Bibi The Kid Msomi Interview - Viking of the Sky
Jordan Valley Records discusses the masterpiece 6-song compilation LP Viking of the Sky with William Msomi, aka Bibi “The Kid” Msomi.
Jordan Valley Records: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. Please tell us about the concepts behind each of the three projects these tracks were selected from, starting with the Ngayibamba LP, which came out on Heads Productions in 1984. You mentioned this is your favorite Bibi Msomi album. How did you connect with producer Jimmy Mojapelo on this project?
William Msomi: I met Jimmy early in February, 1984 at RPM studios in downtown Johannesburg where he was waiting for an artist who was coming from Botswana to record his first album with Bra Jimmy. I didn't know Bra Jimmy at that time, but I'd heard he was a great producer so I decided to introduce myself and told him I was a singer from Durban looking for a label to sign to. At that time I was renting a room in Soweto in Mapetla. Bra Jimmy invited me to the recording session the following day with his artist from Botswana, and he asked me to sing backing vocals and he liked my voice. After a week he came to visit me in Soweto and told me that he wanted to record my album. Ngayibamba was recorded and released the same year under Heads Productions distributed by Teal Tritone Music, which is now called Universal Music.
JVR: As much of the Ngayibamba album is in Zulu, please let the fans from outside South Africa know what the two tracks featured on the Viking of the Sky compilation, EMAGCEKENI and KWATEBA, are about.
WM: Emagcekeni is about wars that were happening in Africa when African countries were still ruled by colonialists. A lot of things changed in Africa during the colonizations of the continent and the song addresses these issues.
Kwa Teba is a big mining company west of Johannesburg, with many people coming from other African nations to work in this deep mine. The western deep level here in South Africa is called Kwa Teba. I was impressed about the way this mine operated and decided to write a song about it. People from all around the continent were coming to find work at Kwa Tebha.
JVR: The players credited on the Ngayibamba album are: Peter Mokoena on drums, Solly "Ace" Letwaba on bass, Bob "Blackie" Sibisi on guitar, and Joey Mabe on keyboard. Were these guys the studio musicians at Heads Productions or was this an early band you formed? Tell us a bit about your history with these amazing players.
WM: The players credited on this album are all studio musicians. Peter Mokoena on drums was a solo artist and was contracted at WEA Records at the time. Solly Ace Ledwaba was the bass player with Juluka, Bob Blackie Sibisi who played lead guitar was playing for Brenda Fassie then, and Joey Mabe who played all keyboards was playing for Mahlathini And Mahotella Queens at that during that period.
JVR: There are some great backing vocals on EMAGCEKENI and KWATEBA. Who is singing backing vocals on these songs, and is it true that you worked with Ladysmith Black Mambazo?
WM: Peter Mokoena, Bibi Msomi, Ace Ledwaba, and Joey Mabe sang all backing vocals on the Ngayibamba LP. Ladysmith Black Mambazo was not featured on this album, but they did sing on Iyahlasela, which is on the What Kind of Love is This? LP also on RPM Records.
JVR: We’re thrilled to feature two songs from the sought after 12” single “Viking of the Sky,” produced by Peter Hubner in 1985. Apart from a writing credit to Jabu Nkosi for both songs, no musicians are credited on the single. How did the collaboration with Peter come about, and who are the musicians featured on Viking of the Sky and I Just Can’t Believe?
WM: Pete Hubner ran a studio that was making jingles at the time and created music for adverts for SABC. I met him when he was invited to WEA Records and he told me he was doing jingles and that he was looking for someone to sing on some of the jingles, so we ended up working together. While we were working on a jingle I told him that I'd already composed lyrics for two songs that I wanted to record for WEA Records as a maxi single. He agreed and gave me studio time to record the songs. I contacted my friends Janshi Mayo (Umoja Singers Chorale), who is a bassist, and Jabu Nkosi (Peace, The Drive, Thetha) ,who is a keyboard player, and we practiced the songs for three days and the fourth day we recorded the two songs I Just Can't Believe You and Viking of the Sky.
JVR: There’s some incredible bass playing on both these songs, as well as female backing vocals on I Just Can’t Believe You. Who is playing bass and who is the female backing vocalist?
WM: Jabu Nkosi played all keyboards and Janshi Mayo played live bass and guitar overdubs on both tracks. Thandi Seoka sang all backing vocals on I Just Can't Believe You. Peter Hubner was the engineer and producer on both songs.
JVR: Viking of the Sky is about freedom, clearly inspired by the political situation in South Africa under apartheid during this period. What was life like as a musician and artist during this period of national upheaval, and how did you came up with the concept for Viking of the Sky?
WM: During the apartheid period things were hard for us musicians here in South Africa. We were not allowed to sing or record political songs, which inspired me to write Viking of the Sky. With all the pillaging and looting the vikings are known for, the common perception is that they are rugged, dirty, and unkept, but actually these men were surprisingly clean. Not only did they bathe on a regular basis, they were very well groomed and used tweezers, combs, razors and other grooming tools which have been unearthed at viking sites.
JVR: The last two tracks on the Viking compilation are Where is Your Love and Walking in the Park, which were taken from the Bibi & Satari LP produced by the great Sidwell Duda and Thokoza Memela in 1986. Tell us about your collaboration with these two top acclaimed producers that turned out some amazing funky music during this period.
WM: Both Sidwell Duda and Thokoza Memela were producers at WEA Records and I was introduced to them by the Director of WEA, Mr. Mike Hanna. who suggested I work with them. We really jived well with them when we recorded the Bibi and Satari album Whisper in the Dark.
JVR: Who exactly are the players in Satari band, and how did you all come together? Who did the great bass playing and backing vocals on Where is Your Love?
WM: The Satari band is comprised of Joseph Ngidi on bass, Mancane on keyboards, Floyd Manana on guitar, Cecelia Mathonsi on backing vocals, and Jacop Xulu on drums.
JVR: Thanks for providing this fascinating look into these amazing recordings and agreeing to license the music for official reissue on vinyl, which has been painstakingly remastered.
WM: Thanks for having me. Have a nice day.
Copyright © Jordan Valley Records. All rights reserved.