About 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 Beaters instead. 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.”
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.”
THE 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 Brenda 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.
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.”