Aaron Jack LEROLE
Big Voice Jack has been at the forefront of the distinctive South African pennywhistle sounds for 5 decades.
Considered the leading pennywhistle player in the land.
Sound reminiscent of the ‘50’s
Started musical career at a young age in Alexandra.
In the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s
2. “I was b. Alexandra twnshp – std playing pennywhistl in 1945. In fact plyd bit of piano, but not so good for me, so pennywh…loved its sound, the whistle itself.
All those yrs still at school Dutch Reformed was a church and a school…used to play penwh, sometimes played at Stokvels, ’47, ’48, ’49..still attending school ‘til 1952 when I met someone who asked me to do some recordings..went to Troubadour…recorded 4 numbers..then foll. year went back to school..didn’t like..only the music..the music disturbed me..so went out of school..
1955 another recording with Trutone Records. Strike Vilikakazi producer at that time.. 1956 decided to have band of pennywh..maybe 3 guitars +snare drum and dbl bass..had +- 4 guys Alexandra Shamba Boys [/]
1957 had another band, same people, but changing name : Black Mambazo..plyd wthem til 1962 – then went solo again..plyd around Africa and abroad – came home 1963, then made name Big Voice Jack
wentto Teal Rec. Co. [Lance Matoto[???} producer] recorded again – we used to rec. on shellacs [?] u know those 78’s that break, so instead od rec 2 no.s had to rec 4.. those were big hit numbers..1st one “Big Voice Jack
2nd one “Jackie Jack”[??] lots more… ….dunno how many upto 1966/7
went back to Gallo.. rec..plyed w couple bands..Intombi Zomoya [?] Gima Sisters [?] until 1973 went to RPM… made v big numbers there… world hit numbers like the one they call “Double Dutch” now..so lots of hits Amakwaitos Sweet Soweto Swingsters[??} just lots!! [5.10]
3. 1977/8 decided to forget about msc cos problems moneywise, so TV people like Percy Van Rooyen..sent Ray Nkwe [??] to come and fetch – proposed documentary for tv.. didn’t likecos before little money about R36 .. no give good money and thay gave me good money for those 3 days..now I’m not going back did things w sax and penwh
Then came lots more work for me … [drummer/drama] +_ lasted 3 mnths “Thula Mabota”
tv2 and 3 – black channel… other musos didn’t want.. no money.. but I went forward did that good money – built me up.. gave me hope for future then I made another Kotopo?? plyng w the Matakas ??? got money kept going
1983 came John Leyden.. everytime phoned.. we could make milllions.. that’s when Mango Groove started 1983
‘84/85 got tired, couldn’t see money… kept w them.. even played King of Clubs..around Hillbrow plyd lots
1988 got ill – hospital for long time..8months 2 weeks
came back.. no more chance… I brought those people..Banza, Sipho and late Bra Mike to join Mang Groove
Rec 1988 nov. first Mango Gr rec.. then went to hospital.. came back someth. sour decided to stay as I am – solo [4.24]
4. Solo until 1994 then things std happening touring world , Europe etc.. like now still touring..that’s how it is.. [0.38]
5. v thankful to my uncle who brought me this pennywh.. my gretest day to see this shiny steel pennywh [0.18]
WHY THE PENNYWH?
7. The pennywh.. I loved it… when u young and see others plying good msc.. like the Scottish peole – used to see them marching around ..called The Scots
Black pple wearing kilts plying pennywh.. about 18 of them – 9 each side.. kettle drums, chimes etc.. so nice.. sound of pennwhist..like now..love the sound od penwh.. can do any sound I want – sax limits u – cant get equivocal sound
listen to CD then understand..love penwh better than sax [1.18]
Where u 1st bl artist to sign w Gallo in ‘60’s?
9. No!! Gallo ‘d been rec bl pple long before.. my father used to work for bicycle shop – sell and repair bicycles.. that was Gallo.. Singer record slong time when Gallo 2 storey bldg, my father wrkd just there so Gallo fr 20’s 30’s… Lida ‘s Mbube etc [1.09]
Were u only one in family.. how’d u get to msc?
11. As I understmy uncle [moms bro] used to pl guitar.. lying in bed.. then he died then I was born..dunno mayb took it fr him, cos no-one taght me to read and write msc, but I do read & write msc… no-one taught me how 2 pl, but I pl all kinds of instr. even guitar, but my bestis penwh[0.58]
Seen u perf w 3 penwh
13. Well that’s cos of frustration..u want others to harmonise w u.. try to give them their parts but they don’t get them well – harmony not tight, so u play all 3 w your one wind.. one breath.. instead of lots.. all harmonies there.
I like it when I play 2 of them cos then u hear 3 harmonies instead of 2.. and 2 know that need to practuise hard.. takes long cos I devise in 1958, but 2 master them only 1978.. now I could play as I pl now…still no, developing some other techniques…used to pl one key on dbl pennwh, but now pl 5 keys.. only short of 2 keys[2.00]
In SA long trad f penwh..who inspired?
15. Used to pl w guys good on pw.. wouldn’t say who was best.. many people knew… I just play.. not to beat someone… just pl what comes out of my mind [0.40]
Very few ple pl pennywh now in this country.. is penwh dying in this country?
17. I see return of pw.. so many people look around ask me where they can get pw.. they are finished.. went to Germany .. couldn’t get.. Holland only those w plastic.. in France othjers w plastic mouthpiece.. til went to America, when they gave me the whole collection of the big ones and couldn’t get them to make others.. I wanted to bring maybe 100… those peopl said no, we made specially for you, .. [0.56]
18. Its been dying out, but for myself.. each and every alb that I rec – always added pw numbers at least 2 or 1 [0.23]
19. this album…
20. This alb has many categories.. even ancestral flavour…. so many moods hence “Colours and Moods” …listen…[1.18]
Wots kept u going?
22. Determination!!! I only hope this time I achieve smthg out of this CD
would like even youth to understand… played kwaito w group Amakwaitos in the ‘70’s .. now Kwela Hotspot is kwaito [no rap] rhythm Kwaito [1.02]
Intersted in wkg w younger artists?
24. Yes but few come.. don’t last.. maybe to make proper school – to read & write msc… their rhythms are nice, just no melody or theme to put over [0.45]
26. In my band I’ve got 1 I taught him to pl pw.. have 2 youngsters in my band.. still bldg him up… next year must do his own.. style and feeling.. I’ll help him.. do a crossover…………….this one for old and young for everyone
How long since last rel solo album?
27. LONG long…1990”Grooving”
28. at home got that old vinyl…
Your work w Mango Groove..what was your work and how do u feel they were relative to the time?
29.John cme 2 me at home in Diepkloof – interested to record, cos in Zambia he heard a lot of my music, his father used to buy a lot ..so when he came here wantd to work w me… that’s how we founded Mango Groove [0.46]
31. when we std worked at Rockey 47 only 3 – drum box, myself on sax, John on bass and this guydont remember.. Keith… PLYD BUT PEOPL LOVED… THEN GOT Bertran Muton?? Sara Ponte??? French… used to practise at my home.. I got the guy who plays for Jazz Pioneers now Albert Nkaka?? Got Alf, then Motswala??? then Joey Madiba??? fr Diepkloof, singer
plyd a lot at King of Clubs… also Katherine St… lots of clubs
1994/84?? coming fr King of Clubs.. lots of police waiting for us.. someone told them we were plugging ANC banner… wasn’t, but someone told them..
we parked car…so many police.. big trucks, landrovers etc.. waitinf only for us..
as I alighted, fetched sax… pointed guns.. I HATE GUNS!! freaked out, swore at them.. then John to open boot… only bass guitar.. I said to them : this guybrought me home.. from club.. about 4am.. wanted to take him to Protea Pol Station.. I said no!! why he entered bl area w/out permit? std fight w Capatain.. we’ll I’m tipsy.. he opened teargas… over my face…..allover… took John to Protea, questioned him.. I suffffering ..that’s why I suffered a lot in 1989cos of teargas… never right… Sept 1989 out of hospital.. all those years weak… teargas affected me [5.15]
32. More about this event… mother in law etc…tried to phone Johns home… magistrate, no charge..for entering bl area w/out permit
33. Went well w Mango Groove.. happy cos got royalties – good money
WHAT MANGO GROOVE REPRESENTED ETC
34. At that time police used to bother us.. play pw..”kwela kwela” put us in back.. just roam around and we must pl music…show their friends
mqomboti… they knew where.. drink [gogogo – 4-gallon tin].. girlfriends…spiel Sarie Marais… we knew polka… I gr up pl polka… among Afrikaaners… used to party w them on concertina/piano accordion/ guitars etc.. didn’t see any diiference.. when I was growing up was welcome every time [no apartheid]…etc etc they loved my playing.. Pennyw saved me a lot on many occasions!! [2.32]
What gave u the determination?
36. Something up my spine… like now I’m still determined…etc.. play guitar, piano, synth… various sounds would like to uplift youth msc.. it must have meaning [0.41]
39. /40. Played in Africa a lot etc more recognized there… no airpl here at home… last real airplay in 60’s… etc etc..no radio, only TV
42. Now I’m content everyth coming right, now have right to do smthing 4 yourself.
Now have publishing … if have enuff money can do some recordings and get youth to do own thig and help them and record them and try to get distrib deals…my wish!! [0.41]
How do u feel when perform/ play?
44.Sometimes when I play[esp in big audience] I see myself playing them and them playing me.. sometimes I see myself dangling inside my penwhist.. don’t know whats holding it… sometimes get loist and I can see myself inside penwh.. then sometimes I see those people as if they’re part of me & I’m part of them..as if I’m sitting there and they’re standing here… etc etc..see smiling faces and glittering eyes it makes me so happy [1.15]
2. ME AND Thomas saw lots of kids.. walking streets.. had beaut skill centre here.. Thomas experimented since ’87 – he wkd w street kids in town/Hillbrow.. stole everything..
1997 Thomas came to me, my wife.. want old man to help me run school… at Diepkloof Hall.. teach small children.. yeah.. pass knowledge to little ones…startded w no money – applied many institutions to help us.. took money fr our gigs to put back in school… [coffee tea sugar etc] were squatters here… kids not at scool… parents destitute… [Mandela Village]
went on.. Helen Shapiro…donated keyb… Toms 6 giutars.. I had one keyb
old computer keyboards to train fingering ..donated 
1999 / 2000 got a little.. 2 more git plus keyb… on and on..