Last.fm has some good recorded content that is tagged kwela – unfortunately I can’t figure out how to embed the player here and then not complain that there is ‘Not enough content to play this station’. Follow the link to kwela on last.fm and check it out there – if it complains, try reloading the page, or try later, because there is definitely content there and it’s worth trying to hear.
This tune – Little Lemmy – is played by Little Lemmy (‘Special’ Mabaso) with Big Joe on alto sax (I might be making that second bit up – but he is credited as playing, and it sounds like Lemmy on the whistle). It can be found on the old, Decca LK 4292 “Something New from Africa”, as well as the currently available “The Pennywhistle – The Magical Instrument of Africa” on Gallo.
I have transcribed the theme (first four bars, repeated four times) which occurs at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the piece, as well as the first whistle solo. There is another whistle solo and a couple of sax solos in the complete piece which, as usual, lasts almost exactly two minutes and thirty seconds (so that two tunes fit on one side of a 45rpm single – well, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!). You should be aiming for a speed of 150bpm (where a beat is a dotted crotchet (that’s a dotted Quarter Note to our USA pals)) which is pretty fast, especially on the run in bars 15-16.
I have no idea why I accredited the piece to Mokonotela – I must have read it off another piece by accident. The tune is actually accredited to ‘Hill’ – I wonder who that is?
If you enjoy playing this (or if you don’t) – please let me know by leaving a comment.
Back in June there was a blip in the visitor stats that was the result of a link to the Kwela Project from a post in the Banjoroots Yahoo group. The post was about Africa-American single-stringed instruments, and as well as mentioning the renowned ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik (who happens to play clarinet in Donald Kachamba‘s Kwela Heritage Jazz Band), it talks of the babatoni – South African washtub (well, more accurately, tea-chest) bass. Babatoni, aka Kwela Bass, is just one instance of a vast, worldwide class of single-string bass instruments. So now, when you listen to kwela – listen to what is happening in the bottom-end, far from the wailing pennywhistle. Maybe that’s a babatoni you’re hearing!