Skokiaan – Johnny & G-Men
‘Skokiaan’ the song has been around since about 1947 and has been widely covered by a load of artists. It began life in the brain of one August Musarurwa, a Rhodesian (as it was back then). It was recorded by the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythm Band and this scratchy version with its quacking, sqeaking brass over what sounds like a banjo, is a delightful African jazzy number from the era.
In 1954 Ralph Marterie gave the song a western orchestral sound and the song made the US charts and soon artists like Louis Armstong and Bill Haley & The Comets were recording their own versions.
Then in 1971 along came Johnny and his G-Men with their own take. Johnny (in case you didn’t know) was none other than John ‘Tokoloshe Man’ Kongos and he and his G-Men ditched the brass when recording their version, rather favouring the echo-ey guitar sound that the likes of The Shadows and The Ventures had a lot of success with. The G-Men made a good job of translating the song from a 50’s jazz piece into a 60’s Rock ‘n’ Roll instrumental, and they managed to do this in the 70’s.
Skokiaan is apparently an illegally brewed drink which from it’s description sounds a bit like the sorghum beer or homebrew that we have in South Africa, and is probably the biggest legal export of something illegal from what was then Rhodesia.
Where to find it:
Vinyl: The G-Men – Johnny & The G-Men (1971), RCA, 31.547
Johnny & The G-Men
Bulawayo Sweet Rhythm Band