Bahula’s first group was the Malombo Jazzmen, led by guitarist Philip Tabane with flautist Abbey Cindi and they broke the mould, introducing indigenous malombo drums alongside guitar and flute to create a strong new cultural jazz fusion. In 1964, the group took the Castle Lager jazz festival by storm, South Africa’s biggest annual jazz event.
Within a year, Bahula and Cindi had parted company with Tabane, and guitarist Lucky Ranku had come on board to form the Malombo Jazz Makers. By the end of the 1960s, they had established themselves as South Africa’s foremost afro-centric jazz group. In 1971, they made a clandestine tour of South Africa with Steve Biko and TECON (Theatre Council of Natal) Players, using music and theatre to promote black awareness and identity as part of Biko’s Black Consciousness message.
As the pressure of apartheid started to bear down on them, Julian Bahula escaped to political exile in the UK. He settled in London in February 1973 following a tour with white afro-rock band Hawk. Joined by Lucky Ranku shortly afterwards, Bahula formed a new afro super-group, Jabula, through which malombo music was transformed into a vehicle that could take a powerful political message from South Africa to audiences in Europe and across the world. The band worked closely and selflessly with the exiled ANC, the Anti-Apartheid Movement and other anti-apartheid organisations to help spread political awareness.
Bahula and his wife Liza also started London’s first regular night to promote live African music at London’s 100 Club during the ‘80s. In ’83, they set up the first concert in the UK to raise awareness for Nelson Mandela, ‘African Sounds’, an event that helped to kick-start the international pressure that would lead to Mandela’s release in 1990. The Specials’ Jerry Dammers was there and was inspired by Jabula’s track ‘Mandela’ to write the huge hit for The Special AKA, ‘Nelson Mandela’.
‘Spirit Of Malombo’ documents Bahula’s incredible musical journey from 1966 to 1984 for the first time. Package includes rare photos, poster artwork and memorabilia with extensive sleeve notes from author Francis Gooding. The cover features a still from leading South African photographer, Ernest Cole.