In August 1971, the white wizards of South Africa's psychedelic rock underground shared the stage with the black witchdoctors of the Afro-jazz avant-garde. The event was the Tribal Blues concerts at Wits Great Hall, an unprecedented cross-cultural showcase of independent music hosted by the maverick 3rd Ear Music label. Ourang-Outang (2020) presents rehearsals and jams recorded by 3rd Ear director, producer and engineer David Marks in rural KwaZulu-Natal as this unlikely alliance of musical druids prepared for their concert appearances in Johannesburg.
The Freedom's Children with Malombo Jazz Makers recordings from this Valley of a Thousand Hills retreat were edited and distilled onto an album-length proof-of-concept tape shaped by songwriter Ramsay Mackay's vision of an allegorical South African tribal musical entitled Ourang-Outang. The reel was stored in a box scrawled with annotations and accompanied by a skeletal tracklisting with two takes of it's catchy main theme and some outstanding jamming. The tape also contained a minute-long false-start that would be used as a coda on Side A of Molombo's 3rd Ear album Music of the Spirit in 1971.
As fate would have it, the unfinished stage concept was shelved and eventually abandoned although the main theme was re-purposed and recorded by other artists over the course of the 1970s. Just shy of 50 years later, the Ourang-Outang tape would emerge to tell it's story under Mackay's guidance and supervision before his passing in December 2018.
BONUS TRACKS: Early 1971 acoustic demos of "Ourang-Outang" and "Brother John." Mackay described the latter as a "borderline case" for the Ourang-Outang musical. Reflecting on the inclusion of the ballads "If the Day Would Come" and "Brother John" in 2018, he remarked, "I had decided to slow the whole thing way down as far as I recall." Bonus material is rounded out by an untitled hidden track.
released November 20, 2020
The unfinished Tribal Musical of Ramsay Mackay performed by:
Brian Davidson - Vocals
Lucky Ranku - Guitar
Kenny Henson - Guitar
Ramsay Mackay - Bass & Vocals
Abe Cindi - Sax & Clarinet
Julian Bahula - Congas & Mbira
Colin Pratley - Drums
(Personnel as credited on the Tribal Blues concert programme)
Audio Recording by David Marks for 3rd Ear Music
Tapes Transfers by Warrick Sony & Pakama Ncume
With Support from Lizabé Lambrechts for HYMAP
Audio Editing & Mastering by Richard Vossgatter & Jason Connoy
Album Artwork by Ramsay Mackay
Artwork Scans provided by Henry Dennis
Design Layout by Rouleaux van der Merwe
Produced for SHARP-FLAT by Calum MacNaughton
Cat. No. SF06
EXPANDED DIGITAL EDITION EXCLUSIVE TO BANDCAMP