Fighting back without hate

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

In 1975 everything was going well for a singer called Thandie Klaasen. She was climbing up the ladder quickly. She was making it.

Then suddenly her whole world fell apart. Some people threw petrol over her face – and lit a match.

Thandie Klaasen’s beautiful face was gone. She now had only terrible pain and a broken life. But she fought back. She started at the bottom of the ladder again.
Learn and Teach spoke to the brave Thandie Klaasen. She told us a bit about her life:

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005OUT OF TUNE
“When I first began to sing, I sang out of tune,” says Thandie. “I first sang in the school choir at St Cyprians in Sophiatown. I grew up in the old Sophiatown.

“A girl with a beautiful voice sang with us in the choir. She always stood next to me. When she sang, all eyes were on her.

“I wanted all the eyes to look at me. So I always sang louder – and more out of tune.”

The young Thandie thought about her problem. And then one day she began to ask herself some questions. Why must I try to sing like the girl with the beautiful voice? Why must I try to copy her voice? And Thandie soon had the answer. “I have my own voice,” she told herself. “Let me use my own voice!”

So Thandie Klaasen began to use her own voice. And the eyes began to look at her. She joined her first group when she was 18 years old. The group was called the ‘Gay Gay ties’.

“One day the group got a job in Durban,” says Thandie. “The leader of the group told me to go home and ask my parents if I could go to Durban. But I was scared to ask my parents. And I really wanted to go to Durban.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005“So I went to Durban – without asking my parents. We came back three weeks later. And my father wanted to kill me. I was in real trouble.

“Then I got an idea. I gave my father all the money I made in Durban,­ every penny. My father said something to himself. And he put the sjambok away.”

And on that day, Thandie Klaasen made up her mind. She was going to sing. And her father did not stop her.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005KING KONG
“Then King Kong happened,” says Thandie. “I got a small part in the show. We left for London on the 2nd February 1962. In London I shared a room with Abigail Kubheka. She was a good friend.

“The show was going well in London. Then the lead singer Peggy Pango got sick. I don’t think she was really sick. I think she was actinq. She thought the show was finished without her. But she was wrong. At the last minute they gave me Peggy’s part. That was my big chance and I was ready. King Kong was my big break.”

And so the show went on. Thandie was good and there were no problems. The show went to many places in Europe. “Before we came back we went to Rome,” says Thandie. “And we had a lovely holiday.”

In Rome I found a wishing fountain­ you throw coins into the fountain and make a wish. I wished for happiness for my family. And I wished for my singing to go far. I felt good at that wishing fountain in Rome.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

ROAST BEEF AND DUMPLINGS
“When I came back to South Africa, I heard about a Mr Paljas in Cape Town. He wanted actors for his new play. So I went to Cape Town and Mr Paljas gave me the job. I was the only woman in the play. It was fun.”

Then Thandie got another big break. She got a job to sing in Japan. “I really wanted to go to Japan,” says Thandie. “I was already married with two little children. My husband said I must go. I then told my best friend about the job. And she told me to come for supper that night. She promised to make my best meal ­ roast beef and dumplings.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005

Thandie in hospital

“When I went to her place, I saw two boys at the gate. I greeted them and passed. I saw her sitting with her baby in the kitchen. Then I heard somebody behind me. And suddenly my face was on fire.

“She hired those two boys to throw petrol over me and set me alight. They were only 18 years old. She gave them R10 and a bottle of whisky for the job.

“I hurt when I think about that time. I don’t know why she did what she did. We had no arguments. Maybe she just didn’t want me to go to Japan.

“I stayed in hospital for over a year. Oh God, that was a terrible time. I don’t like to remember what happened to me. My husband left me. And most of my good friends forgot about me.

“But some people did not forget about me. My family helped me. The nurses and doctors were very nice. And a few old friends like Queeneth Ndaba stood by me. They gave a concert to pay for one of my skin operations.

“And of course, my fans were always there. They didn’t forget about me. They came to visit me. And they sent me letters. I got letters from far away places like Mozambique. And I always had flowers in my room.”

Thandie Klaasen had plenty of time to think in hospital. In the long nights,
she thought about her life. She thought about the girl with the beautiful voice in the school choir. She thought about her angry father with his sjambok. And she thought about the wishing fountain in Rome.

“I thought about those two boys for a long time,” says Thandie. “And after a while, I felt no hate. My face was burnt – but I still had my voice.

“And I also thought about my children. I knew they needed a mother – and I was their mother. I knew I had to fight back.”

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005THE FIGHT BACK
And so after a long, painful time, Thandie Klaasen got out of her hospital bed. She went back into the world with a different face. And she went straight back to the stage.

She got a job in a play called the Black Mikado. “My daughter Lorraine was also in the play,” says Thandie. “I remember that play with sadness. Some of the other actors gave me a hard time. When they turned their backs to the people, they laughed at me. They mocked my face. They mocked me in front of my daughter.”

Thandie suffered very much. But she did not leave the stage. In 1981 she went to sing in Lesotho. She met Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela when they gave a concert in Lesotho.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Thandie now sings mostly at night­ clubs. And her voice is beautiful ­ when she sings, all eyes look at her.

Thandie Klaasen is slowly climbing up the ladder again. But it’s not easy. “I sometimes have no work for a while,” says Thandie quietly.

Thandie Klaasen gets stronger every day. “You know, I often see those two boys who burnt my face,” says Thandie. “I don’t hate them. Hate makes you weak. Now when people hurt me, they only make me stronger!”.

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“Kippie Moeketsi is not dead yet”

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In the old days everybody knew Kippie Moeketsi. He was the best saxophone player around. He played with big bands like the Jazz Maniacs and the Harlem Swingsters. He played with Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand. He played in big shows like King Kong.

Now Kippie’s life is different. He cannot find work. He lost his house in Soweto last year. He had no money for rent.

Kippie now lives in Mabopane. This is a township near Pretoria. He lives with Dolly Rathebe and her family. Dolly was a famous singer in the Sophiatown days.

Learn and Teach went to visit Kippie Moeketsi in Mabopane. He told us about his life.

Kippie Moeketsi was born in the slums of Johannesburg in 1925. When he was a baby, his family moved to George Goch location. Kippie’s father was a clerk in the municipality.

Kippie’s father loved music. He played the organ for the church choir. He wanted his six children to play music. All the children became good musicians. Jacob, the oldest son, played the piano for the Jazz Maniacs.

Kippie was the youngest boy in the family. All his brothers went to school and studied hard. Jacob passed matric. Kippie’s brother Andrew became a teacher. But Kippie was not the same. He did not like school.

Kippie had three good friends. They played together all the time. They were very naughty. Sometimes they missed school and went to the golf course. They got jobs as caddies.

“We only got paid one shilling and sixpence a day,” says Kippie. “So we stole golf balls. Then we sold the balls back to the guys we stole them from. We sold the balls for two shillings and six pence.”

They had another trick. They put sticky tar on the end of long sticks. They went to the shop in George Goch location. When the shopkeeper was not looking, they reached over the counter with the sticks. The tickeys behind the counter stuck to the tar. They went back to the shop the next day. They bought sweets with the same tickeys.

Kippie left school after standard five. He was 18 years old. He got a job sweeping floors in a men’s hostel. But the wages were low and the work was boring. He left the job. He got a job at a chemist. He delivered medicine on a bicycle.

Then Kippie got a present. His brother Lapis gave him a clarinet. At this time, Kippie decided he wanted to be a good musician. He worked in the day. At night he played the clarinet.

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Kippie Moeketsi and Dolly Rathebe are back at work again!

“I played that thing until 2 0’clock in the morning,” says Kippie. “On weekends I played for 12 hours a day. The neighbours complained about the noise. But I did not stop playing. I loved music too much.”

Kippie learnt how to read music. After two years he played the clarinet very well. Then he learnt how to play the saxophone. Soon he was also a good saxophone player.

Other young musicians also lived in George Goch location. They played jazz together. They started a band. They called themselves the “Band in Blue”. Kippie played the saxophone for the band.

The Band in Blue played in an old house near George Goch. The band played marabi music – the music of the people. The people from the slums came to listen. They bought food and booze. They danced until 4 0’clock in the morning. Kippie’s problems started now. He started boozing a lot. He never stopped.

Kippie enjoyed playing for the Band in Blue. But he wanted to play in the townships. The small bands did not play in the townships. The gangs did not let them.

Gangs like the “Russians” and the “Spoilers” ruled the townships. The gangs only let big bands like the Jazz Maniacs and the Harlem Swingsters play in the townships.

Then Kippie got lucky. In 1948 the Harlem Swingsters offered him a job. The Harlem Swingsters started three years before in a backyard in Western Native Township. But now they were famous. The great Todd Matshikiza played for the group.

The Harlem Swingsters mixed American music with marabi. And they mixed it well. Music fans followed them all over the country.

The Harlem Swingsters had six good years. Then people stopped liking them. Kippie left the group. He started a small jazz band called the Shantytown Sextet.

The Shantytown Sextet played with a group of singers. The singers were called the Manhattan Brothers. The Manhattan Brothers were the best singing group in Africa. They were famous allover the world. They sold thousands of records.

The Shantytown Sextet and the Manhattan Brothers played all over the country. “Those were the days’; says Kippie. “Our shows were always full. I always had money in my pocket. We ate well in those days.”

In 1954 the Manhattan Brothers and the Shantytown Sextet went to Cape Town. They needed a piano player. Kippie saw a young man playing the piano in a bioscope. Kippie asked him to play for the Shantytown Sextet. The man’s name was Dollar Brand.

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Kippie playing with Dollar Brand in the old days

“Dollar knew nothing about music at that time’; says Kippie. “He was just a skollie. He followed me around everywhere. I taught him a lot. Now he is a big man in music.”

Dollar went back to Johannesburg with Kippie. He lived with Kippie at George Goch. They played together at a place called Dorkay House.

At Dorkay House they met other young musicians. They met Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Johnny Getz and Nathaya Njoko. Dollar and Kippie started a new band with these men. They called themselves the Jazz Epistles.

“The Jazz Epistles was the best group I have played with” says Kippie. “We played at four or five nightclubs in a week. Sometimes we played at two nightclubs on the same night. Then the white musicians complained. They stopped us playing at white nightclubs.”

The Jazz Epistles broke up after four years. Kippie got a job with a show called King Kong. He went to London with the show. But Kippie was boozing a lot. He got very sick in London. He went to hospital for two months.

img19Kippie came back to South Africa. But most of his friends had left. Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand were in America. Kippie had no work.

Then Dollar Brand came back to South Africa. Kippie played with him again. But again the booze was a problem. Dollar fought with Kippie about the booze.

“That was the end,” says Kippie. “I have not played with a band since then. In 1977 I made a record with Pat Matshikiza. But that is all.”

Kippie never got married. He lived with a woman for 13 years. Her name is Becky. He met her in Sophiatown in 1951. They have two children. Becky left Kippie in 1964. She lives with her two children in Soweto. Kippie often visits them.

“I’m not bitter,” says Kippie. “But I’m angry about one thing. The record companies didn’t give me a fair deal. They made a lot of money from me. The record companies are now very rich. And I have nothing.”

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“I am poor now, but I am not crying,” says Kippie. “I’m fighting the booze. I’m going to win. Dolly and me are making a come-back. We are working hard together. Kippie Moeketsi is not dead yet!”

Preparing ourselves for freedom

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Comrade Albie Sachs

Throughout our country, and throughout the whole world, the winds of change are blowing strong. Many of our old ideas are being swept away and new ideas are taking their place.

In this article, Albie Sachs — a member of the ANC’s Legal Department, gives his ideas about culture. Some of us may be surprised by the things he says. They are quite different to many of our old ideas about culture and the struggle. In fact, when Comrade Albie first gave these ideas to an ANC meeting in Lusaka recently, there were many raised eyebrows! He wants to challenge us so that we will question our old ideas openly and unselfishly.

The article is long, so we have divided it into two parts. Here is the first part. You will be able to read the second part in the next issue of Learn and Teach.

We have changed Comrade Albie’s words quite a lot to make them easier for us to read. We hope that we have kept the spirit of his thoughts alive.

PART 1

We all know where South Africa is, but we do not yet know what it is. Ours is the lucky generation that will make this discovery — if we open our eyes wide enough. The problem for us is to have enough imagination to see what riches there are in the united South Africa that we have done so much to build.

For many years we have had a political programme for the future — the Freedom Charter. More recently, the ANC released the Constitutional Guidelines which gave us a basic guide to a constitution for a free and equal society. But do we have a similar kind of thinking for art and culture in the new South Africa? Do we really understand the new country and the new people that is struggling to give birth to itself? Or are our minds still trapped in the ghettoes of apartheid?

In order to help us give new energy to our thinking about culture, I want to make a few suggestions which some comrades might find shocking.

‘BANNED!’
The first suggestion I make is that our members should be banned from saying that culture is a weapon of struggle. I suggest a period of, say, five years. I make this suggestion even though I am fully aware that the ANC is totally against censorship and for free speech.

I have been arguing for many years that art is a weapon of struggle. But now it seems to me that this statement doesn’t mean anything and in fact it is wrong and may even be harmful.

In the first place, it makes our art poorer. Instead of getting real criticism, we get solidarity criticism. People do not feel free to criticise the work of our artists because it would be wrong to criticise a weapon of struggle. Therefore our artists are not pushed to improve the quality of their work. We accept that they are politically correct and so we do not criticise their work fully and honestly. The more fists and spears and guns, the better! We limit ourselves so much in our work that we no longer consider what is funny, or strange or really tragic in the world. We pretend that life is clear cut — good and bad, black and white, beautiful and ugly. The only conflict that we show is between the old and the new, as if there is only bad in the past and only good in the future.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

If one of us wrote a story about Natal, the main person in the story would not be a member of the UDF or COSATU but a member of Inkatha. Yes, Inkatha. He or she would be opposed to change — a reactionary — but at the same time would feel the oppression of apartheid. The person would be thrown this way and that way by the conflict of emotions. When we read the story we would see all the struggles, pain and joy that a person experiences in the struggle for a new South Africa.

But instead, in our poems, in our paintings and in our theatre plays, we line up all the good people on one side and the bad ones on the other side. Sometimes we allow people from the one side to pass to the other. But we never show that there can be bad things in the good people or, even more difficult, good things in the bad people. We can tell who the good people are because they are always handsome and they know how to recite sections of the Freedom Charter or Strategy and Tactics.

A real weapon of struggle is a straightforward thing. A gun is a gun is a gun. There is no question about it. It fires in only one direction. If it fired in lots of different directions it would be useless. But art and culture have a different kind of power. Art and culture can look in many different directions at once to show us things which are hidden, the many different things of life which are not clear cut at all. That is why we cannot say that art is a weapon in the same way that a gun is a weapon.

AND WHAT ABOUT LOVE?
And what about love? We have published so many poems and stories and articles in magazines but you can count those that talk about love on the fingers of one hand. Can it be that when we join the ANC we do not make love any more? When the comrades go to bed, do they discuss the role of the white working class? Surely even the comrades whose work in the struggle means that they do not have the possibility of enjoying a love life now, must remember their past loves and dream of the loves they will have in the future.

What are we fighting for if we are not fighting for the right to enjoy all the fruits of human life — including love, and fun and tenderness and the beauty of the world? The apartheid rulers would really like us to believe that because apartheid is ugly, the whole world must be ugly as well.

ANC members are full of fun and romanticism and dreams. We enjoy and wonder at the beauties of nature and the marvels of human creation.

But if you look at our art and our writing, you would think we are living in the greyest and darkest of all worlds, completely imprisoned by apartheid. The apartheid rulers seem to haunt all our paintings, stories, poems and songs like ghosts. Everything we paint or draw or write contains the oppressors. Nothing is about us and our new way of thinking and our new way of feeling. We do not express the new culture that we are building.

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Miriam Makeba – “music of hope”

A COP-FREE WORLD
Listen, in contrast, to the music of Hugh Masekela, of Abdullah Ibrahim, of Jonas Gwangwa, of Miriam Makeba. Their music is full of life and human warmth and beauty. Their music tells of a cop-free world. The new and growing spirit of our people sings clearly through them. And yet if you look at our poems or books or paintings or woodcuts, all you can see is darkness.

No one ever told Hugh or Abdullah to write their music in this way or that. No one told them that they must be progressive or committed. No one told them that they must be funny or gay. No one told them to use a strong beat so that their music could be full of hope.

Their music has all these things not because they are following the rules of progressive culture but because their music comes from inside themselves, from their own person­alities and their own experiences. It comes from the people’s traditions and from the sounds of everyday life around them. Their music moves us because it tells us something lovely and lively about ourselves. Not because the words are about how to win a strike or how to blow up a petrol dump. It pushes apartheid away, it climbs above apartheid to a place much higher, a place free of apartheid.

Our writers and painters could do the same kind of thing. They could also break away from the pain and seriousness of apartheid. They could stop trying to follow the rules of anti-apartheid culture that people (including myself, Albie Sachs) have been forcing them to follow for so many years.

Dumile, perhaps the greatest of our painters, was once asked why he did not draw scenes like the one that was taking place in front of him. This was a scene of a long line of men being marched under arrest for not having their passes in order. At that moment, a hearse drove by and the men stood still and raised their hats. “That’s what I want to draw,” he said.

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Hugh Masekela – “his music pushes Apartheid away”

A STYLE OF OUR OWN
The narrow view of culture that we have had for so long has been damaging not only to culture but also to the struggle itself. Culture is not something separate from the struggle. It is not just something we can use from time to time to mobilise and unite the people, or to prove to the world that we are civilised. Culture is us, it is who we are, how we see ourselves and the vision we have of the world. When we make the culture of liberation, we make ourselves, and re-make ourselves.

The culture of liberation is not just a question of the discipline of our organisation and the relationships between the members of the organisation. All organisations have these things. But our movement has developed a style of its own, a way of doing things and of expressing itself, a particular ANC personality.

And this ANC personality is very rich. It includes African tradition, church tradition, revolutionary socialist tradition, liberal tradition, all the languages and ways and styles of all the many communities in our country. We have black consciousness, some red consciousness (some people would call it pink consciousness these days), even green consciousness (long before the Greens existed, we had green in our flag, representing the land).

Now, because our members have been spread all over the world, we also include the cultures of all humanity. Our comrades speak Swahili and Arabic and Spanish and Portuguese arid Russian and Swedish and French and German and Chinese. Not because of Bantu Education, but through ANC Education. We are even learning Japanese.

WE SING WHEN WE STRUGGLE
Our culture, the ANC culture, is not simply a collection of a lot of separate ethnic cultures lined up side by side, or mixed together in certain quantities, like the ingredients of a cake. It has a real and living character of its own. When we sing our anthem, a religious song, with our fists raised up, we are expressing the relationship that we have built together. We sing when we struggle and we struggle when we sing. This is perhaps the greatest cultural achievement that the ANC has made. We have made all South Africans, from very different backgrounds, feel comfortable in our ranks.

This does not mean that all differences and tensions disappear when you join the organisation. We bring with us our own particular way of seeing the world, our jealousies and our fixed ideas. But the goals and the comradeship of the struggle we have created allow us to deal with these differences. We have had debates about such things as whether to allow non-Africans onto the National Executive Committee, whether there should be corporal punishment at the Solomon Mahlangu College, and whether married women should do high kicks on stage. Today the question of women’s liberation is finally forcing itself into our thoughts and our actions, a very serious and important cultural change.

Culture is at the very centre of our movement. It is not something which we just bring out and put on the stage on ceremonial occasions and fund-raising events, or something which we use to entertain us at our meetings. If it was so, we would have no personality at other times. No, happily this is not the case. Culture is us, a.id we are people, not things waiting to be put into motion from time to time.

You can read the second part of Albie Sach’s paper in the next issue of Learn and Teach. If you would like to share your own thoughts on culture with other Learn and Teach readers, please write to us and we will try to print some of your letters.

NEW WORDS culture — art, music, poetry
censorship — control over what people say or write
conflict — struggle
reactionary — conservative, against change, clinging to the old ways
tenderness — gentleness, loving warmth
romanticism — ideas of love
consciousness — thinking and feeling
tensions — disagreements
National Executive Committee (NEC) — the highest decision making body in the ANC
Solomon Mahlangu College — the
ANC school in Tanzania
women’s liberation — the struggle of women for freedom from oppression and for equality with men

The hottest stix in town

Untitled0-13About twenty years ago, Orlando West High School needed money. The principal told the students to give a concert. But the school had no money to pay for a band. So some students said that they would play at the concert.

Two guys from another school Madibane High School, came to play. Their names were Selby Ntuli and Alec Khaoli They both played guitars. But the drummer was from Orlando West. His name — Sipho Mabuse.

JUST ANOTHER BAND

“People really liked us,” says Sipho. “So we decided to start our own band. Then Selby’s brother asked us to join his group, the Beatersjnstead. We used to play at Mofolo Hall.

“We wrote all our own music and in 1969 we made a record, ‘Solo Golo’. But people liked Mbaqanga in those days and ‘Solo Golo’ did not sell well then. But a few years later, people went mad for ‘Solo Golo’ and the Beaters became famous.

HURRAH FOR HARARI

“We went on tour. We went to Zimbabwe and we played at a place called Harari. We really liked the name. It means ‘he who does not sleep, he who is busy’. We liked it so much that we decided to change our name and call ouselves “Harari.”

But in 1978, something bad happened. The leader of Harari, Selby Ntuli died in his sleep. It was a big loss for Harari. But Harari made Sipho their leader.

Selby’s death did not stop Harari’s fans. Harari went on to make it big. They made 10 records before the band broke up 2 years ago.

Alec ‘Oom’ Khaoli left Harari and started his own group, ‘Umoja’. And Sipho Mabuse decided to go it alone.

Sipho said, “A lot of musicians left Harari. They thought I was too strict. When musicians become famous, they forget their fans. They become careless. They come to concerts late — or drunk.”

WRITING SONGS

Sipho told us about his hit, ‘Burnout’. “One day I was sitting around when I heard some nice sounds in my head. In less than 5 minutes, the whole song was playing in my head. Then I wrote it own. It was the easiest song I have ever written.

“I like my songs to have a message in them. My best song is ‘Let’s get it on’. Many people think that it is a love song. But the message in that song is that people must love each other and work together for their rights.”

Untitled0-14THE MUSIC WORLD

“To be a musician in South Africa is no joke,” says Sipho. “Sometimes the record companies treat us badly. Take our record ‘Solo Golo’ for example. We did not get one cent for it. I think we need a union, just like other workers. But most musicians are scared. They think if we start a union, the record companies will not record their songs.

“Another problem is our newspapers and magazines. They only write about overseas musicians. And white radio stations only play overseas music. Yet our musicians are very good. Look at people like Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie.

MUSICIANS JOIN THE FIGHT

“At the begining of this year, people said they were organising concerts and parties for Jo’burg’s 100th birthday. They wanted musicians to come and play.

“hen I heard this, I asked myself “What does this mean to black people?” It was at the time of the ’emergency’. It was no time for parties. I talked to Jonny Clegg of Juluka. He agreed with me. We spoke to other musicians like Stimela, Alec Khaoli
and Bre/ida Fassie. We all got together and made a list of demands.

“We said that the government must lift the state of emergency, they must free all the leaders in jail, and they must let all South Africans outside South Africa come home.”

CONCERTS IN THE PARK

Sometimes Sipho helps poor people. Last year there was a big concert at Ellis Park — the ‘Concert in the Park’. The musicians played for nothing, and all the money went to Operation Hunger — to buy food for all the hungry people.

This year, there was another concert at Ellis Park. This time the money from the concert went to the people who organised it. Sipho did not like this. So he told the organisers that they must pay him 12 thousand rands. He thought they would say no. But they agreed to pay him so he played.

SIPHO’S FAVOURITES

When Sipho is not making music, he likes to go to night clubs. He also likes to watch his favourite soccer team, Kaizer Chiefs.

“I like ‘Ace’ Ntsoelengoe of Chiefs. But I also like ‘Jomo’ Sono of Cosmos and Ernest Chirwali of Bloemfontein Celtics.

“I also spend a lot of time listening to music. Sometimes I listen to my own records. Otherwise I like Stevie Wonder and Dollar Brand. I also like a guy called Sting.

We asked Sipho what makes people like his music. Sipho said, “My music speaks for itself. What I do, I do as an African. And so my music is African,” he answered. “The songs I write are about everyday life in South Africa. But the message can be understood by anyone, anywhere.”

Letters from our readers

Dear Learn and Teach
I worked at a wool and textile factory for 25 years. One day the foreman told me to kick some workers. I refused and the factory fired me. They did not give me a testimonial letter. And when I tried to get U.I.F. money, the Department of Manpower sent me away. What can I do?
Abel Tshwala
Standerton

Thanks for the letter Abel. Please write to the Industrial Aid Society. They will try help you. Their address is: Industrial Aid Society, P.O. Box 261119 EXCOM, 2023 -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I found out about your magazine a few months ago. I like the magazine. Can I get a set of all the old magazines?
I am also a member of the United Women’s Organization (UWO). Can we sell your magazine? Once again, congratulations for the magazine.
A.H. Gagioano
Stellenbosch

Thank you for the letter. Yes, we do sell old magazines. We have printed 10 magazines so far. Send us R2.00 and we will send you a set of magazines. Or send us 20 cents for each magazine you want. Yes, we really do want organizations to sell the magazine. If organizations sell the magazine, the organizations get 10 cents for every magazine they sell. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I enjoy your magazine. I buy it every month.
I am worried about Sloppy’s lover Lizzie. Lizzie is too old for Sloppy. He must forget about Lizzie. He must take me instead of Lizzie.
Please ask Sloppy to send me his real photo and his address. I am a lonely doll. I am looking for a handsome guy with a long nose like Sloppy.
I don’t mind when Sloppy is funny. But he must leave that ugogo Lizzie. If he comes to visit me, I will kill all the dogs at home. I know he is scared of dogs. I will make Sloppy satisfied.
Joyce
Eshowe

We’ve got bad news for you Joyce. Read what happens to Sloppy this month. Hope the news doesn’t break your heart. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
Can you please write stories on Hire Purchase (HP) and how to get a car licence. If you write these stories, you will make me very happy.
S. Ngoma Cala
Transkei

Thank you for the letter. We will try do these stories soon. -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I read Learn and Teach No.4, 1982. I have seen nothing better in simple English. The stories are beautiful, moving and clearly written. All the photographs are excellent. Well done.
Dorothea Russell
Cape Town

Dear Learn and Teach
I passed standard five. Now I want to do standard six. Tell me where I can study?
Kiewiet Khoantle
Stilfontein.

Thanks for the letter. You can study at a correspondence college. You can find a list of colleges in the Yellow Pages telephone book. If you need money to study, you can try get a bursary. If you need a bursary, write to. The Bursary Officer, SAIRR, P.(). Box 97 JOHANNESBURG, 2000 -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
Thank you for the story on Hugh Masekela. The whole family enjoyed reading about this great musician. And thank you for the list of worker organizations! Such a list can only help the workers in this country.
L. Maluleka
Pretoria

Dear Learn and Teach
I like your magazine very much. The magazine helps me a lot. I like the stories.
Simon Ntombela
Elandsfontein

Dear Learn and Teach
I have read Learn and Teach. Now I have found a friend to share my problems. I like the name of the magazine, ‘Learn and Teach’.
I write musical plays. I wish to publish them. My first play is called ‘Who is my Brother’.
I need advice. Where can I send these plays for publication?
Siza Masiza
Qumbu

Thanks for the letter Siza. Please write to FUBA. They can give you advice. Their address is: F U B A, P.O. Box 4202 JOHANNESBURG, 2000 -editor

Dear Learn and Teach
I am a Learn and Teach reader. I just want to say this: Learn and Teach is a small book with great value. It gives me hope. God bless you children of Africa!
Albert Kheteng Arandis
Namibia

The JONAS GWANGWA story

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005One night 23 years ago, the black musicians of Johannesburg had a big party. They all met at Dorkay House in Eloff Street to say good bye to the members of King Kong – the famous stage show about life in Sophiatown. King Kong was going to London.

The night was long and wild. Ntemi Piliso was the leader of the band. And the famous Sol Klaaste was also there – playing the piano like never before. Everyone sang, drank and danced until the sun came up.

In the morning the whole party drove to the airport. They all sang Nkosi Sikelela and waved good-bye to the members of King Kong. King Kong was off to London in an aeroplane full of babalas and sore heads.

Jonas on the day he left for England

Jonas on the day he left for England

Some of the men and women from King Kong never came home. When the show in London ended many of them stayed overseas. They wanted to study music or to make records.

One of these people was a young man called Jonas Gwangwa – the trombone player in the King Kong show. After the show he went to America. He studied at famous music schools in New York. He played jazz with big time American jazz men. He made many records and lots of money.

Jonas Gwangwa became famous – a homeboy who made good. He lived in America for 15 years. And those years were not wasted. He met a lot of people, he played a lot of music and he learned a lot. Jonas was doing well – but he was not really happy.

He began to feel alone – like a man floating at sea, cut off from his people.

Jonas in England

Jonas in England

But Jonas couldn’t come home. He couldn’t come home because of his politics. He spent a lot of time in America fighting apartheid. He knew the government in South Africa was not his best friend.

So he did the next best thing. He flew to Gaborone in Botswana to be close by. And that’s where he lives and works today – still making the music that people love so much.

Learn and Teach went to Gaborone to talk to Jonas Gwangwa. We wanted to ask him some questions – like why does a man leave an easy life in America for a not so easy life in Botswana?

He spoke in a quiet way. And his words were full of deep feeling for his country, his people, their history and their music.

“Life in the U.S.A, was good,” says Jonas. “I played trombone with some of the best jazz musicians in the world. I also made a lot of music with South Africans like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba.

“One time I made a record with Miriam and Harry Belafonte – the great American blues singer. Most of the songs were in Zulu. So I had to teach Harry the words.

“It was great”, says Jonas. “Every time I went to Harry’s place he was sleeping. But I didn’t mind. He was paying me 15 dollars an hour. So I let him sleep. But soon he learnt some Zulu and we made the record. I learned a lot from that man.”

He learned a lot in America. But he never forgot his first lessons – the lessons he learned in the dusty streets of Sophiatown.

He remembered his days at Madibane High. He thought of his family and hard times. Jonas’ father was not so rich – like most black people in Sophiatown. The family could only pay for his sister to go to music lessons. So Jonas had to wait for a long time before he could play the music that was in his blood.

“I grabbed the first chance I got,” says Jonas. “From Madibane I went to St. Peters College in Rosettenville. Father Huddleston was the priest there. He got some old instruments and told us to play.

“I went to the first meeting. wanted to play the clarinet. But I didn’t know the name of the damn thing. So I asked for the first instrument I could think of – a trombone! I was shocked to see how big it was. But I was too shy to say anything. So that’s how I came to play the trombone.”

The boys at St. Peters started their own band and . called it the “Huddleston Jazz Band”. That’s where Jonas met people like Gwigwi Mrebi and Hugh Masekela – also great South African musicians.

Then Jonas joined the famous’ Union of South African Artists. This was a group of musicians who met on the top floor of Dorkay House in Eloff Street. Some of our best musicians played music there – people like Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Sol Klaaste, Kippie Moeketsi and Dollar Brand.

And Jonas never forgot the band called the Jazz Epistles. He played in this band with men like Kippie Moeketsi and Dollar Brand. He also remembered playing in big bands like the Jazz Maniacs. And Jonas remembered the last night in Johannesburg when Ntemi Piliso played all night and everyone got sore heads.

“I knew then that I didn’t make it on my own,” says Jonas. “I needed the help of my friends at home ­ people like Kippie Moeketsi, Mackay Davashe, Ntemi Piliso and so many others.”

Jonas also believes that people can’t make music out of thin air. “Music comes from the history of people and from the places they live in,” says Jonas. He believes music comes from the way people suffer and from the way they fight to stay alive.

And in the U.S.A. Jonas was six thousand miles away from his people – the people that helped him make his music. So he had no choice. He had to be nearer home.

Today Jonas still makes music. He plays. with a young group of musicians in Gaborone. They call their band Shakawe — the name of a small village in the north of Botswana. He also works with a group called “Amandla” – musicians from South Africa who sing about their fight for freedom.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Jonas will never forget the old days and h is old friends. He is very sad that he did not meet his friend Kippie Moeketsi before he died.

His biggest wish is for Ntemi Piliso to come to Botswana. He dreams about drinking a cold beer and sharing memories with his old friend.

And one day Jonas Gwangwa hopes to come home to meet everyone else. Until then he waits with his best friend – the trombone. And until then, he will carry on making music about his people and for his people.

“Guga mzimba sala ntliziyo”

(The body is old, but the heart is still young)

img12William “King Force” Silgee is 74 years old. He lives in a small house in Dube, Soweto. He lives a quiet life with his wife Irene. But life was not always quiet for “King Force”. In the 1940’s, the townships jumped and jived to his music. He was the leader of the Jazz Maniacs after “Zulu Boy” Cele died.

The Jazz Maniacs were a big band. Sixteen people played in the band. The people in the townships loved the Jazz Maniacs. The Jazz Maniacs played music that touched the hearts of the people.

Last month, “King Force” and his saxophone came alive again. He played in Gaborone, Botswana. He played with Dollar Brand, Hugh Masekela and lots of other musicians.

“I really enjoyed myself” says “King Force”. “Hugh Masekela, Dollar Brand and the other guys were young when the Jazz Maniacs played. But they have learnt a lot. Now they are better than we were. They are better because they live in America. Many bands play in America. So the competition is tough. Musicians need competition.”

“King Force” says people like Masekela, Gwangwa and Dollar Brand still play South African music. “They live overseas but they still play our kind of music. South African music is in their hearts. They keep it there”.

“King Force” has played music for most of his life. He was born in Vrededorp in 1918. When “King Force” was still a baby, his family moved to City and Suburban. They lived in a small house in Anderson Street. In those days black people still lived in Johannesburg.

His father was a preacher. His mother was a teacher. His mother and father loved music. They both sang in the church choir. They sent “King Force” to piano lessons when he was 10 years old.

“My parents told me to go to piano lessons,” says “King Force”. “I did not enjoy piano lessons. But today I’m glad I went to lessons. These lessons taught me a lot about music.”

“King Force” went to the Albert Street School. When he was twelve years old, his father died. His mother had no money for the rent. The family moved to Doorn­fontein. His mother did piece-work. She washed clothes for white people in Yeoville and Kensington.

The Silgee family had little money. But “King Force” did not leave school. He helped his mother with the washing. “King Force” and his friends made carts out of old boxes. They fetched and delivered washing in these carts. Sometimes young “King Force” and his friends raced their carts. They raced down Harrow Road.

“King Force” finished standard 6 at Albert Street School. Then he went to Adams Training College in Natal. He stayed there for 3 years.

“King Force” finished standard 9. Then he came back to Doornfontein. Johannes­burg was alive with music at that time. Piano players and jazz bands played allover the place. The saxophone was popular.

“King Force” got a job. He was a clerk in a warehouse. The work was boring. He began to learn the saxophone. He soon played the saxophone very well.

"King Force" (left) playing in Port Elizabeth in 1956

“King Force” (left) playing in Port Elizabeth in 1956

One day in 1935 the municipality came in trucks to Doornfontein. They moved the people to Orlando. “King Force” and his family went to live in Orlando.

There were many halls in Orlando. The people went to the halls for concerts and dances. “King Force” loved the music and dancing at the halls.

“My favourite band was the Jazz Maniacs,” says” King Force”. “They played hot music. “Zulu Boy” Cele was the leader then. When they rested at concerts, I some­ times jumped on the stage and played the saxophone. The band soon knew me well. In 1936 the band asked me to join them.”

In 1939 “King Force” married his first wife. The band got more popular. In the Second World War, the band played for soldiers. Young Wilson Silgee became “King of the Forces”. People began to call him “King Force”.

In 1944 “Zulu Boy” Cele died. The Jazz Maniacs asked “King Force” to be the new leader. “King Force” was still a clerk in the day. At night he played music until 4 o’clock in the morning.

"King Force" (left) with 2 other members of the Jazz Maniacs

“King Force” (left) with 2 other members of the Jazz Maniacs

“We didn’t sleep much in those days” says “King Force”. “Life was fast, man. Sometimes we played two concerts on one night. Then we went to work the next day. We rushed all the time. But we were young then. We enjoyed life.”

The band traveled allover the country. People from allover South Africa loved them. In 1945 they went to Port Elizabeth. In Port Elizabeth “King Force” met a woman called Irene. When the band went home, Irene followed him. She lived in Johannesburg with her sister. A few years later “King Force” left his first wife. He married Irene and they moved to Dube.

In the 1950s, the people in the band started fighting with each other. The Jazz Maniacs split up. But “King Force” did not stop playing music. He started a smaller band. He called the band “King Force and his Forces”. They played mbaqanga music. People liked them. They sold many records. “King Force” made records until the late 1960s.

img16“King Force” does not play his saxophone much these days. He is getting old. His lungs are weak. But he does not forget. “1 often think about the old days” says “King Force”. “Sometimes I cry when I look at the photographs. I say to myself “Guga mzimba, sala ntliziyo” (The body is old, but the heart is still young.)”

In Gaborone last month the great old “King Force” was young again. And the people still loved him. They will always love him. They will never forget the man who played music that touched their hearts