The fight against forgetting

The reissuing of long-forgotten African music gems has continued unabated in 2010, with some magnificent releases from Soundway Records, Analog Africa, Vampisoul and many other boutique labels started by obsessive vinyl crate diggers.

This year also saw South African music revisited with Strut Records’ Next Stop Soweto?— series and now the launch of the Matsuli label, which plans to focus on reissuing albums from Rashid Vally’s As-Shams label. The first release on the new Matsuli label is Dick Khoza’s 1976 release, Chapita, which features five smoking-hot Afro-funk tracks.

The title track opener will most likely be the most well known of the five, but African Jive is a killer smooth funk track with some great horn work, whereas Lilongwe is a more soulful, laid-back track that hits the spot, even if it won’t have the dance floor hopping.

The Mail & Guardian chatted to Matsuli’s founder and blogger Matt Temple about his plans for the new label and the Chapita release.

How long have you been running the Matsuli blog and how did it come about?

I started the blog in March 2006 and since then I’ve had more than 500?000 visitors. I’ve been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember. At Natal University I played in an Afro-punk band and promoted a number of bands, including Amampondo, Mapantsula, Malombo, the Cherry Faced Lurchers and others.

The internet and specifically blogging has enabled a way of sharing and archiving information, music and stories from the past. My motivation has a lot to do with the fight against forgetting.

When did you come up with the idea to do the reissue label and what was your motivation?

It’s probably due to a seed planted in my mind by the reggae reissue label Blood and Fire that started to issue classic Jamaican roots reggae in the early 1990s. Then, following the death of Fela Kuti, there was a resurgence of interest in Seventies dance-floor oriented grooves on reissues such as those compiled by Russ Dewsburg (Afrofunk, ClubAfrica), Duncan Brooker (AfroRock), Quinton Scott (Strut label’s Nigeria 70), Miles Cleret (Soundway Records’ Ghana Funk) and Samy Redjeb ­(Analog Africa).

Besides your label, what is your favourite current African reissue label and why?

With the collapse of the traditional music industry, there are actually not many reissue labels to choose from. Concentrating on African music, it would probably be Analog Africa, followed closely by Buda Musique, which did the Ethiopiques series.

What is it about vinyl that makes it so great?

The music sounds great and the artwork is a decent size. It’s made specifically for people like me who like to collect artefacts. I just don’t get excited about hard drives or computers containing digital files. CDs are fast being relegated to the status of cassettes.

Will the reissue label focus exclusively on the As-Shams label and was it difficult to get Rashid Vally to agree to be part of it?

The initial focus is on material controlled by Rashid Vally on the As-Shams and associated labels. I first met Rashid back in the early 1980s when I used to visit the Kohinoor store on Kort Street to buy South African jazz. It has taken some time to get this off the ground but the obstacles have not been due to any lack of agreement — instead, more practical issues such as research and manufacturing constraints.

What are your plans for the reissue label, what’s going to be reissued next and do you have some time frames?

There are a number of albums that Rashid and I have earmarked to reissue. We are going to focus on some well-known recordings, as well as some unreleased material. Right now we are seriously looking at a box set of Tete Mbambisa recordings done on the As-Shams label. This includes at least two sessions of unreleased material. We expect to have this ready in the early part of 2011.

What was it about the Dick Khoza album that made you reissue it first?

The title track has dance-floor appeal and Khoza’s role in the history of South African jazz has not been told.It seemed like a great place to start.

Are there any other Dick Khoza albums available currently?

Unfortunately, Dick Khoza did not record any other material as leader.

My own experience is that there is so much great South African music that is lost to South Africans. Was this a major factor motivating you? And what albums besides the As-Shams label would you like to see reissued?

You are right. Like I said early on, the fight against forgetting is a major motivation for me. For me, I am interested in the great lost albums of South African jazz. So there are a number of other key LPs I will seek to re-issue, including the Heshoo Beshoo’s Armitage Road, the Soul Jazzmen’s Inhlupheko, as well as early material from the Malopoets and Batsumi.

What did you think of the Next Stop Soweto?— compilations? Are you thinking about releasing any compilations or will it be strictly full albums?

Those compilations, with the Counterpoint compilation, Afrika Underground, are in my mind the best overview of this period in South Africa’s musical past. I helped Quinton Scott with the Next Stop Soweto?— compilations, especially in sourcing original vinyl and getting copyright clearance on a number of tracks.

I am concentrating on original albums but that does not rule out compilations at some stage.

If you would like to get your hands on a vinyl, CD or download of the Chapita album, contact Matt Temple through his blog, http://matsuli.blogspot.com/ or email him on [email protected]

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Lloyd Gedye
Lloyd Gedye
Lloyd Gedye is a freelance journalist and one of the founders of The Con.

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