Born Johannes Mashiyane in Mamelodi, Spokes became a name synonymous with the pennywhistle kwela sound that emanated from the townships of South Africa in the 50s, 60s and even into the 70s. His life had simple beginnings, but he went on to be a special star in our culture and he did so by taking the simple pennywhistle and doing something special with it.
‘Ace Blues’ is just one example that showcases his prowess with the tool of his trade. A bouncing somewhat tinny guitar underpins the weaving magic of the pennywhistle with its bright and breezy sound. It takes one on a journey, skipping through the rural beauty of the land. And perhaps this was what gave the music its appeal as it took people out of the daily hardships of township lives and, just for a few brief moments, let them run free.
When it came to the pennywhistle, Mr Mashiyane was the ‘spokes’person (sorry) for the instrument and he let the instrument do the talking. It is small wonder the Mango Groove, years after Spokes’ death in 1972 included the song ‘Special Star’, a dedication to Spokes, on their debut album. Spokes and his pennywhistle is an integral part of South African music history and it there was a South African Hall of Fame, he would undoubtedly have been inducted into it.
Where to find it:
King Kwela – Spokes Mashiyane (1991), Gallo records, CDZAC50