The Voodoo of Dudu; or Cape Town Rock City

Dudu Pukwana & Spear
In the Townships
Atlantic : 1974

DP, alto sax, piano; Mongezi Feza, trumpet; Harry Miller, bass; Louis Moholo, drums.

Dig it: The indestructible beat of Soweto. Jazz stylee.

Dudu Pukwana. Alto sax prodigy who won first prize in Johannesburg Jazz Festival to launch his career. Joined Chris McGregor’s interracial Blue Notes ensemble. Went into exile in the mid 1960s and made the swinging London scene with the monumental Brotherhood of Breath. And also played with everyone from fearless improvisers Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink to the dusted folk of The Incredible String Band.

Here he leads his Spear band at the pinnacle of their powers, featuring the indefatigable Mongezi Feza. It’s a terrific mix of unbridled (let’s not say free) jazz and African sensibilities. The group churns out massive riffs, chock full of buoyant rhythms and joyful shouts. It’s tumultuous in the way of the best rock or funk.

You can hear its glorious and uproarious echoes in the South African Mbaqanga music championed by Paul Simon and many, many others in the 1980s. There are also hints of township Jive and Highlife. But those are just reference points because the sound of In the Townships maps its own territory – somwhere east of Motown, south of your hips, and around the corner from the best party you’ve ever been to.

Dudu unleashes a massive tone, laying down wide swathes of buzzing sound instead of worrying about subtlety. The nuance here is found in the players’ interactions and abandon, not in the individual notes or phrases. For more details and better musicology, check out Brian Olewnick‘s excellent review on the All Music site.

Even though this comes from well-loved vinyl (anyone out there care to share a better version?), the sheer joy and lasting rhythmic pleasure of the music comes through loud and clear. Enjoy.

Category Dudu Pukwana

16 Responses to The Voodoo of Dudu; or Cape Town Rock City

  1. Hey, thanks for the citation. I guess this was out briefly on disc in the early 90s, but I failed to catch it then. Was it on LP on Atlantic? I have the Caroline issue. I think it appeared in late ’74 or early ’75 as the recording dates are between August and November, 1973. But whatever, great, great record. Feza, man. What a player.

  2. ”championed by paul simon” ?!? yeeouch. that hurt. i am guessing there are more than a few who would be offended. with the dearth of real african musicians out there…………….

  3. That’s a cheap shot, I assume it’s because of him making a million selling record using South African musicians, giving a wider audience a chance to be exposed to their music.
    The landscape for world music when Graceland came out is not nearly as rich as it is now and he’s partly responsible.
    He did not exploit South African musicians, in fact he got into trouble with the U.N. for going to S.A.
    Plus he has a history, South American music got a boost from him, as did Gospel in the past.
    And even though his newest record is not “worldy” he still employs african musicians, I assume they are “real”.

  4. Pukwana also plays on (and wrote about half of) the excellent 1967 Gwigwi Mrwebi album “Kwela” that just got reissued (as “Mbaqanga Songs”) by Honest Jon’s.

  5. Mbaqanga Songs – great to hear about that. I’ve just ordered it to join ancient vinyl copy of In the Townships. Thanks!

  6. My first exposure to Dudu’s playing was on Johnny Dyani’s Witchdoctor’s son. He also blows hard on Dyani’s Song for Biko, and you can find both on CD.

  7. Great stuff, but who’s on piano? McGregor?

  8. I think Pukwana may be doubling on piano (overdubs?) I don’t have the liners with me–and they may mention this–but maybe someone can verify.

  9. Yep, it’s Dudu doubling on piano…

  10. Speaking of Dyani, he made an amazing solo Bass lp for the Italian Red label, loosely affiliated with Black Saint/Soul Note. His vocal/bass version of the ANC anthem is hair raisingly moving.

    MacGregor also made a recording with Archie Shepp on some utterly unavailable label. I saw it at Archie’s son’s house in Seattle. If anyone is interested, I can probably put you in touch with Pavel.

  11. What a joy to listen to – thanks! Reminded me of the uplifting feeling of some of Hugh Masakela’s early music. Great stuff!

  12. Lovely stuff. Lovely Dudu. …”interaction among players”….yes indeed, I actually had the experience of interaction with Dudu, I will never forget how he sought me out, and got our horns talking to each other. Thanks.

  13. Hello from South Africa! Great blog, really positive stuff happening here. Have you heard Malombo yet? Phillip Tabane was one of the most creative non-expatriates from the South African music scene.

    I will be posting the track Lament from Black Teardrops by Movement In the City on Another Night On Earth in the near future. It feature Basil Coetzee and Pops Mohammed. It’s nice! I’ll also put some Malombo on there soon too!

  14. I had the opportunity to meet and hear Dudu play at the 100 Club in London in 1974. I had heard him on various recordings including Spear and some early collaborations with Hugh Masekela. He was embittered that he was not able to emigrate to the United States as had Masekela and Miriam Makeba from the UK. His reaction to my recitation of which recordings of his I knew of was to assume that I was the American record company executive who could deliver him to the US (as in the Promised Land). I had to tell him that I was only an extremely appreciative listener with some early jazz critic credits as the Editor of Jazz Rag in the 70’s and 80’s. It was one of the most intriguing conversations I have ever had with a musician. I urge everyone to look for his performance in a movie entitled “Musicians in Exile”.

  15. » SUMMER RE-UP: The Voodoo of Dudu; or Cape Town Rock City destination: OUT

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