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Val Wilmer

(Stanley )

(b Cape Town, June 26, 1947). South African drummer, percussionist, singer, and leader. Known first for his singing, he developed as a drummer by accompanying other singers in Cape Town and playing with the quartet led by the pianist Cecil May. In 1962 he joined the Coon Carnival stage show. He then spent seven years in Swaziland, where he played bop with the pianists Roy Peterson and Howard Belling and accompanied Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. In 1975 he traveled to England and worked in variety and dance bands before joining Dudu Pukwana’s group Zila. In 1981 he founded the trio District Six with Mervyn Afrika and the guitarist Russell Herman, both of whom grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town; with Abrahams as its leader, the trio expanded to a sextet (including Jim Dvorak from 1983 to 1993 and Claude Deppa at some point thereafter) and became an important focus for musicians who played both jazz and African rhythms. Abrahams also worked with Ronnie Scott, John Taylor, Johnny Dyani, and the Brotherhood of Breath. In ...

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(bIsmâ’ ilîya, Egypt, June 8, 1931). Frenchsinger and pianist. He studied music in Paris and played piano with Don Byas (1955) and Stephane Grappelli (1957). He was a singer with the Blue Stars (1955–6), toured and recorded with the Double Six (1959–65), and took part in a session with Jon Hendricks and others (1965). Aldebert was married to the singer Monique Dozo (b Monaco, 5 May 1931; later known as Monique Aldebert-Guérin), who had sung with Bernard Peiffer (1947) and performed in Paris clubs with Byas, Django Reinhardt, Bobby Jasper, the Double Six (with which she recorded in 1959 and 1964), and Bill Coleman (1966). After moving to the USA (1967) the couple settled first in Las Vegas, where they appeared in revues, and then in Los Angeles (...

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Gary W. Kennedy

[Benjamin, Beatrice Bertha; Beatty; Satima]

(b Cape Town, South Africa, Oct 17, 1936). South African singer. The name Sathima, which means “person with a kind heart,” was given to her by Johnny Dyani and was originally spelled Satima. She sang standards and show tunes in local groups as a teenager and was performing professionally by the late 1950s. From 1959 she worked with Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand, with whom she moved to Zurich in 1962 to escape the politics of apartheid in South Africa. In Paris in 1963 she made her first recording as a leader, accompanied by a small group under the direction of Duke Ellington that included Svend Asmussen, the double bass player Johnny Gertze, and Makaya Ntshoko, with either Brand, Billy Strayhorn, or Ellington on piano; the results were not issued until 34 years later. In 1965 Benjamin performed with Ellington’s orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival, and in the same year she married Brand, after which she often sang in his groups; Brand took the Muslim name Abdullah Ibrahim in ...

Article

Ray Pallett

(b Laurenço Marques [now Maputo], Jan 7, 1899; d London, April 17, 1941). British popular singer. His father was Greek, his mother was Lebanese. Bowlly was brought up in South Africa and joined Edgar Adeler’s leading dance band in 1922, touring South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, East Africa and the Far East. He left Adeler in 1924 and took up a residency at Raffles Hotel, Singapore. In 1927 he went to Germany and made his first recording, Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies. A prestigious engagement lasting one year followed at the Savoy Hotel, London, with the bandleader Fred Elizalde. He had a major break in 1930 when he joined a recording studio band led by Ray Noble, with whom he made the original versions of songs which have become standards. These, all by Noble, included The Very Thought of You, Love is the Sweetest Thing, The Touch of your Lips...

Article

James May

(Maria Sophia )

(b Durban, June 12, 1932). South African soprano . After initial studies in Johannesburg she was a pupil of Maria Hittorf and Joseph Witt in Vienna (from 1954). She made her début at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1956 as the Queen of Night, a role with which she achieved considerable fame and which she sang in most of the major opera houses in Europe. From ...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Newcastle upon Tyne, Jan 7, 1908; d South Africa, May 1988). South African bass of English birth . He studied in Dresden, making his début in 1931 at Leipzig as Monterone (Rigoletto), later singing King Henry (Lohengrin), Osmin, Sarastro, Philip II and many Wagner roles. He appeared at Munich, Dresden, Vienna and Berlin, where he spent the war years. At Bayreuth (1942–4 and 1951) he sang Hagen, Fafner and Pogner. After an engagement at Munich, he joined Covent Garden in 1951. There he created John Claggart in Billy Budd (1951), Sir Walter Raleigh in Gloriana (1953) and Calkas in Walton’s Troilus and Cressida (1954). He sang the Doctor in the British stage première of Wozzeck (1952) and his repertory included King Mark, Hunding, Caspar, Pizarro, Ochs, Kečal, Sparafucile and Mozart’s Bartolo. From 1957 to his retirement in ...

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(b Vryheid, July 2, 1944). South African baritone. He studied and began his career in South Africa, making his stage début with the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal Opera in Johannesburg as Yamadori (Butterfly) in 1967. Further studies followed in London with Otakar Kraus, and he sang Mathieu in a concert performance of Andrea Chénier in 1970. He sang Valentin (Faust) at Barcelona in 1971, and was later a member of the ENO, 1973–81, his roles including Cecil (Maria Stuarda), Marcello and Posa. A warm-toned and polished stylist in the bel canto repertory, he made a speciality of lesser-known Bellini and Donizetti works in concert performances for the London Opera Society and stage productions by Opera Rara, for example in the title role of Torquato Tasso and as Corrado in Maria de Rudenz (Donizetti) and Ernesto in Il pirata (Bellini). He formally retired in ...

Article

Charles de Ledesma and Barry Kernfeld

(Mbizo )

(b East London, South Africa, Nov 30, 1945; d Berlin, Oct 24, 1986). South African double bass player and singer. He grew up in a musical family and studied piano and sang before taking up double bass, which he first played with Mongezi Feza and the percussionist Dick Nkosa. After working with the pianist Tete Mbambisa he joined Chris McGregor’s group the Blue Notes, with which he performed in France at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes--Juan-les-Pins (1964), worked at clubs in Zurich and Geneva (1964–5), and traveled to London (1965). In 1966 he performed and recorded with Steve Lacy in a quartet with Enrico Rava and Louis Moholo in Britain, Italy, and South America, where they were stranded. Over the next few years he played in Britain with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the Musicians Co-op, and McGregor’s newly formed Brotherhood of Breath. Dyani then settled in Copenhagen (...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Durban, Dec 19, 1943). South African soprano . She studied in Durban and Vienna, making her début as Butterfly at Berne in 1965, then singing in Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf and Cologne. She made her London début as Luise in the British première of Henze’s Der junge Lord...

Article

Noël Goodwin

(b Vancouver, July 31, 1929; d Johannesburg, South Africa, September 11, 2011). Canadian bass . He studied at Santa Barbara with Lotte Lehmann and later at the Toronto Royal Conservatory. After a period as a principal with the Canadian Opera Company, he undertook further studies in New York and Milan. In 1961 he joined Sadler’s Wells Opera in London, with which he sang basso cantante roles in over 500 performances as well as appearing with Scottish Opera and the WNO. He took part in the English Opera Group première of Britten’s Curlew River (1964), made his début at Covent Garden in 1970 as Ferrando (Il trovatore) and at Glyndebourne in 1973 in Der Besuch der alten Dame (Einem); in 1975 he appeared there as Trulove in The Rake’s Progress, a role he had recorded under Stravinsky. In Canada he has sung the Grand Inquisitor and Daland (...

Article

James May

(Mario Giulio)

(b Milan, July 5, 1943). Italian bass-baritone and director resident in South Africa. He studied the piano and singing privately while reading science at the University of Cape Town. His singing teachers were Albina Bini, Adelheid Armhold and Frederick Dalberg in Cape Town and, in 1965–6, Carlo Tagliabue and Anna Pistolesi in Milan. He made his début as Kecal (The Bartered Bride) in Cape Town in 1965. Gobbato is best known for buffo roles such as Dr Bartolo (Il barbiere), Don Pasquale and Figaro (Il barbiere and Figaro); he was awarded the first Nederburg Prize for opera in 1971 for his portrayal of Papageno. He was resident producer at the Nico Malan Opera House in Cape Town, 1976–81, and head of the opera school of the University of Cape Town, 1982–8. In 1989 he was appointed director of opera for the Cape Performing Arts Board. He has directed – mainly from the Italian repertory – for all the arts councils in South Africa....

Article

Val Wilmer

(Ann )

(b London, April 7, 1944). English singer, composer, and percussionist. She started singing on the streets of London in the 1960s, then formed the Race, singing blues with English, Jamaican, and Nigerian musicians. She performed with Lol Coxhill, Roy Babbington, and others in the group Delivery, led by the pianist Steve Miller (1970–72), then went to the USA (1974), where she recorded albums in Nashville and Memphis with leading soul session musicians. After returning to England she continued to sing blues, soul, and jazz with her own bands. She became associated with free improvisers in groups such as Maggie Nicols’s Contradictions and worked in the 1970s with a new wave of women jazz players, including Laka Daisical, the Guest Stars, and Annie Whitehead. While leading the ensembles Carol and the Crocodiles and Eyes Wide Open, she worked with the saxophonist Angèle Veltmeijer, Steve Lodder, the guitarist Maciek Hrybowicz, the double bass player Mario Castronari, and others, and wrote jazz-oriented material. Grimes formed musical partnerships with the singer Ian Shaw and the pianist Janette Mason, worked with Alan Barnes and the guitarist Tony Rémy, and collaborated with Indian singers and the Sudanese electric bass guitarist Sami El Salahi. For theater she wrote and produced the autobiographical ...

Article

Howard Rye

(b Cameroon, c1900). Cameroonian drummer and singer. His real name is unknown. He grew up in Cameroon while it was under German administration and learned German at a mission school; later he worked in a circus in Germany. During World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris he was able to make use of his background to act as an intermediary between the German authorities and the Antillean and African musical community. In mid-1942 he obtained a permit authorizing the formation of a band to play at La Cigale, which included Robert Mavounzy, the Guadeloupian tenor saxophonist Sylvio Siobud, and, from October 1942, the Guadeloupian trombonist Albert Lirvat. Bégonia Swing (1942, Pol. 590.121) and Le wa di wa wa ou (1943, Pol. 524.820) reveal the calibre of both the band and its leader.

D. Nevers: Liner notes, Antilles Jazz “West Indies Jazz” (1930–1954) (Jazz Time 781336-2, 1993)...

Article

Stephanie Conn

[Warsame, Keinan Abdi ]

(b Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb 1, 1978). Somali-Canadian hip hop artist, singer, and songwriter. K’naan (“traveler”) was born in the midst of Somalia’s civil war. His grandfather Haji Mohamed was a famous poet, and his aunt Magool a well-known singer. As a child he became interested in rap recordings sent from the United States by his father. In 1991 he left as a refugee with his mother and sister, moving to New York and then Toronto. By 1993 he had learned English, left school, and was performing professionally. In 2001 he sang at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. His full-length debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005), won a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year and was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. In 2005, he performed at the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Canada. His second album, Troubadour...

Article

Charles Pitt

(b Cairo, 1941). Egyptian tenor. He studied in Cairo with Geilane Rathle and then in Rome with Achille Braschi. In 1963 he made his début at the Cairo Opera House, as Edgardo, and the next year he joined the newly formed Cairo Opera Company, singing Alfredo (in Arabic) in the opening production. His international début was in Russia in 1970, as Rodolfo; he went on to sing Turiddu at the Bol’shoy in Moscow and in Leningrad, in 1972, and Cavaradossi in Warsaw, followed by performances in Sofia and other east European houses. He was the first Egyptian tenor to sing Radames, at Vilnius in 1974, going on to sing the role in Rome in 1976, before the Pyramids in Cairo in 1987 and at the Metropolitan, New York, in 1991. He has also performed in Barcelona, at the Paris Opéra and at the Chicago Lyric, and has sung in many Egyptian operettas and in films. He was appointed artistic director of the new Cairo Opera House in ...

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Nishlyn Ramana

[Thandi ]

(b Johannesburg, Sept 27, 1931). South African singer. Self-taught, she first encountered jazz while growing up in Sophiatown, a multiracial district of Johannesburg that was once home to some of South Africa’s most celebrated musicians, writers, and political activists. As a teenager she became known for her performances with groups such as the Gay Gaieties, the Harlem Swingsters, and the Cuban Brothers. In the early 1950s, with her sister Thandeka, she formed the Quad Sisters, which became the first African all-female group to make recordings (among them her compositions Unezimanga/Puma Satan, Zonk TV213); she also recorded Umthandazo (Tropik D-C 815) as a co-leader with the singer Hazel Futa. In the mid-1950s Klaasen began performing in the African Jazz and Variety shows promoted by Alfred Herbert, and in 1961 she toured Europe with the cast of the musical King Kong, performing alongside Kippie Moeketsi, Ntemi Piliso, the pianist Todd Matshikiza, and many other established South African jazz musicians. This experience furthered her career, and throughout the 1960s she toured South Africa with artists such as Winston Mankunku, the singers Dolly Rathebe, Dorothy Masuka, and Miriam Makeba, and the Manhattan Brothers. Klaasen ceased performing in ...

Article

Craig A. Lockard

(b Prospect, nr Johannesburg, March 4, 1932; d Castel Volturno, Italy, Nov 10, 2008). South African folk and popular singer. As a child she learned traditional African tribal music and jazz-influenced popular music. She spent several years as a band singer and actress, and first attracted attention when she sang the leading role in the African opera King Kong in London in 1959. She then went to the USA, where she achieved a national reputation performing in New York night clubs and on television, introducing contemporary African music to enthusiastic American audiences. Her concerts and albums demonstrated an eclectic taste, including West Indian and Israeli folk music as well as Broadway show tunes. She became best known, however, for her interpretations of such traditional and modern songs of the Xhosa and Zulu peoples as the robust Click Song, where her strong, dynamic singing recreated the material in a powerful, sophisticated and Western urban idiom. She was also capable of sensitive interpretation in such gentle songs as the Indonesian lullaby ...

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(b St. Louis, Sept 1, 1917; d Freetown, Sierra Leone, Feb 10, 1961). American singer. In the 1930s she gained experience performing in clubs, and from 1942 she sang with Louis Armstrong, at first in his big band and later with the All Stars. Her comic romantic duets with Armstrong, such as That’s my desire (1947, Decca 28372), became famous, though some listeners found them distasteful. Middleton made many recordings with Armstrong and may be heard to advantage on Baby, it’s cold outside (1951, Decca 928172); she also appeared with him in numerous films and television shows, notably the documentary “Satchmo the Great” (“Saga of Satchmo,” 1956). As a leader she recorded two albums (1948, 1951), on the first of which she was joined by Earl Hines and Cozy Cole. She died while on a tour of Africa with Armstrong.

ChiltonW; FeatherE; Feather '60s...

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Noël Goodwin

(b Johannesburg, Feb 16, 1939). South African soprano . She began singing studies in South Africa, continuing in Detmold and Hamburg. Her début, at Bielefeld in 1969 as Venus (Tannhäuser), was followed by engagements at several other German centres and as Venus at San Francisco. She joined the chorus at Bayreuth and sang small roles there before a success in ...

Article

Darius Brubeck

(Madoda )

(b Benoni, South Africa, Feb 13, 1933; d 1978). South African singer and tenor saxophonist. From 1952 to 1966 he led a popular close-harmony vocal group, the Woody Woodpeckers, whose recordings included the pairing Hambani/Welele (Col. YE263, 1959). He then had a second career as a creative tenor saxophonist, composer, and arranger; on occasion he played with Dudu Pukwana, and from ...