The Manhattan Brothers was a popular South African singing group in the 1940s and 1950s, during the Apartheid era. Their sound drew on American ragtime, jive, swing, doo-wop, and several other jazz strains, as well as African choral and Zulu harmonies. Members of the group included Joe Mogotsi, Ronnie Sehume, Rufus Khoza, the late Nathan Mdledle, and Miriam Makeba. Makeba, who went on to international fame, started her career with The Manhattan Brothers and was part of the group for much of the 1950s. The group had one US Billboard pop chart hit, "Lovely Lies", which peaked at #45 in March 1956.
During the late '90s a young group of talented rural Afro Jazz musicians from around Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, with the approval of Miriam Makeba and Joe Mogotsi, formed a tribute band called Junior Manhattan Brothers (JMB), a group of young stars who continued the civil rights activism begun by their predecessors.
Led by well respected Afro Jazz local legend Nkosinathi (Nathi) Hadebe, the group consisted at various times, of four to six "vibrant and awesomely talented" members, including Vusumuzi (Vusi) Madondo, Lindokuhle (Ndo) Makathini, Fanizile (Jeffrey) Nzuza, Bongani Mabaso, Lungisani Mhlongo, Thabo Motsamai — and following the passing of two founding members, reformed in 2012 to "take a stand" in memory of their mentors and beloved former members bringing in new members to compliment the existing lineup.
Style of music
Blending traditional, gospel, Afro Jazz, jive, doo-wop, swing ragtime and any other musical genre they could incorporate, with or without musical accompaniment they are able to collectively bring the house down in seconds. The JMB were also instrumental in the artistic and musical aspects of the local movie starring Taye Diggs, Drum (2004).
Contractual restrictions were cited as being a constant barrier between the JMB and worldwide success, with extensive interest from promoters in the US and Australia. And to date, vandalism of their intellectual property continues. This has not damped their spirits, nor will it stop them from upholding their promises to Ms Makeba and both Nathi and Vusi.
In between JMB performances and their collective years with Soweto Gospel Choir/Iphi Ntombi, the JMB performed for, and with, the remaining members of the original Manhattan Brothers outfit and just prior to the passing of Joe Mogotsi, the JMB were hallmarked for greatness and international acclaim. Nathi began his memoirs just prior to his death and a biography and biopic are planned in the near future.
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- Edward Tsumele, "Acclaimed artists set for Soweto gig", Sowetan Live, 24 November 2010.