Mahotella Queens

REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

Biography

This female vocal trio, still comprised of Nobesthutu Mbada, Hilda Tloubatla and Mildred Mangxola, have exerted enormous influence on the musical life of South Africa since forming in 1964.

Mahotella Queens began as the backing group for the male singer Mahlathini, but the group has also performed as an independent trio since the beginning. They were hugely popular in Soweto in the 1960s, performing in up to 3 concerts a day. The Queen’s singing style is called mbaqanga and is a mixture of traditional Zulu music, gospel, and modern electrified rhythm with a sprinkling of American soul. Everything is undertaken with sparkling enthusiasm and lively choreography.

From 1970 to 1975 the group took a break when the members married and had children. But during the 1970s and 80s they were at it again and performed in several music festivals in France and other locations, and made a world tour in 1990-91. Since the group formed they have released over 20 albums. Mahotella Queens have been part of the South African anti-apartheid movement right from the start, and for their songs – mainly written by the members – they have taken themes from daily life in Soweto.One of their best known songs, “Kazet”, deals with how the apartheid authority raided homes in a township with a bulldozer in order to drive away the inhabitants. Both the music – and social life – has gone through massive changes since Mahotella Queens formed, but the group have managed to maintain their power and vitality and have reinvented themselves without losing contact with their roots.

SEBAI BAI  – Label Bleu/Indigo 2000

The disk starts freshly with the traditional mbaqanga song, “Kumnaya Endlini”, followed by ditto “Sebai Bai” that speaks about how irresponsible men treat their ladies. A little more of a funk-oriented song, this swings a little less. After these two South African songs comes “Safari Yangu”, sung in Swahili. The backing band, with guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, underline The Queens distinctive vocals in great fashion, without drowning them out. Also present is one Mederic Colignon with a lovely trumpet solo. On a couple of songs there’s the Madagascan accordion player, Regis Gizavo, who has also collaborated with Sam Mangwana. The disk moves lightly and effortlessly between two differing styles but without veering off into something that would fight against what the ladies do best – choral songs. On “Masibambaneni”, an a capella song, they are still great. There are 13 songs here – and not one single dead spot – sung with the usual African joie de vivre and enthusiasm. Drop in on this gentle and finely produced piece of work and you’ll hear a damned good album.