Pennywhistle Boogie

I apologise for the elapsed time since my last post – I’ve been busy learning guitar and catching up with old friends. In addition I switched from one kwela arrangement project (that proved a bit too complicated at the time) to another that I am presenting here…

JitterbuggersA couple of posts back in ‘Rare Willard Cele Recordings‘ we encountered on of the earliest recorded kwela pennywhistlers: Willard Celes. I was particularly intrigued by the similarity between these recordings, and traditional USA jazz/blues played on the clarinet. It would be great to find out how Willard came to sound like this. Here we have a 12 bar blues structure that I’ve not seen in kwela recordings anywhere else. Since the 12 bar blues is pretty much universally understood, you might be able to find some other willing musicians with which to play. If you play a Bb whistle, then a capo of the first fret will enable a guitarist to play in the very blues-friendly key of A.

This arrangement is based upon the first 48 bars, which I’ve adapted for pennywhistle. The recording seems to be in the key of G! Yet more evidence that kwela pennywhistlers were getting low whistles from somewhere.

Pennywhistle Boogie whistle part, played by Willard Cele


  1. Thanks for posting this! I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog…there’s not much out there about kwela, and ever since I found out you can do *that* with a pennywhistle, I’ve wanted to know more.
    The one low pennywhistle I have happens to be in F. This tune is definitely in the key of G, as you say, but the F whistle really seems to harmonize well with it. If I’m not wrong, the basic notes of the F whistle are:

    F G A Bb C D E F

    …while a G pentatonic (minor/blues) scale is:

    G Bb C D F

    So every G pentatonic note is a cinch on the F whistle. (And the “blue note”, C#, is easy too.) I’m guessing the amazing Mr. Cele was using a low F whistle…what do you think?

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