“Township Jive” and its close cousin, Mbaqanga, rose in the 1960s in South Africa’s Apartheid-segregated townships as Western instruments and musical styles like doo-wap and jazz mixed with local Zulu melodies and “brutish” 8/8 rhythms (so says Wikipedia’s entry on Township music). “Groaners” like Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde (nicknamed the “lion of Soweto”), and vocal groups like the Mahotella Queens (more on both below) became increasingly popular among both black and white South Africans, inspiring the white South African government to raze townships that supported it from fear they’d create a place for the mixing of races.

The Mahotella Queens have been singing mbaqanga together since the mid ’60s when they and Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde, a bass-singing “groaner,” captivated audiences with their blend of African melodies and driving American R&B. The Queens took time off in the late ’70s and early ’80s but returned to performing with Mahlathini after being included in Paul Simon’s 1986 Graceland tour, embodying the enduring spirit of the townships. More about Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens | Great video of Mahotella Queens recording “Umculo Kawupheli” in 1974 | Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens in 1991

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