It’s 1964 South Africa, the height of what was considered grand apartheid. A large part of the white South African male population sits in their rugby shorts on enameled wire lawn furniture in suburbs across the country. Drinking Castle Lager from khaki-coloured cans they lament the rise of the black consciousness and independence and the previous day’s cricket score. Their 2.4 children play happily in the garden, surrounded by walls and gates that keep the ‘garden boy’ in by day and the ‘black threat’ out at night. A utopia for whites yet dystopia for liberals of any other race.
STORY: RUAN SCOTT
PHOTOGRAPHY: IAN BRUCE HUNTLEY
Inside their 4-bedroomed brick-veneered houses, wives dutifully prepare potato salad for the Sunday lunch braai. In between tear-jerking songs by Charles Segal and religious numbers by Jim Reeves, Hendrik Verwoerd’s voice blunders over the “wireless” preaching white innocence and bliss for the narrowest of minds. Later that afternoon, when these men are drunk, the children are crying and the wives (fed up with being the weekend maid) are smoking sneaky cigarettes behind the garage that houses the family sedan… Meanwhile, a single white male aged 25, pulls his 4L Renault into Main Road Mowbray, Cape Town and heads for the infamous racially contested area known as District 6.
Completely insouciant and content but focused on his mission. On the back seat in a grey canvas tote bag is his secondhand Leica M3 camera, a set of lenses, a tripod and a series 6X Tandberg reel-to-reel audio recorder with 3 microphones. He knows his equipment and its capabilities and also knows he is about to break the law by visiting ‘Bantu venues’. He has done this before and he will do it again, not only here on this particular evening but all over the city, almost every other night. Staying up until after midnight and earning himself the nickname of “Kha – nini which meant “keep going until dawn” in Xhosa. Still he is unaware of the future importance of his actions during this time and the decade that followed.
His name is Ian Bruce Huntley and he is going to document Jazz music at the infamous Zambezi Restaurant in Hanover Street, District 6. Born the eldest of three children in 1939 and raised in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu-Natal. After school, Ian took up an apprenticeship in the Cape Town Trigonometry division for the Western Cape Government in 1959. By day his job is to survey the local mountain ranges bordering the city bowl and carting them out. By working in the beautiful scenery as he did, with the assistance of his mentor Mr. J Wood, Ian is encouraged to photograph his working environments. He takes to photography quite naturally and soon purchases his own camera with savings from his meager salary.
Ian ventures into a neighbourhood considered “off limits” by the ruling party with a stoic sense of calm. He feels at home and safe. The people, the musicians he is about to meet up with are his friends and what he is setting out to do, he does not for money or commercial interest but for the pure love of music. For fun and friendships with great musicians like Ronnie Beer (from the famous Jazz Disciples – one of the few non-white groups to record commercially), Christopher Columbus Ngcukana, Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), Psych ‘Big T’ Ntsele and legendary Saxophonist Kiepie Moeketsi.
As he sets up his recording gear around the stage, musicians go about their business in the most natural of ways and unobtrusive to their flow. It’s this element, the artist in their natural state that Ian captures brilliantly. His photos are not staged and the music and jam sessions are seldom discussed with him. The quality of the pictures he produced are remarkable considering that he often worked in very low light and sometimes even without electricity which meant that some audio could not be captured at all. Such as the case in 1972 when he went to document a mini jazz festival in Langa outside of Cape Town.
There are many other instances where he captures some of the most remarkable moments during what is to be considered a golden era in South African Jazz. Nights such as the “The Room At The Top’’ in Strand Street when prominent Jazz cats Timmy Kwebulana and Dennis Mpale swapped roles in the band playing spontaneously on instruments that they were not known to play. Also, in a particular photo pianist Tete Mbambisa sits on a chair fashioned from an old crate and ragged sofa cushions, in front of a piano missing some keys. Improvising and feeding from each other’s energy and love for rhythm. Not only was Ian there to capture it but also to play it back after the shows, to the delight of the musicians.
Later on in the evening, groups would pour back into his Mowbray (later Rondebosch) apartment to rewind the Tandberg recorder and listen to what he had recorded that night. This was the love and the friendship that Ian made all of that effort for. Doing it for the scene. These actions of harbouring and accommodating primarily black musicians in his home landed him in hot water more than once. Eviction notices, job displacements and even an 18-month exile to Namibia followed.
On one such evening, famous Saxophonist Kiepie ‘Morolong’ Moeketsi joined the late night listening session and was moved to tears by the home recordings and Duke Ellington’s big band records. These tears were true drops of gratitude and awe that cemented lifelong friendships between the two. Ian recorded what truly is considered the underground of South African music at the time. Shows were rarely promoted, due to fear of being shut down and so word of mouth promotion was generally the preferred method of advertising. However, Ian was always in the know and seldom missed an event or gig.
With the forced removals of non-white residents across the country (not only in Cape Town and District 6) history tends to get lost. Facts turn into fables as stories get twisted, the little that there was or might have been was crumpled under the bulldozing might of the Apartheid machine.
The preservation of the little that did get recorded from this era was decided upon by a few academics at archival repositories such as those at Stellenbosch and Grahamstown Universities. They were to decide if these pieces of black South African musical heritage got preserved for future generations. As musicology scholar Ms. Lizabe Lamprecht states in her dissertation ‘Ethnography and the Archive: Power and Politics in Five South African Music Archives’: “who decides what is valuable and worth archiving, and which examples of value should be included in an archive?” Think of it as Archival Apartheid. For those who remember, who are still alive or those who may never be located, Ian Huntley’s altruistic nature, his documentation and personal archive remind us (and the generations to come) of this important era in our cultural history. South Africa is a country riddled with similar stories that form a colourful tapestry of creativity in our turbulent past.
Unknowingly, Ian Bruce Huntley captured some of this era’s finest and most important moments in South African jazz. Memories and stories that would’ve been lost forever, along with the musicians and fans that have since passed away, went into exile or are unreachable. Ian single-handedly recorded and catalogued just over 56 hours of live jazz from gigs in and around Cape Town between 1964 and 1974. He took over 1500 photographs that capture the zeitgeist of the musicians of this time. His work is invaluable to the musical archives of South Africa.
Ian is now 75 years old and resides in Pietermaritzburg in KZN. He has agreed to release all of his work into the public domain for scholars, musicians and fans to listen to and enjoy. Chris Albertyn and ELECTRICJIVE have produced and published a beautiful, hardbound and glossy paged book that captures Ian’s work in an all-encompassing archive called ‘Keeping Time’. With an introduction by Chris, a comprehensive essay by Jonathan Eato and designed by award-winning artist Siemon Allen, this book is the culmination of Ian‘s exceptional devotion to an era and genre but ultimately a devotion to his friends and local music. It is invaluable to the history of South African music and a true representation of a bygone era that was choked by oppression and injustice.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE:
Leica camera agents in Durban. Here he bought the secondhand 35mm Leica m3 rangefinder body and a standard 50mm Leica f/2 Summicron-m lens that he used throughout his photographic career. It cost 100 Pounds.
Audio recordings were made on a Tandberg Series 6X tape recorder using seven-inch reel-to-reel tapes. Ian initially bought it to tape jazz broadcasted from English AM service radio.
He also bought Kiepie ‘Morolong’ Moeketsi an Alto Sax from the store where Ian spent most of his income on vinyls. Lawrence and Sherlaine Koonen owned The Record Centre in 1972, when Kiepie played Cape Town. Kiepie was one of South Africa’s best and most iconic jazz musicians. He died in 1983, penniless.
Hanover Street in District 6 was considered the CBD of that area, prior to being destroyed. It housed many interesting shops and venues. It has no correlation with the Hanover Park of today. But rather, the residents of District 6 were forcibly removed in the early 70s to what is known today as Manenberg and the Cape Flats. Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar brand) has an album named after this area called ‘Mannenberg Is Where it’s Happening’.