Ziqubu, Condry (Skorokoro) (South Africa)  
Condry Ziqubu © Steve Gordon

CONDRY Ziqubu may be best known for his tongue-in-cheek hit song celebrating the claptrap township car - the Skorokoro - but his musical journey extends way beyond his 1980's hits.

Born in 1951, and raised in Alexandra township just north of Johannesburg, Ziqubu learned guitar from his older brother Zizi, and soon became active in the Thabisong Youth Club where he gained valuable practical musical experience and his initial exposure to the electric guitar.

guitar, vocals
Genre: African, mbaqanga, fusion

His first work experiences as a musician came in the early 1970's when drummer/comedian Collins Mashigo invited him to join the group The Anchors. Here he played alongside musicians including Jabu Nkosi, the keyboard playing son of Alexandra's jazz legend, saxophonist composer Zakes Nkosi.

He subsequently joined the "Flaming Souls", fronted by Philip Malele and Simon Twala. When they parted ways, hiuus next step was to form his own band, the Flaming Ghettoes, with Glen Mafoko (b), Tony Motibi (kit) and Joey Mabe (keys). The latter two groups provided him with valuable musical, touring and recording experience.

While on tour with the Flaming Ghettoes, Condry became inexplicably ill; he also experienced recurrent dreams, which prompted the guitarist to believe he was destined to be a Sangoma (traditional healer). Music, however, was the chosen medium for his spiritual energies, and he continued touring.

During a tour of Botswana in 1980, his healthy young son choked to death. This sudden and tragic event called Condry closer to his Ancestors, and speeded his decision: After the boy's funeral, he proceeded to be initiated as a Sangoma in Kwazulu Natal.

Now qualified as a Sangoma, Condry returned to Alexandra to revisit his musical path. Opportunity came in the form of an offer to join the succesfull Soweto afro-fusion band, Harari. After the group slaughtered a cow to appease and respect the Ancestors, the sangoma-guitarist became a bandmember, and from 1981 they toured extensively in South Africa and the neighbouring states.

Condry on stage with Caiphus Semenya,
Fana Zulu and Letta Mbulu

It was while performing with Harari in Botswana in 1984 that Condry met Caiphus Semenya. Caiphus had watched the performance, and asked Condry to assemble a backing group of South African musicians to work with him and his wife, the singer Letta Mbulu. Condry assembled a group including Sipho Gumede (b), Jabu Nkosi (keys) and Makhaya Mahlangu (perc) who backed Caiphus and Letta for tours in Lesotho and Botswana.

The relationship with Caiphus and Letta became closer, and in 1985, Condry, Sipho Gumede and Jabu Nkosi travelled to the United States to join the exiles on a three month tour with Harry Belafonte. Caiphus next assembled the Buwa musical, which saw a combination of exiles and South African artists touring Nigeria, Burkina faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Libya, Senegal, Mali, as well as the frontline states of Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

At a time when South Africa was at war with its neighbours, itself and the world, movement of South Africans across the "frontline" allowed valuable contact with exiles. Condry's regular travels, coupled with his activism in building a musicians union resulted in him being treated as a suspect.

On arrival back at Johannesbuurg's Jan Smuts airport after a Buwa tour, Condry and others had their passports taken, and were interrogated about their travels and the contacts they had. They were released, but ta few days later, SA Security police paid early morning calls to their homes, arriving in traditional style by kicking down the front door.

After much searching, the police accused Condry of being an agent of the then banned ANC. They would not accept that his musical work was the reason for his travel, and took him in for further interrogation,photographing and fingerprinting. It seemed that his visits to Zambia, in particular, aroused their suspicion. At the intervention of his record company's lawyers, he was released, but not before being assured that he was under close observation.

The late 1980's saw Condry launching a solo career which earned him a string of hits: tracks such as Skorokoro, Via Orlando, No Woman No Party, and Gorilla Man all dominated the airwaves, building him to be the much loved performer we know.

Despite the security police intimidation, Condry continued to work with the exiles, performing with Caiphus, Letta and others at events such as the London Mandela 80 concert. When the exiles returned in 1991, he was able to continue this relationship inside South Africa.

He remains an anchor member of Caiphus and Letta's bands, performs solo at times, and when not on the road, is engaged in studio session and production work. The production of Gospel music at his studio continues under the banner of CZ Productions. November 2003 saw the release of the new album "Condry Ziqubu and Friends" (see below).

(this biography by Steve Gordon, Jan 2004)
  Recordings : Ziqubu, Condry(Skorokoro)
Best Of

Best Of
And Friends

And Friends

click here for more about these and other recordings by : Ziqubu, Condry

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