Griffiths Motsieloa

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Griffiths Motsieloa (1896-19**?) An African impressario, talent scout and performer. Born in Basutoland (now Lesotho), he qualified as a teacher at Lovedale College and then studied elocution at Trinity College (London), where he became known as “London’s Favourite Bantu Actor”). In the mid-1920s he and his childhood friend Peter Rezant (founder and bandleader of their accompanying band, the Merry Blackbirds) began a variety group called the African Darkies. In the mid-1930s he was appointed as talent scout by the Gallophone Records, which gave him a measure of economic independence. In the 1930s he changed the name of the group to the Darktown Strutters and finally in 1938 to the Pitch Black Follies. His wife, Emily (néé Makanana), a renowned pianist, was also a member of these groups. In the late 1930s he and the group became more ambitious, doing formal plays alongside the traibals sketches, musical turns, dances and so on. At one time he even sought to produce Dhlomo’s controversial play Chetswayo, with the financial backing of Lewis Sowden, but was not successful. During the second world war the members of the Pitch Black Follies became involved in the entertainment of the troops and the Liberty Cavalcade of 1944. In this way they met and were recruited by Ike Brookes for his shows, notably Zonk (1946). As an impressario Motsieloa thus played an important role in giving shape to what Kruger (1999) and Coplan**?? (1985) refer to as “African variety” and indirectly helped set up and give shape to the urban musical (“township musical”) forms of later years.

Griffiths Motsieloa was born in Basutholand (now Lesotho) in 1896. He travelled widely and studied elocution at Trinity College of Music in London after obtaining a teaching qualification at Lovedale College in the Eastern Cape. In 1929 he married Emily Makanana, a pianist and leader of an all-women group the Dangerous Blues.77 Together they would perform in his vaudeville troupe the Darktown Strutters before it was succeeded by the Pitch Black Follies in 1936.

Motsieloa was subsequently hired by Gallo as a “talent-scout” becoming South Africa’s first black record producer.


South African Audio Archive [1].

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