories.

The future of Rolling Stone seems very bright and full of possibilities for even greater success. In such a technological society, the fear that traditional print media is being replaced by online content is a significant issue. However Miles is adamant that this is not where Rolling Stone South Africa is headed. It is a magazine that tries to “keep it as real as we can” and this would not entail having readers scanning over online articles in a superficial manner. The most important part about the magazine is for readers to feel a part of it, which cannot happen online because articles are “designed for print”. It is a comfort to know that there is still hope for actual print media, as it is hard to compare reading something online to holding a tangible book and actually engaging thoughtfully in the process.

Miles Keylock was a surprising speaker. It was somewhat unexpected to hear such honest and energetic responses. In turn, it felt as if one was really able to get to know Miles on an everyday level and as a result really believing the things he has said. His passion for writing, music and the magazine is moving. Having such a passion for the ‘write things’ might just be what this country needs to become even further immersed within and supportive of its diverse bowl of talents to show and stories to tell.

And the Stone Keeps on Rolling

By: Tendani Mulaudzi

When I heard that Rolling Stone was launching a South African version, a few things immediately sprang to mind: So You Think You Can Dance South Africa, Survivor South Africa and Who Wants to be a Millionaire South Africa. These South African copies of international shows are of amateur quality compared to their originals. If I had to choose between a copy of the British Elle and South African Elle, I would grab the British version without hesitation (regardless of the fact that I wouldn’t be able to get hold of any of the clothes, much less afford them). “Obviously Rolling Stone SA is going to be a failure,” said the silly, naïve me. “I mean, there are like hardly any famous South African musicians. They’ll probably have to recycle cover stars like twice a year.”

Interacting with Miles Keylock in a press conference made me feel ashamed of the words that I had said about the magazine. Not only is Rolling Stone SA an enriching magazine that’s definitely worth the read, I think that the American Rolling Stone could learn a few things from our version.

I must admit, I was not the biggest fan of the international Rolling Stone to begin with. But in order to compare the two magazines to each other, I had to do some research. When I googled “Rolling Stone covers”, I found several pages of different covers. Sadly, I could recognize every face. The artists on the covers had all made it to the ‘big time’. They were as commercial as a musician can get, regardless of their genre. Making the cover of Rolling Stone is HUGE for artists; it could be considered the peak of their career. That’s all good and well, but what about those not-so-well-known artists that have a story that’s worth telling?

This is what sets Rolling Stone SA apart and what makes Miles Keylock such a great editor. Hugh Masekela, Zahara, Miriam Makeba, Paul McCartney, Spoek Mathambo and Die Antwoord have rightfully been on the cover artists of Rolling Stone SA. Not all of them are of commercial status and have made the big time. An artist doesn’t need to be super famous to be on the cover, just extraordinary: musically and personally.

Don’t agree? Well, think about it. Hugh Masekela is simply a living legend, or as Keylock explained, “This is the biggest rockstar we have.” Zahara, as Keylock puts it, has music with a message. “Her songs are rooted in decades full of history and she sings songs of hope,” he said. Spoek Mathambo; now that’s a name many average people haven’t heard of. And average they will remain, until they hear what this artist can do. I first came to hear about Spoek Mathambo collaborating on a song with one of my latest obsessions, PH Fat. Spoek got my attention immediately. Miles Keylock’s attention was also stolen by this up-and-coming artist, “Spoek has given his art so much time in terms of thinking… He has found his voice and is going global.”

All these artists have interesting stories to tell but the writer is the one who has to fully articulate the musician’s story. As readers, reading the same old thing with a change of names can a get a little boring. As an editor, Keylock doesn’t want to have bored readers. It works out perfectly. Rolling Stone SA is all about writers who write from their heart. Keylock says, rather factually, that if a writer does not write from their heart, “it will eventually tear away at their soul.” A writer needs to have passion to write for Rolling Stone SA and if they have none, this will prove to be a problem.

An example of a brilliant piece of writing that has featured in the magazine is the article in the form of a love letter to Miriam Makeba by Bongani Madondo. This piece defines writing from the heart. It is personal but not boastful; it is poetic; it is a tribute to an incredible artist. If there is one Rolling Stone SA article you should read, I highly recommend this beautifully written one.

Rolling Stone SA is a magazine that informs, entertains and intellectually stimulates. It has proven my initial assumptions wrong in many ways. There are so many talented South African artists that haven’t been given the recognition they deserve yet. Rolling Stone SA does this for them. It also tells the stories of musicians that are famous already but still have so many interesting aspects to them we are not yet aware of. It is a magazine by South Africans for South Africans; it doesn’t try to put as many internationally-related things as it can into the magazine to get more sales. It doesn’t care if a musician is white or black, coloured or indian; if the artist unique and talented, skin colour doesn’t make them any more worthy of being featured in the magazine. Rolling Stone SA wants to tell the stories that haven’t been told, and believe it or not, there are so many we have yet to hear.

Musical Magazine Represents Locally

BY GRAY KOTZE

Recent times have dictated that our collective use of the suffix ‘ation’ has increased to terrifying proportions: globalisation, Americanisation, industrialisation, urbanisation. The only ‘ation’ which is largely maligned in the rhetoric of today is that of the ‘nation’, a nation which acknowledges real aspects of its own culture. Although in South African society we are bombarded with shells of ‘nation-building’, the acknowledgment of our local culture – particularly musical – has been greatly ignored; and, instead infiltrated by a more international, predominantly American-based, culture. Miles Keylock, the first editor-in-chief of South Africa’s very own Rolling Stone, hopes to divert the county’s musical attention back to where it belongs: itself.

“We are trying to create a voice which is representative of the entire South African landscape, and represents the country’s demographics.” This is Keylock’s vision of the magazine, which has survived half an annum since its inception. He hopes to build the magazine in its own right, rather than merely produce a copy of its American counter-part – with a hint of The Parlotones thrown in for good measure. So far the periodical publication has inhabited this expectation very well, by casting a critical eye over a large range of South Africa’s cultural and political environment.

The magazine’s renowned cover has also reflected this local focus. Keylock chuckled that the only people who could knock a national artist off the cover of their indigenous Rolling Stone were members of the Beatles; a joke, but also a reality, as Paul McCartney is still the only international artist to be emblazoned upon the cover. Keylock feels that the placement of local performers on the publication’s outer layer was better than submitting to advertisers’ calls to “slap Beyoncé on the cover because she is top of the charts.” Rather than bow down to the musical colonisation by America, he wants to truthfully “represent the musical talent and untold South African stories.”

An archetypal cover-example of the publication’s attempt to display real, in-depth stories about the nation’s tonal talent is that of young songstress Zahara. Zahara, although not being an overly technical musician, perfectly illustrates the musical attitude which Keylock feels is important. “Zahara shows that you don’t have to be a brilliant musician, but you have to have an attitude.”

Jazzy stalwart Hugh Masekela’s embodiment of that same attitude earned him the converted spot on the magazine’s first cover. Keylock describes how, after seeing the 73-year-old’s “vibrant and sexed” performance at a recent Johannesburg jazz festival, he was the only real candidate for the debut cover. “This is our rock star; the biggest rock star that we have. He is a guy who embodies the rock ‘n’ roll spirit.”

“Hugh Masekela’s connectivity with the youth embodies the ethos that Rolling Stone South Africa wants to embody. He is an icon, with knowledge to share.” That knowledge, in whatever temporal space it is located, should help provide some answers to the many questions that South Africans face. Masekela, in the Rolling Stone article which was also written by Keylock, provides a critique of issues ranging from the socio-economic effect of alcohol on black South Africans, to his current musical views. In this manner, Keylock feels that Rolling Stone addresses questions of the past, present and future, which many South African’s should be asking. “South African’s don’t ask enough of these questions.” He said, “[These questions] are not academic, but popular culture questions, for the man in the street.”

Keylock cites the question “How do I live in this strange place?” – posed by Bernoldus Niemand from his culturally and politically challenging Wie is Bernoldus Niemand? album – as being a prominent concern for his magazine’s articles. This is a question which has long circulated the South African landscape, and one that Rolling Stone aims to find the elusive answer for, through honest and sincere stories that try to enkindle a personal response within the reader.

Within the multifarious musical terrain of our country, these stories, about local artists with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude, are in no danger of running out. So far Rolling Stones’ articles – which have dealt with musicians ranging from new-age, Afro-beat rapper Spoek Mathambo to vastrap, sokkie-groovers Klipwerf – have only skimmed the surface of South African musical culture. “Rolling Stone presents the possibility to start something new and see what happens”, says Keylock. A drive to delve into the roots, as well as the present, of the local music scene, and uncover their untold stories is what this musical magazine represents. With the decreasing mainstream focus on South African music, the infant Rolling Stone presents a new avenue which addresses this concern. “We’re only scraping the surface,” announces Keylock, “We’ve planted the seed of what is possible.” Now only time will tell whether that seed will spread amongst the South African cultural consciousness.

The Mystery of the Jungle

The Mystery of the Jungle

Inez Patel

 

I first heard this song when I was about 5 years old. Sitting in front of the television, young and carefree, I gazed at bright images of friendly lions, laughing hyenas and wise baboons. What did not cross my mind, and has not crossed many people’s minds, was that this song had in fact been around longer than I had; it had travelled the world more than I had and had been impacted by many other people. The truth is The Lion Sleeps Tonight is neither an original Disney song nor creation of any of the other American groups that performed it.  The question is how did a song by a traditional Zulu man in South Africa titled Mbube come to be the commercialized tune that it is today?

The story starts with Solomon Linda, born in 1909 in Zululand, South Africa. Inspired by American Jazz syncopation, Linda mixed this into his traditional Zulu songs which he performed at weddings and special occasions. In the mid-thirties, Linda and friends headed into Johannesburg to find work. Singing on the weekends, they managed to obtain quite a reputation for themselves and so a few years later The Evening Birds emerged. They were “a very cool urban act” – Rian Malan. Always sharply dressed in matching pinstriped suits and bowler hats, The Evening Birds had the town talking. It wasn’t just their accentuated dress code that brought them the attention though; their music initiated the take-off of isicathamiya music. Isicathamiya music is characterised by a lead falsetto voice (has the texture of a female voice) sung over a group of bass voices. With this, The Evening Birds achieved a harmonious blend of voices that also had a sense of traditional African choral music. In addition to their dress code and style of singing, The Evening Birds had one more element that helped capture the attention of the crowds. This was the tightly choreographed foot stampings that accompanied the singing and when done perfectly in unison, made the floors shake.

The Evening Birds had always been a highly influential group. Their innovation of isicathamiya style was followed by the likes of Paul Simon in his collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  Their song Homeless shows a clear influence of isicathamiya in terms of it’s a capella singing; Paul Simon’s lead falsetto voice over the rest of the bass voices. However, the original title of the song was Mbube. Linda’s Mbube influenced many in its journey across the globe, but in a way in which nearly all acknowledgment of Solomon Linda was overlooked. The Evening Birds first recorded Mbube in 1939. They recorded at Eric Gallow’s studio which was the first recording studio in sub-saharan Africa. The song is said to have been inspired by a childhood memory of The Evening Birds’ in which they were chasing a lion; the word ‘mbube’ means lion.

What is it about this song that made it so remarkable? When recording it, the first few attempts were rather weak but once they had finished, Griffiths Motsieloa, the first black producer of the country working with Gallo, knew that they had created something of significant value. The song’s underlying chant of the isicathamiya bass singers accompanied by Linda’s improvised falsetto yodelling created a distinct musical creation. By 1948, Mbube had sold about 100 000 copies. Yet somehow all that Linda received was 10 shillings from the studio. This is then where the copyright issues came into play. Once shipped overseas, the tune was heard in about 160 different recorded versions, played in about 13 movies, a few TV commercials and played endlessly on the radio.

Pete Seeger, was a banjo player in a folk group called The Weavers. When The Weavers listened to the song they heard the word ‘wimoweh’ instead of ‘mbube’ and so Mbube became Wimoweh. Seeger most certainly managed to stay true to the song’s style of singing as he wailed his heart out to capture what Solomon Linda had achieved. Rian Malan noted how Wimoweh was “by far the edgiest song in the Weavers’ set”. Of course the song was embellished and Westernised with blaring trombones and trumpets as well as singing strings to wave through the melody. Seeger did however acknowledge Linda, tracked him down and sent him a $1000 and further instructed for the same to be done with all future payments. Turns out that Linda’s family did not receive the payments until much later.

Following this, the song was further adopted by others such as jazz musician Jimmy Dorsey, Yma Sumac and The Kingston Trio who managed to keep it on the charts for as long as three years. The major revamp of the yodelled tune came about when The Tokens took interest in it. The Tokens were a boy group from Brooklyn. They knew the song but producers wanted it to have a more modern feel with lyrics. So Wimoweh was sent off to George Weiss, a prominent name in the music writing industry. The dismantling of the song resulted in the replacing of the ‘primitive’ howling with “In the jungle, the mighty jungle” as the words to carry the original melody. When recorded, the further addition of an orchestra, drums, guitars, percussion and an opera singer were recruited. With this, The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens reached Number One on the national charts. From this, it eventually came to be the song most people know from Disney’s The Lion King and thus being a song that Rian Malan deems as “a song the whole world knows”.

That is the story of the evolution of Mbube in terms of its musical developments, however, another significant aspect to look at is the copyright and royalty issues. In 1939, when Linda and The Evening Birds recorded the song they walked away with ten shillings because at that time, according to Rian Malan, “no one got royalties, and copyright was unknown”. Joe Mogotsi of The Manhattan Brothers also mentions in A Lion’s Trail, a documentary on the story of Solomon Linda’s Mbube directed by Francois Verster, that in that time “black people were really not allowed to have a royalty”.  The ten shillings that Linda got was for handing over the rights of the song to Gallo. Following this, Gallo sold the rights over to TRO even before The Weavers got a hold of it. For The Weavers, this was just a song from some man in South Africa that had never been copyrighted. Therefore the song was pretty much free from any responsibilities and was thus attributed to a Paul Campbell who in fact turned out to be merely an alias. It was common practice at that time for many songs in the public domain to be claimed by fake names so as not to be directly embarrassed if the song did not succeed.

Following this, Wimoweh was taken on by two RCA producers through The Tokens and they found out that Paul Campbell was an alias and that in fact the song did not really belong to anyone. So when The Lion Sleeps Tonight was released it was under George Weiss and the RCA producers’ names. Things did not go so well when one of Seeger’s publishers heard the unforgettable melody in The Tokens’ arrangement and then demanded that all publishing rights be returned to him. Yet in the end, to keep good business Seeger’s publisher allowed Weiss and allies to keep the writer royalties for the song. Therefore the new copyright agreed to give credit of the song Lion to Paul Campbell.

In all this, the name Solomon Linda was forgotten. In 1962, Linda passed away without having received anything close to the money and recognition that he deserved. His family were left in poverty, not even able to pay for a gravestone to be placed. Once journalist Rian Malan became interested in the story, he tracked down a number of individuals involved in the royalties that the family were supposed to be receiving. This included the family’s lawyer, Larry Richmond (president of TRO) and Harold Leventhal (dealt with The Weavers). In the end he discovered that the Linda family were only receiving 12.5% of the Wimoweh royalties and only 1% of The Lion Sleeps Tonight revenues. Eventually a large lawsuit emerged with the heads of TRO fighting Weiss and Co. over who gets the copyright of the song. In the end TRO tried to redeem themselves in urging for the Linda family to get their deserved recognition. The case ended with Weiss winning the copyrights to the song provided that 10% of the royalties went to the Linda family.

In all fairness, Linda did hand over the rights of the song to Eric Gallo all those years ago and so legally his family were not completely entitled to anything. However it does seem like a happy and just end to a very long story that his family get money from the royalties as some form of acknowledgment of what Linda created for the music world. Now, there is great hope that when my children are watching Disney’s The Lion King and singing that remarkable tune, I’ll be sure to tell them that that song was in fact a song by one of our very own South Africans.

Finders, Keepers

By: Tendani Mulaudzi

The words resonate in my mind like a bad song that is stuck in my head: ‘finders, keepers’. Some of my traumatic childhood experiences that I will always remember quite vividly involved the speaking of these words; never by me, of course, but rather by a mean peer. The situations always went along the lines of the following: I lose a sweet. I look everywhere for it and I am very upset by the fact that it is probably gone forever. One of the girls in my class finds a sweet just like mine (because it is mine) and proceeds to unwrap it. Like something out of a movie, I run towards her in what feels like slow motion and demand her to give it back to me. She simply replies, “Finders, keepers!”

It’s safe to say that this is similar to the way that Solomon Linda and his family probably felt when “Mbube” was stolen from them: cheated, robbed. Comparing losing a sweet to losing a creative entity such as a song is a terrible comparison, but my point has been made. For the 6 year old me and Solomon Linda, our feelings concerning our specific conflicts matched.

Solomon Linda, a Zulu tribesman, wrote a song that some say changed the world. I first heard it when I was about 1 and half years old, although I was probably only singing along to it 2 years later. The song was featured in one of my favourite movies, a classic that remains one of my best to this day, The Lion King. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, as it is now called, is a song that I will never forget, no matter how long I don’t hear it for. However, I had absolutely no idea that a Zulu from South Africa was the original composer of the song until about two weeks ago. For 18 years, I have been deceived into thinking that an American wrote the song from scratch. 18 years of giving credit to someone for something they hardly had any part in is a rather alarming.

The first thing I felt was pure shock when I found out. How could these people do that, just take something that didn’t belong to them and keep it as their own? After this appalling information had set in, I asked myself, “Can you blame them?”

The song “Mbube” first landed in the hands of an American in 1948. These hands belonged to Pete Seeger, a folklore singer and at that time, part of a band called Woody Guthrie. The record of the song that he listened to was the original by Solomon Linda and his band, The Evening Birds. Seeger kept the entire song the same, except he misinterpreted a word that was repetitively sang throughout the song. Instead of “uyimbube”, Seeger heard the word “awimoweh”.

Cutting a long story short, in 1950, Seeger and his band the Weavers made the big time with their new record, which included the new “Mbube”, now called “Wimoweh”. Other than the name, the song hadn’t changed much. The Weavers just added a “finger-popping rhythm” which made it more accustomed for white people.

I must admit, I feel a bit of sympathy towards Pete Seeger’s part to play in the commercializing of “Wimoweh”. He was given ten records that no one else wanted, and found a song that would be great to sing. He wasn’t very well off, and could do with a little push in the right direction. The song landed in his possession at just the right time for him. In later years, it was clear that Pete Seeger did not want any of the profit made from “Wimoweh”. He acknowledged that it was not his song; it belonged to a man in South Africa named Solomon Linda. He was one of the few that did not want to be credited for something he was not responsible for.

Therefore, I cannot blame Pete Seeger. He was a man that needed to make a living, and all he needed “Wimoweh” for was to get his career going; he did not want the song to define his career and he certainly did not want to make his living off of the profits of that song alone.

It is not Pete Seeger who was the problem. It was the people who came onto the scene of “Wimoweh” later. George Weiss is a person we can blame quite a bit. George Weiss wrote the words, “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.” He added lyrics consisting of ten words turned the song into something that could fit the pop genre a little more than it did, which, to him, made him the original composer. According to him, Linda only composed the “uyimbube” lyric of the song.

As one would guess, seeing as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is more or less the most famous song in the world, Weiss has made millions from the royalties of the song. It wasn’t until years later, when he was forced to acknowledge that Linda had a part to play in the composition of the song, that he sent Linda’s family $12 000, which equalled 10%, of the royalties. 10%, when Linda was responsible for at least 80% of the product that apparently belonged to Weiss? Again, this is anything but impressive.

I have tried to put myself in Weiss’s shoes and asked myself why he would claim so much of the royalties of the song, when he already had enough money to last him a lifetime. Greed, he had plenty of that, but what he lacked was simple humanity. When I heard the story of Solomon Linda, how he died a pauper, without a tombstone on his grave as his family could not afford it, my heart broke. How was it possible for George Weiss to lie there luxuriously amongst his millions and not think of the rightful owner of these millions and his family, who had absolutely nothing?

There are a few conclusions I have come to. To some Americans, Africa is like a mythical place to them. It seems far and foreign, their paths would never cross. Maybe this is what Weiss thought of Solomon Linda. Maybe he thought there was no way that Linda’s family would ever find out about the song and his claims, since, to him, Africa was so distant and disconnected from America. After all, Weiss is one of the gullible people that still, to this day, are under the impression that the song is a tribute to the process of hunting a lion. He probably did not doubt this perception of the song as soon as he heard it. You cannot blame them for their pure ignorance.

He probably also thought, “Finders, keepers” when he stole the song and its ideas directly from the Tokens and indirectly from Solomon Linda. Since he found it, and made it sound better than it did originally, it was his. Why praise anyone else for the song when he made it what it is today?

The only reasons I can come up with basically link to the idea that George Weiss is purely delusional. I can’t think of any other motive that would cause him to claim recognition of a song of South Africans in poverty other than ignorance.

I am now one of the very few people that know the truth about this song we all know and love. There is not much I can do to help Solomon Linda’s family attain the rights to the money they deserve. However, I imagine Solomon Linda constantly looking over us from somewhere in the sky. I imagine that every time someone finds out the song rightfully belongs to him, he bursts into song and happily sings that amazing melody of his. I imagine that he doesn’t care about the money, he is happy that he gets to share his wonderful music with the whole world, even if some people do not know it is his music. I imagine, but I pray to God it’s true.

Two Door Cinema Club – To Die For

There are certain things only a die-hard fan would do: Drive to a place you have never heard of and park your car there, then proceed to board a bus that is taking you to God-knows-where. A deserted, creepy warehouse turns out to be the final destination (excuse the pun) and the excited fans enter at their own risk without hesitation.

Yes, this is exactly how the evening of the 3rd of March 2012 played out. The band was Two Door Cinema Club, the three-man band originally from Ireland and Indie to the core. The fans were me and about 1500 other very eager people. 3 March 2012 was definitely a night to remember.

It was clear to me as soon as I arrived that everyone was buzzing with anticipation. Free DOUBLE tickets to a concert of a huge international band that has performed at the likes of Coachella and has been nominated for awards such as the NME awards? It was unheard of, too good to be true. Before we could find out if we were being taken for a ride, Ashtray Electric opened with a great set and The Plastics (who I admit, aren’t my favourite) with a pleasant one.

Two Door Cinema Club were said to be playing after The Plastics and the wait was, to put it mildly, unbearable. But finally, there they were. The first thing I saw was the shock of red hair that belongs to the frontman, Alex Timble. Our favourite three Irishmen were only a few metres away from us. This was really happening.

There are a number of bands that sound amazing on their record but terrible live. Two Door Cinema Club is not one of these bands. Their vocals were clear, their instruments finely tuned, the two aspects were synced perfectly together.

The classic Two Door Cinema Club songs such as “Undercover Martyn”, “What You Know” and “Something Good Can Work” were part of their set and during the performances of these songs, the band got a huge amount of vocal help from the crowd.

They played a handful of new songs from their new album, and although the crowd was not singing along due to the fact we had never heard them, the crunching of gravel under jumping feet could still be loudly heard. These new songs were definitely not a disappointment; they were of the same style of the band’s older songs, just more improved… as if we thought they could get better than they are already.

It wasn’t only the performance of the music that made me fall in love with Two Door Cinema Club. It was also their flattering comments such as, “Cape Town is the greatest place ever, we hope to come back soon,” in those accents that are enough to make you melt. It was the fact that they put their all into the concert and it didn’t seem like it was ‘just another concert’ for them.

Who would have thought that being stranded in a deserted, super eerie warehouse would be one of the best nights of my life? All thanks to that quirky, cool trio, Two Door Cinema Club, it was. We can’t say we weren’t warned beforehand; their lyrics from their song “Undercover Martyn” told us exactly what to expect from them: “To the basement people, to the basement. Many surprises await you.” And surprised, or better yet, amazed, we were.

Local is not Lekker

South Africa is a country that is incredibly rich with musical talent and we always appreciate having international bands perform here. However, the assumption that South Africa remains silent when there are no international acts is not true; this ‘gap’ is instead filled with local acts that are  just as incredible as anyone overseas. But is it possible that we are the only ones who know of the talent that so many South African musicians possess? The loss of South African heritage in artists who are successful internationally is making this a definite possibility. The United States is where everyone makes it big, but sometimes, it is also the place where musicians forget where they are from.

A friend of mine decided that to make her singing and acting career a reality – naturally she had to go to the USA. On her first visit back a few months later, she still had her South African accent and told us that her manager thought she should keep it because it “made her different”. On her next visit here (about a year later), however, her accent was the strongest American accent I had ever heard. Apparently being South African wasn’t working out for her musical career after all.

Like my former-South African friend, Seether is a band that has taken on American attributes. The band was started in South Africa in 1999 and by 2002 they had reached international fame. Since then, Seether has been based in the USA and have only come back to perform in South Africa twice, in 2006 and 2008. “Well first we’re just going to Europe then we’re going to countries we haven’t been to before we’re going to Australia [and] New Zealand and then after that we hook up with 3 Doors Down in Europe and we finish the tour with them and we come back  [to the US] and we do a Nickelback tour in April and June I think,” says Seether’s front man, Shaun Morgan, on their 2012 tour. Hopefully one day soon South Africa will feature in one of the band’s ‘world’ tours.

Like Seether, Civil Twilight is also a band that seems to have lost touch with their roots. Formed in South Africa but based in Los Angeles from 2005, the band had their ‘big break’ in 2007,  and since then the only time they have stopped by for a quick concert was in October 2011, at the Rocking the Daisies festival in Cape Town.

I’m sure if either of these bands could justify themselves, they would argue that it was the gaining of success that made them abandon their heritage. To get to where you want to be, sometimes you have to make certain sacrifices and give up things you don’t want to give up. In the case of Seether and Civil Twilight, they are both rock bands and have no particularly unique aspects to them that could make them stand out. Their genre is a genre of the Western world and to be successful in that world, they have to live and breathe Western culture. But is it worth it to have worldwide success when you don’t have your country standing behind you, for the simple reason that many South Africans do not even know that these bands are originally from their home country?

Die Antwoord is a band that seems to be doing incredibly well internationally even though most of the global audience can’t understand their lyrics, let alone their name. The band’s uniqueness is what got them an act at Coachella in 2010 and what makes them one of Fred Durst and Katy Perry’s favourite band. The uniqueness I speak of is their completely weird music, which could be placed under the genre ‘Zef’. Zef is Die Antwoord, Die Antwoord is Zef; there is really no other way to explain it. In a nutshell, Die Antwoord’s South African-ness is what made them so well-known around the world. Now isn’t that a treat?

And then there are artists, such as Paul Simon, who aren’t even from South Africa originally but have used huge parts of South Africa’s genres in their music. Paul Simon’s album, Graceland, was released in 1986, and was a huge hit. Simon included many South African aspects in this album, such as the Zulu Isicathamiya singing style and the Mbaqanga style. He worked with the internationally recognised Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well. It was a perfect mix of American and South African styles. Not only was this Paul Simon’s most successful solo album, it also won several Grammy Awards and reached number 3 on the US Billboard 200. A classic example that South African music is not only limited to the South African audience, but internationally, it is enjoyed just as much, if not more.

The only way the music industry in South Africa is going to be noticed is by musicians who take the world by storm and let everyone know where they are from and that they will always remain Proudly South African. Bands like Die Antwoord, Freshlyground and GoldFish are bands that are not giving up on their country, and still call South Africa their home. That’s not to say that Seether and Civil Twilight aren’t completely wrong in ignoring their roots, their genre demands the taking on of western culture. But maybe it’s possible for these bands, in their next few albums, to start bringing aspects of South Africa into their music. The South African fan base would love it and they would probably make many more fans in their home country, fans that may not even particularly like their music, but will support them because they are South African; they are part of a community.

That friend of mine who went overseas to reach her dream? Well, I think if she wanted to tell the world she was South African, she could. I doubt that this would make her any less successful than she would be taking on this American persona. Surely it’s better to be known as the “21-year-old South African girl with a voice like gold” than “just another American teenager who is exactly like every other female artist out there”? It’s about being noticed, standing out. Fitting in doesn’t get you noticed, you just become a part of the crowd: a tiny drop in an ever-growing ocean.