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This page last updated 20 May 2002.
Ellis Park Pop Festival, 1 June 1970
|| This is Hawk, in their very
first concert appearance. There were two simultaneous "pop
festivals" on that first day of winter in 1970. This
one was at Ellis Park, and the other at the Out Of Town Club (can someone
confirm that's the correct name?). I went to the "wrong"
one - Ellis Park was poppier and more commercial. But at least I
saw the debut of one of South Africa's finest ever rock bands. I
remember singer Dave Ornellas responding to an audience member's heckle
of "Where's Bob Dylan then?" with "Sorry, he couldn't
make it today." (Obscure cultural reference: Hawk were
named after The Hawks, the original name of The Band when they were Bob
Dylan's original backing band.)
For real info about Hawk, have a look at the Brian Currin's Hawk
page on his South
African Rock Legends website.
Free People's Festival, February 1975
|The Free Peoples Festivals were
legendary all day concerts held at Wits University in Johannesburg
during the 1970's. We have Dave Marks to thank for them, and for
so much else that was great about the music scene in those days.
(Have a look at the Third
Ear Music website for loads of great memories, in particular more Free
People's Festival shots.)
I went to every one of these festivals apart from the first, from
about 1971 to 1976, but this was the only time I had a camera. So
I missed recording some legendary performances from people like Johnny
& Sipho (i.e. Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu, who later formed
Juluka), Colin Shamley, Edi Niederlander, Paul Clingman, Brian
Bebbington and many others.
Here's a collage of shots from the 6th Free People's festival of February
as published in the student newspaper, imaginatively entitled Wits
Student if I remember correctly, a week later.
My apologies for the low quality of the following colour shots from
the same gig, which were taken on a pocket Kodak Instamatic, but at
least provide a record of a handful of performances.
||Jeremy Taylor, of Ag Pleez
fame, arrived clandestinely from what was then still Rhodesia to
play a few numbers, before making himself scarce before the security
police discovered he was in the country. The Third Ear Music site
article Jeremy wrote about his political songs of the sixties.
|Richard Jon Smith, the
Cape Town based soul singer who was near the start of his career.
As you can see, the stage was erected in front of the Wits. Great Hall.
The sign strung
across the stage read "Free People's Concert".
||An Indian group whose name I'm
afraid I don't recall.
||And an Irish group whose name
also escapes me, but which is described on the Third
Ear website, where there's a shot of them from three years earlier,
as "Ian's Irish group".
||The Steel Band, put
together by the son of famous ethno-musicologist Andrew Tracey, if my
memory is correct.
Soweto Jazz Festival, October 1974
|These two shots are actually photocopies since I don't have the originals.
They were taken by a photographer from the Sowetan newspaper,
although they weren't published.
I'm the white guy with long
hair and his back to the camera in the first shot, and facing forwards
but semi-obscured in the second. My friend Duncan Todd is the other
whitey. The hatless guy with whom we're dancing is Long John
"Snowy" Mongangane whom we met there, and who became a great
friend. He was a member of
the audience that day, and we were working as honorary roadies, but as you can see
that involved quite a lot of fun as well.
This was a four day festival, with music running 12 or 18 hours a
day. The first night we slept in a car in the stadium, and I
recall waking and thinking that Duncan was playing a Santana tape on the
cassette player. But he wasn't - Malombo were playing
their hearts out on stage, a trio makiung enough sound for six, with the
inimitable Philip Tabane's guitar really talking.
Another vivid memory is when there was a problem with
communication between the stage and the sound tower, and Duncan and I
were threading our way through the crowd between the two. Ours were the only white
faces amongst the audience of a few thousand. Richard Jon Smith
was on stage singing Young Gifted and Black and Power to the
People. I have never felt less threatened or insecure in my
life - every other person seemed to be shaking our hands and greeting us
as long lost brothers. (This was less than two years before riots
in Soweto started the gradual failure of apartheid.)
Informal Jam at Free People's Festival, February 1975
||The Free People's Festivals were
very relaxed affairs. My friends and I would always
take bongos and guitars with us, and at some stage would drift off to
the sidelines somewhere to jam. As you can see from these 1975
photo's, this sometimes
attracted quite a few people!
With hindsight, this was remarkably
discourteous to the performers and organisers, but at the time it seemed
completely in keeping with the spirit of the occasion.
I'm the one with the long hair playing bongos and wearing a
University of Cape Town t-shirt. Sandy and Mangosta (Norman Forth)
are the ones
wearing white hats and playing guitars. Dianne Merrington is
playing guitar in the last shot. (I mention these names in the
hope of one day getting back in touch with these long lost friends.)
The first shot is a favourite of mine, being an accidental collage of
two shots (the camera failed to wind on). The dancer in the yellow
t-shirt is Snowy, whom Duncan and I had met in Soweto the previous year.
These photos were taken by old friend Fabrizzio Grosso.
He was at school and university with me, but we lost touch after we
left SA at the end of 1976. I believe he became a sound engineer
in Johannesburg, but have failed to track him down. I'd be
grateful if anyone could put us in touch again.
-- Nick Shears, May 2002.