The Malcolm McLaren connection
• The late Malcolm McLaren schemed off the Boyoyo Boys and the Mahotella Queens by goosing up their songs. He also used some South African musicians and ‘forgot’ to credit them. Only one group, the Boyoyo Boys managed to sue him and get something back, writes WONDER GUCHU
I have no doubt very few people know much about a South African group called Boyoyo Boys, who were led by Boy Masaka.
The Mahotella Queens are well known so is the pioneer rapper Africa Bambataa.
Some, I am quite certain, know much about the late Malcolm McLaren who managed the Sex Pistols and New York Dolls before he went solo to release ‘Duck Rock’ in 1983.
McLaren is credited for introducing hip-hop to England through ‘Jive My baby’, ‘Punk It Up’, ‘Soweto’ and ‘Double Dutch’.
He died at 64 on April 8, 2010.
You may be wondering what the link is between McLaren and Boy Masaka, whose real name is Barney Robert Masena. There is no doubt too that you are wondering what the relationship between The Mahotella Queens and Africa Bambataa and McLaren is.
It’s the goosing up of songs.
The Boyoyo Boys were a South African group formed in 1969 by Vusi Xhosa, Vusi Nkosi, Lucas Pelo and Philippe Mziza as well as guest saxophonist Thomas Pale.
They are some of the founders of ‘mbaqanga’ or township jive that was better known as the music of shebeens, which was illegalised during apartheid.
Although the group has 20 gold records in South Africa, they were not that much known internationally until McLaren re-issued one of their best selling songs, ‘Pule or Puleng’ as ‘Double Dutch’ in 1983.
McLaren’s song peaked at number three on the British charts and this is the only single that has gone that high to date.
The Boyoyo Boys sued McLaren and they won the case after a protracted court battle. An out of court settlement was made. Although it was never established how much was paid out, McLaren retained the credit for writing the songs.
Two years before, McLaren, who was the manager of the Bow Wow Wow group, had targeted Mahotella Queens’ song ‘Umculo Kawupheli’ and turned into ‘Jungle Boy’, a Bow Wow Wow hit song.
The Mahotella Queens, just like the Boyoyo Boys, also the founders of ‘mbaqanga’, were formed in 1964 and comprise Hilda Tloubatla, Nobesuthu Mbadu and Mildred Mangxola.
Although they are a ‘mbaqanga’ group, the Mahotella Queens’ music was also called ‘mgqashiyo’ from the fast-paced dance routine.
Over the years, the trio were joined by Simon Mahlathini, Marks Mankwane and West Nkosi who all died between 1998 and 1999.
In addition to ‘Umculo Kawupheli’, McLaren also used the group to record ‘Jive My Baby’, which is on the album ‘Double Dutch’. As usual, he conveniently forgot to credit the group.
Apart from goosing up the songs, McLaren did not credit South African musicians such as Aaron Lerole and Bayete’s Jabu Khanyile for their role in re-making the music.
Because of this goosing up, McLaren was given the title the Godfather of British Hip-hop. His break into music started when he met Africa Bambataa in New York. He sweet-talked the hip-hop pioneer into sharing the stage with Bow Wow Wow.
This was his own way of penetrating a different market, “These guys (Bow Wow Wow) started to spin on their heads and it was phenomenal. They already had the attributes that would become ubiquitous in hip-hop style: the caps, the baggy T-shirts … all of that was already assembled, but it hadn’t hit anybody downtown on a commercial, even independent level.”
Of course, the Mahotella Queens have gone on to make history for themselves, but whatever they have made and become cannot be compared to what McLaren got and became in a very short space of time.
In an interview with the British Telegraph in 2007, McLaren startles, “I have always loved the idea of being someone who can disappear; of never having an identity. It was probably due to my dysfunctional childhood.”
McLaren was raised by his grandmother after his father had left when he was two.