The Afro Modern Sounds of Soweto’s First Nightclub
• Ten seminal tracks journeying through jazz, funk, fusion and disco, detailing the incredible story and sounds behind the Soweto nightclub during the height of apartheid
• A uniquely South African take on the trans-Atlantic sounds of Philadelphia, Detroit and New York City
• Presented in a gatefold double vinyl edition with printed inner sleeves, cover artwork by Zulu Bidi (of Batsumi fame), unseen photographs, and liner notes by Kwanele Sosibo featuring interviews with key musicians, players and a former president of South Africa
• Audio mastered and cut for vinyl by Frank Merritt at The Carvery with heavyweight 180g vinyl pressed at Pallas in Germany
A night-time haunt in the backstreets of Soweto run by a well-known bootlegger should have been a prime zone for nefarious underworld activities. Instead, it nurtured an underground of a different kind. Soon after its opening in 1973, Club Pelican became a spot where musicians steeped in the tradition of South African jazz began to cook up experimental sounds inspired by communion, competition and the movements in funk and soul blowing in from the West. Located in an industrial park on the western edge of Orlando East, Soweto, Club Pelican was off the beaten track, among a matrix of railway and industrial infrastructure. In a different time and place, this would have been a prototypical nightclub location, except there was no local precedent to follow. This was Soweto’s first night club.
In the intervening years, this location has served to heighten the now-defunct spot’s legendary status as a singular venue, one that ruled the night in the Seventies. Initially called Lucky’s and established in 1973, the Pelican’s impact on the Soweto cultural landscape was immediate. Lorded over by a charismatic figure known as Lucky Michaels, the club became the jewel in a nondescript collection of family businesses. It boasted a diverse pool of talent in its succession of house bands and an A-list of ghetto-fabulous singers as its cabaret stars. Its VIP section was a veritable who’s who of Soweto society and its stage, hosting a mix of the day’s pop culture infused with the creativity and individual histories of the musicians, the Pelican filled a live music vacuum.
One Night in Pelican captures the halcyon seventies period with a single nightclub embodying an indomitable spirit of its troubadour players. While schooled and rooted in “standards” and local forms, the music could take any direction, at a moment’s notice. This compilation features all the key groups and players of the time: Abacothozi, Almon Memela’s Soweto, The Black Pages, Dick Khoza and the Afro Pedlars, The Drive, Ensemble of Rhythm and Art , The Headquarters, Makhona Zonke Band, the Shyannes and Spirits Rejoice.
Over ten years in the making, this is the first compilation from South African vinyl re-issue specialists Matsuli Music
released December 6, 2021
Compiled and produced by Matt Temple and Chris Albertyn at Matsuli Music.
Cover artwork by Zulu Bidi.
Liner notes by Kwanele Sosibo.
Design by Siemon Allen at Flatinternational.
Mastered and cut by Frank Merritt at The Carvery Studio.
Master recordings licensed from As-Shams, Gallo and Third Ear.
supported by 53 fans who also own “One Night in Pelican”
Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell