the Heshoo Beshoo Group: Armitage Road (1970)

Armitage Road

Track list:

01. Armitage Road
02. Wait and See
03. Emakhaya
04. Amabutho
05. Lazy Bones


Henry Sithole – alto sax;
Stanley Sithole – tenor sax;
Cyril Magubane – guitar;
Ernest Mothole – bass;
Nelson Magwaza – drums

Recorded: 1970
Released: 1970
Label: Starline (EMI)
SRSJ 7015

JPL 4021 [re-issue]

Producer: John S. Norwell
Recording Engineer: John S. Norwell

Liner Notes: Al Lewis

Photography: Jörg Genzimer
Cover Design: John S. Norwell

Made in South Africa
Published by Ardmore and Beechwood, S.A.
Cover printed by Artone Press


Liner Notes: This album was an ear opener for me.

It’s apparent that the influences on the Heshoo Beshoos ranges from the most traditional African jazz to the American avant-garde. Only in their music have I heard the two extremes merge into such a swinging synthesis. Roughly translated from the inter-tribal lingo of the African townships, Heshoo Beshoo means ‘going by force’. It’s a name ‘these five guys obviously take to heart.

The most avant garde influence on this group is 28-year old Henry Sithole. Ten years ago he was playing penny whistle in Durban, and left for the greater musical opportunities in Johannesburg. Now he plays alto in a way that shows he’s keeping up with developments in the States, while still retaining his African roots. Tenor-playing brother Stanley, 24, also graduated from penny whistle.

Guitarist Cyril Magubane, 24, is the group’s composing genius and arranger. He wrote everything on the album, except for Henry Sithole’s ‘Wait and See’. In 1949 Cyril was stricken with polio from the waist down. You might expect such an experience to add a bitter edge to his music. Far from it. Cyril’s solos are the most mellow in the group. He too is an ex-Durbanite who finds greater jazz freedom in Johannesburg.

The group owes most of its powerhouse drive to Ernest Mothle and Nelson Magwaza. Ernest, 28, provides a rich, steady pulse. He comes from Pretoria, and arrived to stay in the Golden City in 1964. The bouyant beat of Nelson used to be heard in Durban until he joined the group in 1969.

Armitage Road is named after Cyril’s address in Orlando. The melody stretched over a persistent, hypnotic rhythm, is one of those things you can’t get out of your mind. Henry’s solo is a delight, full of singing tones and stratospheric cries. Stanley shows a lot of Coltrane in his blowing. And Cyril’s solo is soulful and serene.

Wait and see is a simple melody, sparked off by Nelson’s drumming and erupting into a blazing outburst from Henry.

Amabutho means warriors. In this case they seem to be peaceful but proud. Cyril has a fine solo, sped along by the strong propulsive rhythm. Henry wails jubilantly; and Stanley rounds off the performance in a gutsy groove.

Lazy Bones is a warm, happy melody with a strong traditional feeling. The loping rhythm acts as a springboard for strong solos from Henry and Stanley, then Cyril gets back to his roots in a traditional African way.

Emakhaya means ‘Back home in the bush’, and it’s obviously where Cyril feels completely at ease. He leads in to the simple melody, steps aside for a rousing performance from Stanley, and then settles down to a strong, intense solo. Finally, on comes Henry, strutting and swaggering to a happy conclusion.
~Al Lewis