As Al G pointed out in a comment to an earlier post about Lemmy Mabaso, Lemmy played on the soundtrack to a short film by Geoffrey Jones called Shell Spirit. This film can be found on YouTube (probably not for long though, as the film is part of a BFI compilation called ‘Rhythm of Film‘ that can be bought for £20).
It sounds to me as though Lemmy, on Bb whistle, is accompanied by banjo and babatoni (tea-chest bass). Whereas the banjo remains steady and Lemmy’s whistle is characteristically lyrical, the babatoni is positively acrobatic. And talking of things ‘positively’ – Adam Keelan from Positively Testcard had some more information about Geoffrey Jones and mentioned that Positively Testcard had made some recordings for him – but, presumably, still unreleased.
Following on from my last post about the Kachamba Brothers, I decided to try and find out more.
First of all, I found some interesting photographs of Donald and ‘friends’ jamming together. These pictures were taken by Rike and Henrik Bettermann when they visited Chileka in Malawi as part of their 1996/97 tour of West and South Africa. One of the pictures is the same as the babatoni picture in an earlier post about babatoni – the kwela bass. A linked page contains a biography for Donald Kachamba, and notes that he died on 12 January 2001.
Shortly before Donald died, he was an artist-in-residence (November 1999 until July 2000) at UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology. Christie Burns (a.k.a Dulcimergirl) was one of the students that worked with Donald during this time, and she presents some of her memories, and a great recording of the students and Donald together, in her music blog.
You can get hold of the UCLA course material through the Kwela Project Store; a song/essays book, and a CD recording (including the tune in Christie’s blog). I’ll review my copies here, just as soon as they arrive from Amazon.
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!