The Magic Garden (The Pennywhistle Blues)

Some time ago, after waiting patiently for a long time, I came across an old VHS recording of the film that is alleged to have, specifically, propelled the pennywhistle boogie of Willard Cele into the limelight, and to have, more generally, opened the ears of the South African mainstream to kwela. For me there are two and a half most-memorable sequences within the film which feature kwela and street-music, and I’m pleased to be able to present them in finest digital form(!)

The first clip is from the opening of the film, which features an extended Willard Cele solo over which the narrator sets the scene for the rest of the story.

The second clip is a short sequence that shows Willard playing his pennywhistle with the characteristic, sideways kwela embouchure that results in a fatter, and slightly flattenened, tone.

Finally, my favourite sequence, which doesn’t actually include any pennywhistle, is a catchy musical number by unknown (to me) artists, but showing a young Dolly Rathebe dishing out the drinks, some fine ‘mbube’ wailing, and proto-pantsula bandy-leg dance.

Details of this film can be found on the IMDB, and you can also read a review from the New York Times from 1952.

Author: chris

I've just installed Wordpress 2.2 for my Kwela Project.

8 thoughts on “The Magic Garden (The Pennywhistle Blues)”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. As a 7-year-old girl in 1952, I watched this movie at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, and loved it. All these intervening years, the pennywhistle theme has never left me, and I’ve searched and searched for this movie so i could watch it again. I’m so grateful for these three clips, and the re-acquaintance with the movie.

  2. WOW! goosebumps over here. These clips are so wonderful, they represent the times when pennywhistle jive was born. The scene with Dolly Rathebe and the great musicians/singer is absolutely essential for South African history as are the scenes with William Cele.

    Keep the goodies coming! thanks so much for your valuable work.

    Eddy@Soul Safari

  3. WOW! goosebumps over here. These clips are so wonderful, they represent the times when pennywhistle jive was born. The scene with Dolly Rathebe and the great musicians/singer is absolutely essential for South African history as are the scenes with Willard Cele.

    Keep the goodies coming! thanks so much for your valuable work.

    Eddy@Soul Safari

  4. How can I get my hands on this movie? My dad was the priest in magic garden and I’d am so anxiuos to know what he sounded and looked like as I was a baby when he passed on. This movie would be all I need to see my him and get to know who he was.
    glory.

  5. Does anyone know where I can find this movie The Magic Garden (The Pennywhistle Blues)?? my father was the priest in it.

  6. My grand mother is Harriet Qubeka. We have been looking for this movie for ages. Please can you direct me where I can go and buy it for my mom.

    Mpumi

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