For the month of September the PE Opera House is reviving the Afternoon Spend sessions with our Jazz’Afro Sundays hosting 2 iconic Jazz musicians every week to perform their sets at the Barn Theatre. Kicking off Jazz’Afro Sundays Heritage Month Edition will be living legends Yankee Brother and Retsi Pule.
Acclaimed acapella group Yankee Brothers was formed in 1956 by the late greats Mbuks Khetse, Lizo Ntungana, Mkolwane Mbombela, Thamsanqa Booi and Themba Swaartbooi with Poni Bantom the only surviving member. Their name emanated from the close relationship between original group member Mbuks Khetse and East London pianist Tete Mbambisa who belonged to the ‘Four Yanks’ group it was only befitting that the Uitenhage group thus became the Yankee Brothers. The legendary group’s velety voices has seen them croon their way to winning major competitions and performing with other iconing Jazz Musicians during their illustrious career spanning over 6 decades. Having shared the stage with likes of Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Stompie Mavi, Soul Jazzmen, Four by Four and the list goes on and on! In 1962 the group filled in the popular Victor Ndlazilwana’s Woody Wood Peckers in Uitenhage. A performance alongside Jimmy James and Wela Motomela saw the Yankee Brothers featured on SABC television. Dave Kenu, Poni Bantom and Wanele Ginger have been performing together for the past 20 years and recently performed at the Eastern Cape Jazz Extravaganza in April 2018 held at the East London Guild Theatre. All three at over 70 years are showing no signs of stopping!
Retsi Pule was born into a long line of singers, and his maternal great-grandfather belonged to a group of harmony singers who were once invited to sing for Queen Victoria in Britain. He and his parents lived in Duncan Village, East London, a community that has produced many jazz musicians in the Eastern Cape.
He was often taken to participate in talent competitions in neighbouring King Williams Town close to where he was born in Ginsberg – a vibrant town brimming with Jazz Artists, businessmen and the first black owned hotel.
During the 1950’s and sixties Retsi Pule was performing with close harmony groups around King William’s Town and East London with strong competition coming from Big bands which were very popular and played the famous jazz standards, to keep up Retsi and his groups composed their own songs in the mould of American Jazz.
Popular groups and bands of the time were Victor Ndlazilwane’s Woody Woodpeckers of Benoni, Nathan “Dambuza” Mdledle’s Manhattan Brothers of old Pimville, the African Inkspots of Sharpeville, and pianist Tete Mbambisa’s Four Yanks from Duncan Village.
In 1968, at the invitation of Queenstown-born pianist Patrick Matshikiza, Pule went to Johannesburg and became part of the vibrant artistic community of Dorkay House it is there that he got to perform with musicians like drummer Early Mabuza, saxophonist Barney Rachabane and trumpeters Johnny Mekoa and Dennis Mpale.
Retsi released his debut album, Sdudla in 1978, which was a typical township jazz of the times. In the late 1970s, Pule returned to the Eastern Cape and worked with Tete Mbambisa and Vuyiswa Ngcwangu, naamin just a few of the many great Eastern Cape Jazz musicians he has worked with.
He still performs throughout the Eastern Cape and beyond and also offers private tuition in vocal techniques to young musicians he says that teaching music is part of his legacy for the development of jazz in South Africa.
The ever-changing and versatile character of jazz has been proven over time by different styles such as swing, bebop, hard bop, avante garde and smooth and with Retsi’s versatility and love for exploring other genres with in Jazz he is still in the game for a long time.
Show date: 09 September 2018 from 17h00 at The Barn Theatre, PE Opera House, Admission: R70.00 (R50.00 Pensioners) – limited seating be sure to be early
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