Peter Thwaites Tribute

DEVOTING OUR LIVES TO THE RECORDING OF SOUND Volume 1

PETER THWAITES TRIBUTE DEVOTING OUR LIVES TO THE RECORDING OF SOUND Volume 1

LISTEN AND YOU’LL SEE

Dedicated to one of South Africa’s legendary Sound Engineers

Dedicated to one of South Africa’s legendary Sound Engineers
Peter Thwaites (1949 – 2023)

The Long Haul Journey

My first journey  or business trip from London Heathrow to Johannesburg in 1981 was aboard a SAL* Boeing 747SP, a long-range versions of the famous Jumbo jet built for a few airlines. Due to ongoing anti-apartheid sanctions, African countries denied South African Airways stopover airports, compelling the airline to utilise long-range airliners like the Boeing 747SP. Consequently the airline boasted one of the largest fleets of the 747SP. (*Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens) 

On the day of the launch for the latest B&W studio monitor Model 801 in Cape Town, I was expected to meet prospective customers. However, my plans were disrupted by an unexpected obstacle in Johannesburg: snow.  As I woke up that morning, I smelt the snow and remarked on the colour of the snow clouds. The city and the airport came to a standstill and prevented us from catching our flight to the Mother City. While it may not have seemed extraordinary to experience snow at an altitude of almost 1700 meters above sea level, growing up in Switzerland had perhaps made me somewhat ignorant of the unique blessings bestowed by the spirits of Africa.

Paul Simon – The Story of Graceland

In 1986, Paul Simon embarked on a flight from New York to Johannesburg to record “Graceland,” an epic album featuring many of South Africa’s finest local musicians. This landmark album catapulted bands like Ladysmith Black Mambazo onto the global stage.

An often overlooked figure in this story is Peter Thwaites, who was already serving as a sound engineer for Johnny Clegg’s band Jaluka when he was called upon to aid Roy Halee in the recordings for Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” 

The Dawn 

In 1993, at the dawn of a new era in South Africa following the end of apartheid, Robert Trunz, owner of the UK loudspeaker brand Bowers & Wilkins at the time, sponsored a concert tour of South Africa. The tour featured Fourth World, a band led by Brazilian musicians Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Jose Neto, and American Gary Meek.

Fourth World live in Johannesburg 1993 feat Airto Moreira, Jose Neto and Gary Meek

Picture: Sipho Gumede, Pops Mohamed, Robert Trunz & Airto Moreira

OUTERNATIONAL MELTDOWN SESSIONS NOBODY COMES TO SOUTH AFRICA WITHOUT A MISSION 1994/1995

The return of Airto Moreira, Jose Neto, and Robert Trunz to South Africa in 1994 to co-produce the “Outernational Meltdown” Sessions was a significant moment in the B&W MUSIC/MELT2000 label’s history. In response to the urging of Herbert Scheubmayr and the understanding that they needed to engage with those who had suffered from the boycott, the musicians took on a mission to contribute positively to the South African music scene.

The “Outernational Meltdown” Sessions provided an opportunity for collaboration and creativity among local South African musicians and international artists. By working together on this project, they broke down barriers and celebrated the diversity of musical traditions. The sessions served as a platform for musicians to express themselves freely and to explore new sounds and styles.

The initiative not only enriched the music produced in South Africa but also helped to rebuild relationships and promote healing of fighting artists  in the aftermath of apartheid. Overall, the “Outernational Meltdown” Sessions represented a symbolic moment of cultural exchange and reconciliation, reflecting the transformative potential of music to inspire change and promote understanding.

The tour featured Fourth World, a band led by Brazilian musicians Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Jose Neto,

“Outernational Meltdown – a gathering of local and international artists and musical collaborations headed by legendary Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira and Jose Neto with local producers Pops Mohamed, Sipho Gumede and Peter Thwaites as the Chief Sound Engineer.

Moses Molelekwa, Fana Zulu, Shaluza Max who met with Airto, Jose, Andrew Missingham and Byron Wallen were more than HUNGRY ON ARRIVAL to get to know each other.”

Watch: Hungry on Arrival – Fana Zulu MOB

Sipho Gumede and Airto Moreira, sound engineer Peter Thwaites

Back in the control room with Sipho Gumede and Airto Moreira, sound engineer Peter Thwaites got the 24-track tapes rolling, starting a session that would ultimately help promote the country’s talents on a global scale for years to come.

ROBERT’S OUTERNATIONAL MELTDOWN TALES 

Outernational Meltdown in London Live

“This was the first time I worked with Peter at the Downtown, Johannesburg and Milestone Studio in Cape Town.  Ahead of leaving for Joburg we shipped instruments, part of Airto’s percussion arsenal, technical equipment and the very latest set of Bowers & Wilkins monitor loudspeakers.  At the other end in Johannesburg we had Eugene Oosthuizen and Philip Guttentag from HFX Systems in Alberton who with invaluable help custom cleared the shipment and helped Peter set up the studios at Downtown. Philip and Eugene came past  the studio almost every evening to check and it was then Peter Thwaites first met Philip Guttentag.” – The “ Dedication To Sound Reproduction” Story Starts here.”  

THE SESSIONS

The OUTERNATIONAL MELTDOWN sessions were marked by a diverse range of recordings, including a significant moment when Peter Thwaites captured the powerful performances of Bra Paul’s religious choir of spiritual healers from KwaZulu Natal. The studio was filled to maximum capacity with the choir members, reflecting the deep spiritual and musical tradition they represented.

To accommodate the large number of participants and capture the essence of the performances, the recording session spilled over onto the roof terrace of the studio. Here, amidst the open air and under the vast sky, Norma Fletcher and photographer Pete Williams documented the proceedings, capturing moments of raw emotion and transcendent music.

The footage captured on the roof terrace, along with the recordings made during the sessions, provided a unique glimpse into the intersection of music, spirituality, and community that characterised the OUTERNATIONAL MELTDOWN project. It served as a testament to the power of music to bring people together and transcend boundaries, both physical and spiritual.

Nobody Comes To South Africa Without A Mission

Brazilian Shaman Airto Moreira
There were a couple of sessions with the Hendrick’s family of traditional Sangomas from Soweto which were attended by Brazilian Shaman Airto Moreira.
The 1994 and 1995 Outernational Meltdown Sessions brought together an array of talented musicians from around the world, each contributing their unique voice and style to the collaborative project. Among others, the notable artists in attendance were:
  • Airto Moreira (Brasil)
  • Lungiswa Plaatjies (South Africa)
  • Jose Neto (Brazil)
  • Madosini (South Africa)
  • Mantombi Matotiyana (South Africa)
  • Byron Wallen (UK)
  • Amampondo (South Africa)
  • Pops Mohamed (South Africa)
  • Andrew Missingham (UK)
  • Faca Kulu (South Africa)
  • Jessica Lauren (UK)
  • Zim Ngqawana (South Africa)
  • Simpiwe Matole (South Africa)
  • Valerie Naranjo (USA)
  • Skeleton KZN (South Africa)
  • Ike Leo (UK)
  • Dave Mayekana (South Africa)
  • Max Laesser (Switzerland)
  • Vusi Khumalo (South Africa)
  • Mabi Gabriel Thobejane (South Africa)
  • Ben Watkins (Juno Reactor, UK)
  • Dizu Plaatjies (South Africa)
  • Busi Mhlongo (South Africa)
  • Changuito (Cuba)
  • Mayito Mario Pino (`Cuba)
  • Sipho Gumede (South Africa)
  • Johnny Choncho (South Africa)
  • Baba Mokoena (South Africa)
  • Mfa Kera (Madagascar)
  • Moses Taiwa Molelekwa (South Africa)
  • Shaluza Max (South Africa)
  • Fana Zulu (South Africa)
  • Madala Kunene (South Africa)
  •  Intethelelo Yabazalwane Choir Durban (South Africa)
  • Sangomas Suzan Hendricks & Esau Maluleke (South Africa)
Tsidi Manye

The sessions provided a platform for these artists to collaborate, share ideas, and create music that transcended cultural and geographical boundaries. The filming of performances such as Moses Taiwa Molelekwa’s “NOBOHLE” recording and Sipho Gumede’s rendition of “MAMAYE” captured the unique energy and spirit of the sessions, allowing audiences to experience the work of musicians like Zim Ngqawana & Shaluza Max collaborating on Amagoduka – a song about migrant workers.

Tsidi Manye
There is some rare film footage by Norma Fletcher of the studio recording sessions and control room vibes at Downtown Studios showing Peter Thwaites, Airto and Sipho on the desk recording and directing the song Mamaye with Nonhlanhla Ngcobo, Lindiwe Ngwane, Tsidi Manye, Faca Kulu and Shaluza Max. 8mm Film Black & White Footage by Norma Fletcher
Picture Zim Ngqawana, Johnny Choncho, Fana Zulu & Airto Moreira
Picture Zim Ngqawana, Johnny Choncho, Fana Zulu & Airto Moreira

DOWNTOWN STUDIO recording Moses Taiwa Molelekwa’s song Nobohle with Jose Neto, Shaluza Max, Fana Zulu, Byron Wallen, Andrew Missingham

Jose Neto - the Brazilian Jimi Hendrix with One Love for Bob

Jose Neto - the Brazilian Jimi Hendrix with One Love for Bob

José Pires de Almeida Neto, born in 1954 in São Paulo plays electric guitar and a Swiss made electric nylon string guitar with poly sub bass strings.

During the MELT 2000 years (1993 – 2000) Jose Neto was a founding member of Fourth World with Airto Moreira and Flora Purim.

Fourth World Live at Jazz à Vienne 1996

Neto’s musical journey began at the tender age of four, learning guitar from his mother, and delving into classical guitar lessons by the age of twelve. His formal musical education continued at the music academy.. By 1970, he was already teaching guitar and leading his own band, “Plato”.

In 1978, he joined Harry Belafonte and became Harry’s  Musical Director.

In 1982, Neto made a move to San Francisco, where he swiftly integrated into the vibrant music scene. Neto collaborated with artists such as Tânia Maria, Paquito D’Rivera, Hugh Masekela, Herbie Mann, and Airto Moreira. His versatility and skill earned him recognition, and by 1990, he assumed the role of musical director and composer for the band Fourth World, alongside Moreira and Flora Purim.

Neto’s talent extended beyond collaborations, as evidenced by his recordings with George Benson. From 2001 onwards, he embarked on a journey with the Netoband, gracing stages at various festivals across Europe and the United States. His reputation continued to soar, leading to an invitation to join Steve Winwood’s band for their 2003 world tour.

His performances with Winwood were showcased on prominent national television programs like The View, Good Morning America, and Late Night with David Letterman, solidifying his status as a respected and versatile musician on the international stage.

Jose comments on his 2 weeks of working with South African artists in Joburg and Cape Town during the 1994 Outernational Meltdown Sessions:

Jose Neto and live footage of Madala Kunene with Sipho Gumede and Mabi Thobejane.

THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF SOUND ENGINEERING

Peter Thwaites played a crucial role in engineering and organising the front-of-house mixes for three live performances in Johannesburg at the newly opened Mega Music venue and in Cape Town at the Baxter Theater. This was a significant undertaking, considering the large number of artists involved in the sessions and live gigs, totaling around 100 performers.

His expertise ensured that the live performances were of the highest quality, allowing the audience to fully experience the collaborative energy and diverse talent showcased during the 1994 Outernational Meltdown Sessions. The conclusion of the sessions in Cape Town marked the end of an intensive and successful period of multi national  musical collaborations and creativity.

Back L to R: Mandla Lande, Baba Ndamase, Dave Mxolise Mayekana, Simpiwe Matole, Michael Ludonga, Mzwandile Qotoyi, Jose Neto

Live at Baxter Theater Cape Town 1994 – Outernational Meltdown Line Up

Back L to R: Mandla Lande, Baba Ndamase, Dave Mxolise Mayekana, Simpiwe Matole, Michael Ludonga, Mzwandile Qotoyi, Jose Neto
Middle L to R: Dizu Plaatjies, Byron Wallen, Andrew Missingham, Shaluza Max Moses Taiwa Molelekwa Front: Pops Mohamed

I have been collecting and over the years releasing parts of the live and studio footage filmed during the 1994 Outernational Meltdown sessions.

This footage also includes some interviews which today might sound outdated but this was at a time when the nation united for a short while creating hope for a better future. A nation that just a few months earlier on the 10th of May 1994 formed endless queues to vote for the first black president – Madiba, Nelson Mandela.

Airto Moreira Interview & Sangoma footage from the Mega Music concerts

Moses Taiwa Molelekwa interview and Baxter gig extracts.

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