Sometimes called �township jive� ,
mbaqanga is a South African dance
music which evolved in the
townships and became broadly popular in the
1960s and '70s. It usually includes guitars and bass, often
brass, atop cascading rhythms.
Vocal groups such the
Manhattan Brothers, the Skylarks, and Malathini & the Mahotella Queens popularized
their vocal version of the mbaqanga sound.
remains a dominant force in the music of
South Africa today, incorporated into both
jazz forms and popular music.
By the middle of the 1950s, the various strains
of South African music were pouring themselves into
an exciting melting pot of ideas and forms,
propelled in part by the hunger of the vast urban
proletariat for entertainment.
A key area in this growth was the township of
Sophiatown, in Johannesburg, which had grown since
the 1930s into a seething cauldron of the new urban
lifestyles of black city dwellers.
of its ambiguous legal status as a "freehold" area,
and partly because of its proximity to the urban centre of
Johannesburg, Sophiatown attracted the most
adventurous performers of the new musical forms, and
became a hotbed of the rapidly developing black
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The cyclic structure of
marabi met with
traditional dance styles such as the Zulu indlamu,
with a heavy dollop of American big band swing
thrown on top. The indlamu tendency crystallised
into the "African stomp" style, giving a notably
African rhythmic impulse to the music and making it
quite irresistible to its new audiences.
The new black urban culture also
developed a sassy style of its own, based in
part on the influence of American movies and
the glamour attached to the flamboyant
gangsters who were an integral part of Sophiatown life.
That lawless domain was one in which
black people could mingle with the more
adventurous and liberal whites drawn to the
excitements of its vibrant nightlife,
becoming a touchstone for the first real
cultural and social interchange between the
races to take place in South Africa.
Eventually the white Nationalist
government brought this vital era to an end,
forcibly removing the inhabitants of
Sophiatown to townships such as Soweto,
outside Johannesburg, in 1960. Sophiatown
was razed to the ground and the white suburb of Triomf
built in its place.