Pat Matshikiza, Kippie Moeketsi: Tshona!

Reissue of 1975 album of township jazz, a distinct South African hybrid of the American style and indigenous flavours


Saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi was a key figure in the development of modern jazz in South Africa, from his time with the Jazz Epistles (which included Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela) in the late 1950s. This session was a collaboration with fellow jazz pioneer, pianist Pat Matshikiza, originally issued on Gallo GL1796, which became a classic of township jazz, taking on board aspects of American jazz and incorporating them within an African framework.

Matshikiza was later to recall that the instantly recognisable and danceable composition Tshona was inspired by the vibrant scene at Dorkay House, a music and drama centre in Johannesburg. Moeketsi takes the first solo, varying his tone, attacking in voice-like flurries; Matshikiza keeps the theme going, embellishing between the horn solos. Basil Coetzee’s distinctively full-toned, slightly hard-edged tenor contributes, whilst Dennis Phillips’ alto solo lies slightly behind the beat, less assertive but a good contrast with the forceful Moeketsi and Coetzee, all three venturing into big band style riffing for a few bars at the end.

Stop And Start is exactly that. The main piano theme has a slight stop-start detachment over which the horns play together before being given a brief opportunity to solo.

The long track Umgababa uses again the pattern of propulsive piano with strong chords, bass and drums laying down a platform for the horns, starting and ending in unison. Coetzee solos first, Matshikiza provides the interlude, before Moeketsi launches into a vibrant offering. Kippie’s Prayer is a duet with a stream of musical ideas from the altoist, supported by Matshikiza’s piano which in turn provides an exploratory input.

This is top-class African jazz of historical and musical importance, and full credit to We Are Busy Bodies for making it available again.

Tshona; Stop And Start; Umgababa; Kippie’s Prayer (31.35)
Pat Matshikiza (p); Kippie Moeketsi (as); Dennis Phillips (as, on Tshona only); Basil Coetzee (ts); Alec Khaoli (b); Sipho Mabuse (d). Johannesburg, 1975.
We Are Busy Bodies WABB113