• “Mahotella Queens – Abaculi Bethu” set to a picture of the original 7″ label.
“All-Time Classic Africana from South Africa”
When I finally get around to publishing my Song Chart for 1973 it’s as near a certainty as it’s possible to be that “Umculo Kawupheli” by Mahotella Queens will sit regally atop the list. I’ve carried this knowledge for several years, ever since the track first came into my orbit. Imagine my delight, therefore, when Kawupheli’s flip-side suddenly, and magically, appeared on Nick Lotay’s brilliant mixtape “Classic Mbaqanga Girl Groups Vol. 5”, made available via the Electric Jive blog in December 2015.
“Abaculi Bethu” (which translates as “Our Singers”) is another killer cut from the Queens, backed, as normal, by the Makgona Tsohle Band.The track made two appearances in 1973 – it closed side 1 of the group’s LP “Umgqashiyo” (Gumba Gumba LPBS-16) 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 guitarist Marks Mankwane 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.
Speaking of this wondrous sound, Nick comments:
Marks Mankwane was not only the group’s acclaimed lead guitarist, he was also the principal musical arranger of the Queens’ music. He applied hundreds of melodies, all of them fresh and new and not one like another, to the lyrics written by the group’s members, ensuring every Mahotella release was crafted to perfection. In 1973’s sublime “Abaculi Bethu”, the guitar wizard’s abilities (as well as the talents of the other Makgona Tsohle Band members) are celebrated openly.
In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, with the strength of the 2 sides, the 45 must surely rank as one of the greatest 7” singles ever released.
In all, there are 30 tracks to sample from Nick’s latest compile; also worth their weight in gold are “Sangena, Sangena” from Mthunzini Girls and another from Mahotella Queens – “Leselesele”.
You can read more about the set and download the free MP3 album here.