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Mbaqanga and marabi legends birth a hit album

Mahotella Queens and African Jazz Pioneers to perform at the Market

Mpho Sithole member of legendary group African Jazz Pioneers posing with the only surviving member of Mahotella Queens, Hilda Tloubatla.
Mpho Sithole member of legendary group African Jazz Pioneers posing with the only surviving member of Mahotella Queens, Hilda Tloubatla.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

South African old school music groups Mahotella Queens and African Jazz Pioneers have teamed up to produce an album.  

Both groups, which have toured the world and entertained masses, will celebrate their milestones in the industry through an album titled Hello Hello. African Jazz Pioneers will be celebrating 40 years in the industry, while Mahotella Queens have been around for 59 years.  

The album dropped on Freedom Day and it is packed with remixes of popular songs such as Yeka Yeka, Gazette, Melodi and Shukuma. The two groups will celebrate through a performance that will take place in at the Market Theatre in Newtown this coming weekend. Mahotella Queens and African Jazz Pioneers will be on stage tonight and Saturday.

Sowetan visited the two groups while rehearsing in Newtown in preparation for their performance. Saxophonist Mpho Sithole, who is one of the founding members of African Jazz Pioneers, says the idea to collaborate started last year after they decided to remix Mahlathini and Mahotella Queens’ hit song Melodi Ya Lla. 

“We invited the group’s manager, Antos Stella, to come to the studio to listen to the instrument version of Melodi. She liked it but suggested that the ladies should add their voices. We agreed and when we worked with them, we realised that we were creating magic. More songs were done and an album came together. Since we did the collaboration, we have been performing together and the combination is explosive.” 

Sithole says they chose Mahotella Queens because the fusion of the two sounds,  Marabi and mbaqanga, produced a great sound. Though Sithole grew up listening to the queens of mbaqanga, working with them was a dream come true. 

“I am happy that we worked with Mahotella Queens as I have always looked up to the group. Funny enough we have been rehearsing in the same building with the queens at Downtown Studios but never thought of collaborating.” 

One of the original members of Mahotella Queens group, Hilda Tloubatla, said: “When we were invited to add voices, we had fun and that is why we ended up doing a full album. Working with African Jazz Pioneers has been a great experience for us. We have been doing shows together and people love this combination. This weekend people should expect a thrilling energetic performance.” Mahotella Queens started out as Mahlathini (real name Simon Nkabinde) and Mahotella Queens, backed by Makgona Tsohle band. The group has been in existence since 1964 and has released more than 50 albums. 

When Mahlathini died in 1999, the group continued to produce music under Mahotella Queens with leading ladies Tloubatla, Mildred Mangxola and Nobesuthu Mbadu. However, Magxola retired early because of health reasons, while Mbadu passed away in 2021. Since the original members left, Tloubatla has been joined by two young and energetic women, Amanda Nkosi and Nonku Maseko. 

“What is painful is that I am the only founding member with the two young people. But I love that, since they joined the group they have done well. I brought them in because I could see that they have passion for this music.” 

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