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Juluka's Sipho On Comeback Trail
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Juluka's Sipho On Comeback TrailUntying The Past. Rapping Up The Present. Preparing The Future

BONA Magazine – December 1988

Juluka's Sipho On Comeback Trail

By AMOS MNGOMA - Photographs by DAVE ELLINGER (P)© BONA 1988

Sipho Mchunu is a brave man. Two years ago he broke with partner Johnny Clegg to be with his large family and to till the soil. Juluka was no more.

During that period he saw just about everything he had worked for go up in flames. He also saw Johnny Clegg and his new group, Savuka reach great heights in the music world both locally and overseas.

Sipho is brave. After all the trials and tribulations that befell him, he's decided to make another go of his musical career.

Slowly the Mchunu family has pieced together their lives, and Sipho feels the time is right for a comeback. "I'm going for traditional music”, he said. "I want to give my friends here and overseas the real African message, deep from the roots of our tradition, not just a meaningless mixture of African / Western beat.

At the time of writing Sipho and his new group uSipho noThukela were frantically rehearsing for a short tour of the USA, where they were due to take part in an African traditional music festival.

Sipho told me from his home on the banks of the Tugela (Thukela) River that his reported teaming up with Clegg would not interfere with Savuka.

"It would be unfair of me to try to join them after all the work they have put into the group and after they have achieved so much," he said. “However, he still wanted a meeting with Clegg to finalise the Juluka question.

Said Sipho. "Juluka must not die. Johnny and I could meet and perform as Juluka from time to time if our fans wanted this, supported by members of our groups, and then go our separate ways. Juluka is Sipho Mchunu and Jonathan Clegg".

Sipho is still counting the cost of his tragic losses during the past two years. Faction fighting in the area destroyed his homes, furniture and vehicles. (Valued at about R135 000 in 1988).

He also lost about 100 head of cattle, either butchered or stolen. Fortunately however, the school he built for the children of his community was untouched."

Slowly the Mchunu family has pieced together their lives, and Sipho feels the time is right for a comeback. "I'm going for traditional music”, he said. "I want to give my friends here and overseas the real African message, deep from the roots of our tradition, not just a meaningless mixture of African / Western beat.

My songs are based on real events and places in Zulu history." In spite of the hard times after Juluka split, Sipho does not regret his two-year break from music. "No matter how successful I am in music I will still dream of tilling the land."


How come they didn’t sell so well?

SIPHO Mchunu became synonymous with young Yeoville Zulu Blanke, JOHNNY Clegg in the 1970’s. It wasn’t easy for Sipho Mchunu or Johnny Clegg to perform their special brand of Maskandi Magic & Music just anywhere.

3rd Ear Music’s Tribal Blues in 1971, or the odd Folk Festival & our Free Peoples Concerts (1971 to 1976 and 1980 to 1986) at Wits University – organized with NUSAS (National Union of SAfrican Students) & SAFMA (South African Folk Music Association) - presented these talented young Folk & their various Zulu Dance groups (waMadhlebe) & Bands (Juluka) to a wider suburban & city audience.

Post 1973 in the townships, it was a different story. Juluka were a phenomena on the other side of the tracks - a world that few in the suburbs were aware of.

So tell me, I heard at the time & still hear 30 years later, if they were so damn good how come they didn’t sell? Where are the chart figures?

Sell what? How? Where? (See why we think this Hidden Years Archive & the hopeful hidden history it holds is important?)

How misinformed are today’s New Age Digital Media Jocks? We aren’t making any lame excuses - what happened, happened. But isn’t that question a little like asking why, if Bishop Tutu were so popular, wasn’t he President of South Africa in 1976?

35 years on & Sipho & quite a number of other 3rd Ear Musicians, are still around making music. They have survived in spite of not selling well? One wonders, in sympathy at times, where those DJ Radio personalities, the programmers & Political

Gate-Keepers are today & how they will, if ever, be remembered? History, hidden or not, will survive if it passes the ultimate taste test - time. All we have to do is listen. What a pleasure!

But even if musicians did manage to produce a recording back then & sell well – who in their particular segregated mainstream media would ever have known without a little foreign intervention? For example, in the 70’s when 3rd Ear presented groups such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the city, few non-blacks had ever heard of them. Yet they were already the biggest selling recording group in Africa. They outsold the Beatles, Elvis & Sinatra put together. LBM did not top any pop charts internal or external,… until Paul Simon heard the light 15 years later.

Sipho MchunuSipho & Johnny started performing in public as a duo in 1970 & at times appearing with their impressive (32 member) nDlamu Dance group, waMadhlebe - comprised of Zulu Gold Mine migrant Hostel dwellers. People flocked to these amazing events - if they managed to hear about them. And marketing an event like that was in itself an achievement. The events were always free, but for passing the hat, which sometimes disappeared. (We heard some years later that at one or two Free Peoples Concerts (Wits 1971 to 1976) that it was a Security Policeman who needed some petty cash?)

Not to arouse the suspicions (and paranoia) of the authorities, required some ingenuity & a whole load of word of mouth. It was one thing (and illegal) to have different races dancing or being entertained together, but it another thing to do so on the sacred Sabbath Sunday! A few discreetly placed handbills & street posters (usually in the darker side of town - Hillbrow & Yeoville with the occasional preview in the Rand Daily Mail & The Star – & later in Die Beeld en Rapport – all helped to attract people with minimum official or state attention. And when it did attract attention, the following gigs were cancelled (sometimes mysteriously – sorry, you weren’t booked here – must be a misunderstanding!)

3rd Ear Music Notes 1990 - Sipho & his band set New York alight when he performed these new songs at the famed Apollo Theatre in 1988. However, back home – and despite his legendary status, Radio uKhozi (Radio Zulu at the time)‘declined’ to program or promote umHlaba uZobuya. TUSK Records & 3rd Ear Music had plans for a short Zululand tour. to raise income for Sipho’s losses in the Makhabaleni faction fights. A popular DJ told our PR people that the only way Radio Bantu would Programme the album & mention Sipho’s proposed concerts was if we put R5 000 on the table & parted with 50% of the gate for each concert. No joke! What can we do, said the grey-haired impeccably straight Station Manager to whom we reported the incident? The CID is investigating, he confided... the DJs are power. Mess with them & we loose our (captive?) audience & the sponsors as well. Radio Zulu had over 5 million listeners ...... 11 years after liberation you’ll never hear the likes of Sipho Mchunu (or any 3rd Ear Musician) on East Coast Radio. And check out who the share holders are! Strange, strange world indeed.

BONA Magazine 1988

Sipho sings to his children
Sipho sings to his children at his kraal 1988

BONA Magazine 1988 & 3rd Ear Collage

SIPHO MCHUNU & JOHNNY CLEGG

SIPHO MCHUNU & JOHNNY CLEGG @ 3rd Ear Music’s MARKET THEATRE CAFE 1976
Photo - David Marks

SIPHO's large family

SIPHO has a large family . Here he is (above) with 2 of his 5 wives. (Right) The only ‘status’ symbol that Sipho has after the loss of property & possessions through faction fights. He also lost about 100 head of cattle, either butchered or stolen. Fortunately however, the school he built for the children of his community was untouched."

Hugh & Miriam Marry

School that Sipho built

This is the School that Sipho (far right) built for the Children of his community. It alone survived the tragic faction fights.

Tribal Blues SIPHO guitar & vocals with JOHNNY

SIPHO guitar & vocals with JOHNNY playing the uMphe Bow 3rd Ear Music’s MARKET THEATRE CAFE 1976 (Photo: David Marks Hidden Years Music Archive Project)

Tribal Blues Programme & Poster with Fran Wits 1971

Sipho & Johnny waMadhlebe
Sipho & Johnny waMadhlebe Free Peoples Concert 1972
Young Teenage Sipho

A Young Teenage Sipho Serious

Teenage Sipho Dances

A Young Teenage Sipho Dances


3rd Ear Music Company est. 1969 (Pty)Ltd. The Hidden Years Music Archive Project

P.O.Box 50633
Musgrave 4062
Durban
KwaZulu-Natal
South Africa
email: thirdear@iafrica.com

REGISTERED AUDITORS: MORRISON MURRAY (031)267-5300
The HYMAProject IS supported by the SA-NORWEGIAN EDUCATION & MUSIC PROGRAMME
AND THE NATIONAL RESEARCH FOUNDATION / UkZN 2004 / 2007
Contents of this Letter/eMail do not constitute a contract & the views expressed herein are not necessarily those of 3rd Ear Musicians & Funders
All Material (p)© 1969 - 2002 David Marks / 3rd Ear Music (Pty) Ltd Reg: 89/06695/07 VAT Reg. 4690150273


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