Witchdoctor Of Hillbrow – Ramsay MacKay (The Rolling Bones)
Ramsay Mackay was one of the (many) driving forces behind the great Freedom’s Children who produced what many regard as one of the greatest South African albums of all times (Astra, in case you were wondering). That was in the late sixties, early seventies. Then nothing, other than a brief appearance in the band Harambee in 1978 and a couple of solo singles.
But in 1982, he released the album ‘Suburbs of Ur’, the opening track of which is ‘Witchdoctor Of Hillbrow’. Those expecting those dense sounds that Freedom’s Children produced, may have been a bit disappointed with the sparseness of the track. It’s a stripped down affair featuring only guitar, bass, violin and Ramsay’s deep vocals. But what a combination these make. The violin is haunting, the guitar slightly African, the bass is solid and the vocals, brushed with Ramsay’s Scottish roots, bring a chill to the spine.
The music combines beautifully with the poetic language in the lyrics that paint a very different picture of Hillbrow to that which Johannes Kerkorrel did a good few years later. Ramsay’s Hillbrow has ghosts, black cakes, dead men and, of course, witchdoctors. Achingly beautiful, this may not appeal to hardcore Freedom’s fans, but you should give it a go, you may just be moved to tears.
Where to find it:
Suburbs of Ur – Ramsay MacKay (1982), Principal Records (Vinyl – not available on CD yet)